Books : reviews

Mallory Ortberg.
Texts from Jane Eyre: and other conversations with your favorite literary characters.
Henry Holt. 2014

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 27 September 2017

If Scarlett O’Hara had an unlimited text-and-data plan, she’d be constantly trying to sext Ashley away from Melanie. If Mr. Rochester could text Jane Eyre, his ardent missives would obviously be in all caps. And Daisy Buchanan would not only text while driving, she’d text you to pick her up after she totaled her car. Texts from Jane Eyre is a witty, irreverent mash-up that channels literary personalities at their silliest, most manipulative, and most bizarre.

The conceit is this: famous literary characters are texting each other; one is an everyday person, the other is acting in character. The juxtaposition, plus the insights into how downright peculiar “acting in character” actually is, results in bizarre humour. Mostly.

It helps to be familiar with the pieces (which I’m not in every case). But when it works, it works very well.

Pip what are you doing right now
I’m at work
what’s up
did you know that my name would have been Mrs. Compeyson
if I’d married my fiancé Mr. Compeyson
but I never did marry him
because as you recall
I was abandoned on my wedding day
by my fiancé
(Mr. Compeyson)
and have never never
never recovered
but I’m just thrilled to hear that you’re doing so well
just Havisham will do for now
unless he comes back
is there anything in particular you need from me right now?
all men are dogs Pip
write that down
I will
really write it down though
are you writing it down?

And the effect is cumulative.