Snobbery

hidenoseek2.jpg


I tried watching a few scenes from the BBC's Pride and Prejudice. But as Awesome Jane would say, I quit the thing directly. I like the pictures in my head, and would not see them overthrown. Through their observation, I have garnered a first printing accessible to no one but me. My Pride and Prejudice, is truly mine, and I have no real interest in replacing it with a collective portrait. I don't want a literal picture of Mr. Darcy. The fog of my mind is clear enough.


I would go so far as to argue that the text, itself, forms a picture. For you approval, I present Mr. Darcy in love: 

I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.'

That is a truly muscular set of sentences, so understated, and yet brimming with passion. No ornamentation, just the elegant, simple work--I was in the middle before I knew I had begun.

Here is our champion, much earlier, in denial:

...Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.

I talked last week about how Austen's sentences turn back on themselves, almost as if they're fighting each other, and out of the conflict you get some sense of the character. Here is a man overrun by emotion, and yet of the erroneous belief that the strictures of his world, the rules of aristocracy will save him from himself. I will say that many of us know what it is to try to talk ourselves out of love. Darcy actually believes that no talking is necessary--society is the armor about him. It's all about the hubris of man, and our seductive sense that the institutions we erect are impregnable to nature, most especially, our own.

There's a lot of math here, but taken together the math becomes a portrait without a face, a portrait that, for me, needs no face. I am thinking of "Hide. No. Seek." The title, and the work itself, is an invitation toward the collaborative. The girl's face is obscured by a tree, and that interruption is an appeal to, a place-holder for, our imagination. The picture seemingly ends, but just beyond the border is a place for me, a place where the the thing becomes mine. 

I took my son to art class this weekend, and wandered up into the gallery where they display some of the student's works. There were many nudes and the bodies were the bodies of rumpled and imperfect people. And I thought about how their imperfection allowed me to see the art more clearer, to see them clearer, and thus to see my wrong and rumpled self, clearer. Glamor pervades the movies, and a shiny species of pretty is everywhere. It's distracting to me. Sometimes I feel my eyes have earned a rest, and I don't want them telling me what they think.

The BBC version of Pride is, I've been assured, splendid. I don't doubt it--but I think mine is better. For right now, I'm just a snob that way. I reserve the right to change.

*Art taken from Teresa Jay. View her breathtaking series here.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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