"I wrote 63 songs this year. They're all about Jeter." Just kidding. The game we love, the players we hate, and more.

Culture and Criticism

From Norman Mailer to Wendy Pepper — everything on film, TV, books, music, and snacks (shut up, raisins), plus the Girls' Bike Club.

Donors Choose and Contests

Helping public schools, winning prizes, sending a crazy lady in a tomato costume out in public.

Stories, True and Otherwise

Monologues, travelogues, fiction, and fart humor. And hens. Don't forget the hens.

The Vine

The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

Home » The Vine

The Vine: March 11, 2011

Submitted by on March 11, 2011 – 9:41 AM24 Comments

A Friday-morning Ask The Readers bookfest is a great time to remind all you Jane Eyre fans that I have a reading tonight for the launch of the Eyresses zine — a piece called "Jane Error," about hilariously incorrect casting choices in film and TV versions of the book. Come to Word in Greenpoint at 7 PM: Visual aids! Theme cookies! Regrettable puns! No worries if you get out of work a bit late; I don't go on right away. I hope I'll see some of you there.

And now, on with the show.


Hi Sars,
I have a question for you and the all-knowing Nation, about, shockingly enough, a long-lost childhood book. It's actually a series, I think, but the first one starts with a mom going on strike. The narrator is her teenage daughter, who is at first just annoyed with her mom but then comes to realize her household actually is totally sexist, and she goes on strike too. And at some point, the mom nails her theses to the door, like Martin Luther.

There are sequels to this, in which the daughter has a boyfriend and I want to say the whole family goes on a trip in an RV. (I don't know. I read a ton of crap as a child. This seemed like plausibly wacky hi-jinks.) This book will not leave my brain, and I really, really want to reread it. Can anyone help?

I Swear, I Read Good Stuff Too, But I love The Cheesy Books Of My Youth


A number of friends said that your Vine is an invaluable resource for identifying mystery books from wisps of half-remembered plots.

I'm trying to recall a book I read in middle school, which would have been the late 1980s. It's the story of a mathematical prodigy who goes off to college at MIT or something very like it. He and a like-minded friend create a computer-simulated world like a primitive Sim Earth. In the simulation they introduce three formulas that prove that time travel is possible.

In real life they run the numbers and realize that the formulas work in our world also. They're about to publish and go public when they check the simulation and realize that humans ship their pollution to the future, strip-mine the past for natural resources, and eventually wipe out all life on earth so thoroughly that it never even existed. They decide not to publish their work, but an unscrupulous professor steals the equations and tries to pass them off as his own. The race to stop him is on.

Can you or your readers help me out? Thanks so much!


Be Sociable, Share!



  • Rachel says:

    The first one sounds familiar, but my Google-fu is failing me.

    Sars – have you read any of the Jasper Fforde books? The first one of the Thursday Next series (Lost in a Good Book) deals with Jane Eyre. If you haven't read them, they are excellent. :)

  • Jamie S says:

    I hope there's some kind of review or video of Jane Error, for the Eryesses zine. I'm sad I can't go, but it sounds awesome.

  • Eric Uberprz says:

    The first book is "The Great Skinner Strike" by Stephanie Tolan. Only remember it because they adapted it into an afterschool special in the mid-eighties, but a quick web search shows it was part of a series, including one about the family's RV trip ("The Great Skinner Getaway").

  • avis says:

    @Rachel is right on the nose about the Thursday Next book. I believe it's The Eyre Affair and while I thought it moved a little slow at first they have a great deal of setup to accomplish and I love all the Jane Eyre specific discussions.

  • sam says:

    I don't have any idea on the actual questions, but just want to thank you for mentioning the event tonight – I'm going to try to go, even though google maps keeps telling me I have to take the G train to get there, which is something I otherwise try to never do :)

  • Rachel says:

    Whoops, @avis is right, the first one is The Eyre Affair. They're all amazing, and the newest one just came out this week. :)

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    There's a G train?

    …Just kidding. Nothing stops where I live until, like, November 2013, so I've kind of forgotten which trains even go where. But if you can catch the train my friend Bread calls The Unicorn, I'd love to see you!

  • sam says:

    heh. yeah, google maps optimistically claims the trip is 22 minutes door to door (from my UWS apartment), but it involves taking the B to the E to the G. So I'm giving myself at least an hour.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    If I wasn't across the country I'd totally be there! Failing that, I do hope there's a video available.

    I have never, in all the adaptions both stage and screen, seen the second half of Jane Eyre done properly. Every one of them just rushes through it so we can get to the house burning and Bertha doing her kite imitation, but the long sojurn with her cousins is just as vital to the last chapter as anything in the first half. St. John may be a dick but he's not shallow or petty, at least in the novel's context. That's the whole point–that it's nearly impossible for Jane to turn him down because he's such a mighty Christian hero, and makes the entire scene where she nearly gives in so tense. If it's glossed over with "he's a derp, who are we kidding" it invalidates the whole ending.

    …anyway. I really remember the first novel, and how it never occured to anyone in this family that cat boxes don't scoop themselves and milk isn't put in the fridge by little pixies. And I too liked The Eyre Affair, and really want a pet dodo plocking around the house.

  • Isabel C. says:

    I don't know: I feel like St. John is really hard for the average modern reader to care about.

    It's sort of the way I feel about the JE conflict in general. Like, intellectually, I get that she can't run away to the Riviera with the guy because blah blah morality blah blah Victorian sexual ethos blah blah. Emotionally, I always, *always* have the "Dude, what the fuck? He's offered some kind of no-really-you'll-be-fine-if-I-die legal arrangement*, that's as good as marriage, whatever! Go have hot unlicensed sex!"

    I can shove the modern perspective out of the way after that minute or so, but it's why I can't read any rewrites by a modern author. There are allowances I make for Bronte that I can't for someone writing in the late twentieth or twenty-first century, I guess. That may also be why I always skim over the St. John bits, too, so I don't miss them in the video versions either.

    *At least if I remember correctly.

  • Anne says:

    @Jen S 1.0: have you seen the BBC's 2006 adaptation of Jane Eyre? It's a four-parter and the entire fourth hour is given over to the Rivers siblings. The whole adaptation is really quite good, even if Toby Stephens (Maggie Smith's son!) is too good looking for Rochester. They do change a bit here and there, but it's a faithful adaptation overall. (The same screenwriter adapted the BBC's similarly excellent version of Gaskell's North & South, and if y'all haven't met Mr. Thornton yet… well, it's time.)

  • Wehaf says:

    Ooh, speaking of Jane Eyre, has anyone read "Jane" by April Lindner? It's a modern retelling – Jane has to drop out of college and is hired as the nanny for the daughter of an enigmatic rock star… I read the first chapter, which was given away for free as a promo. It was kind of terrible, but kind of awesome. I'd love to hear from someone who's read the whole thing!

  • lsn says:

    I swear to God I've read that second one too… and I'm having no luck at all coming up with a title or author. Will keep attempting to trawl my brain cells though.

  • Chase says:

    Andrew – I did some searching and it sounds like your book may be The Gadget Factor by Sandy Landsman:

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    @Anne, nope, but I'll definitely check it out! I always had a bit of a bad, shameful crush on St. John–all that repression. You know if you got him shitfaced and flashed a little leg it'd just come roaring out. Mmmmm.

  • Chase says:

    Um, that's bizarre, for some reason the link goes to something totally unrelated….try this:

  • Emma says:

    Just chiming in to say that I agree with Chase; Andrew's book definitely sounds like The Gadget Factor.

  • Isabel C. says:

    Jen S.: Oh, I like that angle. Maybe I *should* go back and read the chapters now, from that perspective. ;)

  • Jennifer A. says:

    @Wehaf I read Lindner's book. It was terrible. It would have been okay if she just took inspiration from Eyre, but she tried to kind of paraphrase all the plot points and it just doesn't work in a modern setting. Also, the main characters were not drawn well at all.

  • Andrew says:

    The Gadget Factor! Yes, that sounds like the book. I'm going to get it and revisit my nerdly youth. You know, as a hiatus from my nerdly adulthood.

    The Vine rocks! Thanks so much.

  • RJ says:

    Swear – my sister had the one about the road trip!!! I remember that book too – I'm desperately trying to remember the title for you!

  • cayenne says:

    I liked the Toby Stephens version of JE, even if he was too pretty to be Rochester; I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on Jane's opinionatedness (if that's a word), which doesn't show up in other versions. And @Anne, I didn't know about the shared writer with N&S, but hell yes to Thornton.

    Does anyone remember this version? It ran on A&E when A&E actually took the Arts part of its name seriously. It's one of the few (only?) I recall where they took the "plain & little" and "Vulcan-like" descriptions so literally – the physical casting overall is excellent. It's also 6 hours, so they do spend enough time to get the Rivers dynamic really clear.

  • Wehaf says:

    @Jennifer A. Thanks for letting me know! I was hoping for "terrifically awful" instead of just awful. Oh well.

  • I Swear says:

    Thanks everyone! The book was The Great Skinner Strike, and it arrived from Amazon last night. And was just as awesome as I remembered, which is always fun. Seriously, this book has haunted me for years, so I appreciate the help.

Leave a comment!

Please familiarize yourself with the Tomato Nation commenting policy before posting.
It is in the FAQ. Thanks, friend.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>