I want to take a moment to thank whoever was responsible for making nerd culture a thing. I love that teenagers today can pursue their interests, find online communities, and accessorize their lives in niche swag. It wasn’t as easy or acceptable for us let our ‘freak flags’ in the 80s and 90s. Our flying was mostly under the radar. Playing D&D or reading incessantly didn’t get you votes at homecoming–it was more likely to get you beat up. Now, however, participation in Renaissance Festivals, fandoms, cosplay, LARPing, RPG, gaming, and literary communities is more mainstream.
If you don’t believe me just look at the pop culture retail market. Harry Potter everything. Star Wars everything. T-shirts for all the shows and all the characters and all video games. Believe me, we geeks have found our voice and the Tervis tumbler to go with it.
One the the reasons I frequent bookstores is to purchase all the bookish “stuff”. I’m a sucker for the literary tote bags and buttons. I buy the literary coloring books, the t-shirts, the calendars, and the stuffed animals. I am the booksellers dream shopper. I feel validated as a member of a legitimate group, and that brings me joy and a long overdue salve for the scars of my adolescent heart.
I expect to find such wares at a bookstore just as I would fairy wings or cloaks at a Ren Fest. What I don’t expect, is to find awesome book paraphernalia at department stores or random retail establishments. When I do, it makes the purchase all the more exilerating.
Authors Card Game
I recently stumbled upon two such treasures: both, oddly enough, are card games. The first one I discovered on one of my antiquing adventures. It’s the Authors card game by E.E. Fairchild Corp. The game contains 40 cards with ten authors– four book cards each. The object is to collect all four of a single author and it is played exactly like Go Fish. As far as I can tell, this particular version seems to have been manufactured in the 50s, but there have been many different styles and versions over the years that dated back to the late 1800s.
It comes as no surprise that all of the authors in the deck are white, and eight of the ten are men. I’m embarrassed to admit that of the 40 books, I’ve only read 12 of them. I’d never even heard of Joel Chandler Harris (although Uncle Remus did ring a bell) or Cornelia Meigs.
The authors and their books
The following is a list of the authors and the books on the cards. These are old school folks. It’s an interesting mix of English, American, and the one Danish (Andersen) authors, and I’m curious about the selection criteria. Does it seem strange to you that they included the Winnie the Pooh guy but not Shakespeare?
- Howard Pyle (Robin Hood, Story of Sir Launcelot, Story of King Arthur, Otto of the Silver Hand)
- Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Black Arrow, Child’s Garden of Verses)
- Hans Christian Andersen (The Little Match Girl, The Snow Queen, Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Ugly Duckling)
- Rudyard Kipling (Jungle Book, Just So Stories, Kim, Captains Courageous)
- Charles Dickins (A Christmas Carol, Cricket on the Hearth, David Copperfield, Tale of Two Cities)
- Mark Twain (Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Prince and the Pauper, Life on the Mississippi)
- Louisa May Alcott (Under the Lilacs, An Old Fashioned Girl, Little Woman, Rose in Bloom)
- A.A. Milne (House at Pooh Corner, When We Were Very Young, Now We Are Six, Winnie-The-Pooh)
- Cornelia Meigs (Master Simon’s Garden, Invincible Louisa, Wonderful Locomotive, Win in the Chimney)
- Joel Chandler Harris (Nights with Uncle Remus, On the Plantation, Aaron in the Wildwoods, Uncle Remus and his Friends)
Initially I wasn’t so sure about the illustrations, but then I looked all of them up. The likenesses are spot on. A couple of them are scary similar, just in color. The attribute that I think is the most fun is that each author is treated like a suit in a regular deck of cards. At the top left corner there is an identifying symbol: an elephant for Kipling, swords for Stevenson, and so forth. Of course, the are yellowed with age and smell faintly of someone’s dusty attic, and I’m always going to love that. Bring on the moth balls!
I’m looking forward to playing the game with my other book-loving friends. I think I have the inspiration for my next crafting project. An updated version needs to be created with Neil Gaiman and Toni Morrison.
Jane Austen Tarot Deck
TJ Maxx, of all places, was the location of my second treasure. Nestled between a spiraled panda notebook and a magnetic grocery list pad was a Jane Austen Tarot deck. I’m a huge Jane Austen fan and have fairly recently taken an interest in Tarot, so this was the motherlode.
Entertainment is my primary motive for learning Tarot. I’m all for it’s use as a spiritual tool, but that’s not my jam. Tarot cards are great conversation starters and make for a fantastic party game. I’ve collected an assortment of decks and am positively intrigued by their respective artwork.
I was instantly and excessively diverted with my new Jane deck. The verbiage in the gameplay handbook is what sets this one apart. Consider the first line in the in Introduction: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that any person with good fortune must be in want of someone to tell them that fortune.” Each card has a clever description in keeping with classic Austen-speak.
The JA deck is an abbreviated version with only 53 cards. (The classic deck has 78 cards.) The book suggests either a single draw, or a three-card layout: Past, Present, Future. Some of the Major arcana are predicable–Elizabeth Bennet is the High Priestess, and Mr. Wickham is the Devil. But the depiction of a tea pot for Strength is a solid choice. “Nothing bolsters the soul like a good spot of tea.”
After spending some time flipping through the book and examining the cards, I determined I’m not likely to use this deck like I would my others. It’s specific, and the subtitles I find so endearing would be lost on the general public. But I can totally see using this deck at a themed party or at a period event. Make no mistake, if I’m donning a Regency gown and bonnet (which I most certainly have), then this deck of cards, along with an embordered hankie and a lace fan, will be in my handbag.
It’s in the Cards
I’m very obviously not a minimalist. I haven’t read her book, but I’m fairly certain Marie Kondo would have an aneurysm if she saw my office and all it’s literary bibelots. But then again, maybe not. My carefully curated trinkets provide me a layer of pleasure and validation that books alone cannot. So I keep my eyes open for these goodies, always scanning, whether it be Barnes and Noble or the grocery store. And what elation comes from these unexpected retail acknowledgements! It’s good to be me, bookish accoutrements and all.
What pop culture “stuff” do you collect? Have you read any of the books by the Authors in the above mentioned game? If you were to update the deck, who would your Ten authors be? Would you like to have a reading done with a Jane Austen Tarot Deck?
Share your thoughts and answers with us in the comments!