Friday Bookblogging: Public Domain Edition


Welcome (after too long an absence) to Friday Bookblogging, in which we discuss Jane Austen’s books and books related to Jane Austen’s life and work.

The Scholarly Kitchen, the blog for the Society of Scholarly Publishing, has a blog post about reading Jane Austen’s novels (and other free public domain books) on Google Books.

Rather than pay for the Penguin or any other edited version of Austen, I decided to be a cheapskate and searched for free Google versions. And that’s when things began to go wrong. The Google editions were packed with errors. If I were not studying Google Ebooks for professional reasons, if I were not already familiar with the works of Austen, would I have gone on? Would I have thought that Austen does not know how to place quotation marks, that she made grammatical mistakes that would embarrass even a high school freshman, or that her dialogue sometimes breaks off without explanation? I began to wonder what service or disservice Google had performed, rendering one of the world’s most popular writers in a form as bizarre as the Zemblan translation of Shakespeare in Nabokov’s “Pale Fire.”

We’ve blogged about the problems with Google Books in the past–the OCR software seems to have problems with antique fonts.

At the fabulous high-tech AustenBlog World Headquarters, Opening Day is a national holiday (despite some weather this year that is, shall we say, not optimal). NPR’s Fresh Air has a piece about a new book on the history of baseball (which we will be purchasing very soon, though we don’t have time to read it) in which Catherine Morland’s love for “base ball”–and her opinion on history–are invoked in the very first paragraphs.

Reflecting on the appeal of history in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, heroine Catherine Morland comments, “I often think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention.” Indeed. And in no field of American endeavor is invention more rampant than in baseball, whose whole history is a lie from beginning to end, from its creation myth to its rosy models of commerce, community, and fair play. The game’s epic feats and revered figures, its pieties about racial harmony and bleacher democracy, its artful blurring of sport and business — all of it is bunk, tossed up with a wink and a nudge. Yet we love both the game and the flimflam because they are both so . . . American. Baseball has been blessed in equal measure by Lincoln and by Barnum.

We really need to make time to read this one! Thanks to Alert Janeite Lisa for the link. And check back on Sunday for a little special somethin’-somethin’ to celebrate the beginning of baseball season here on AustenBlog!

And finally, check out this gorgeous hand-embroidered cover for a new Penguin edition of Emma (and a couple of other books, too). We know a certain correspondent at the AustenBlog West Coast Bureau who will no doubt find this of interest. (Perhaps she can whip up something for another book of which we are both very fond?) Thanks to Alert Janeite Katharine for the link.

Friday Bookblogging: Penguin Turns 75 Edition


Penguin 75th AnniversaryJuly 30, 2010 is the 75th anniversary of the launch of Penguin Books. Before Penguin, books were expensive to purchase; if one wished to read a book, one ponied up the blunt (and this was 1935, smack in the middle of the Great Depression, remember) or got it from the library. Penguin brought affordable paperback editions of popular books to news agents, train stations, and other nontraditional bookselling locations, and revolutionized publishing and reading. The bookcovers featured simple, bold design, and color coding: orange for general literature, blue for biography, etc. While none of Jane Austen’s books were among the original ten, they have enjoyed great representation in the Penguin catalog ever since.

The celebration will continue over the summer:

A bright-orange Penguin Mobile (an adorable Mini Cooper with the Penguin logo) is driving to bookstores all over the US to bring some of our bestselling authors to parties in their hometowns, increase awareness of The Nature Conservancy, and promote literacy. At each event, a set of 75 Penguin Books is donated to a local library or literacy group. Each author is signing the Penguin-mobile as it makes its way across the United States, and the summer’s events will culminate with a party at the New York Public Library in September where Penguin will auction the car with the proceeds going to the New York Public Library. Penguin is also donating sets of books to numerous U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pride and Prejudice Ruben Toledo coverAustenBlog congratulations Penguin on their 75th anniversary, and like hobbits, they are giving away gifts on their birthday! Penguin has sent us two copies of the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of P&P, with the Ruben Toledo-illustrated cover, to give away to two AustenBlog readers. If you would like to be entered in the giveaway, respond to this posting with a valid e-mail address that you check regularly and let us know your thoughts about Penguin and this auspicious occasion. If you wish to comment and not be entered in the drawing, just say so in your comment. After the jump, just for fun, we’ve assembled a gallery of some of Jane Austen’s Penguin covers from over the years. Continue reading

Friday Bookblogging: Book Club Edition


Welcome to Friday Bookblogging, where we talk about books by Jane Austen, about Jane Austen, and inspired by Jane Austen’s work.

Laurel Ann at Austenprose has posted an Austen Book Sleuth post for May with the latest in upcoming books. There’s a valuable post in the comments about some renamed books that we posted about recently, that we think will be of assistance to those readers who get all the latest publications.

CBC Book Club Austen ManiaThe CBC Book Club is featuring Jane Austen this month. The Editrix has her share in the conversation; there are contests to win a set of monster mashups and Sony Readers; and you have to check out their video, The Complete Jane Austen, presented by Who’s Your Dachshund?

That’s it for this week’s Bookblogging, and this is one of our DIY features, so please feel free to add your Austen-related book links in comments. Until next time, Gentle Readers, always remember: Books Are Nice!

Friday Bookblogging: But Are They All Horrid? Edition


Welcome to Friday Bookblogging, where we discuss books by, about, and inspired by Jane Austen and her work.

We all know that Northanger Abbey was inspired by The Mysteries of Udolpho and other “horrid novels,” or Gothic novels, of Jane Austen’s time. The Editrix takes a most harmless delight in horrid novels and finds them endlessly entertaining (if perhaps not quite in the way the authors intended), so we were delighted to see a most erudite post about Gothic novels at Jane Greensmith’s blog. JaneGS is on a program to read an excellent selection of Gothic novels this year, and we wish her much enjoyment from them. If Udolpho seems a bit daunting as an introduction to the delights of horrid novels, we would recommend starting with The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole; not only is it the Ur-Gothic, it is quite a slim volume and a quick read, and has plenty of the requisite Whisky Tango Foxtrot-ness that we find so delightful in these works (three words: GIANT BODY PARTS), though, we are desolated to report, no ninjas that we can recall. It’s available at for free, if you’re interested but not sufficiently motivated to actually get out of your chair and toddle off to your Friendly Neighborhood Book Emporium.

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler will be out out in paperback in the U.S., with a fun new cover, on April 27. The book has also been purchased by Bloomsbury for UK release, and will be out in February 2011.

If you’re in the L.A. area, don’t forget about the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. The “Writing on Writers” panel on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. features Susannah Carson, author of A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen.

That’s it for this week’s Bookblogging, so until next time, Gentle Readers, always remember: Books Are Nice!

Weekend Bookblogging: Warnings and Advertisements Edition


Welcome to Weekend Bookblogging, where we discuss books by, about, and inspired by Jane Austen and her work.

Alert Janeite Trai spotted something interesting that we felt compelled to share with our readers. Two upcoming books from Sourcebooks Casablanca, both written by Abigail Reynolds, are mass market paperback (the smaller, cheaper kind) reprints of Austen paraliterature with new titles. The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice is the same as Pemberley by the Sea, and To Conquer Mr. Darcy is the same book as Impulse and Initiative.

We are of the opinion that the titles were changed to make it more obvious that they are Austen paraliterature; we have always joked about “Darcy” in the title of books making them big sellers (we always get more hits on blog posts with “Darcy” in the title), though it’s not really a joke; it’s a fact. There are two ways to look at this, in our opinion; good news and bad news, if you will. The good news is that readers who wanted to read these books and found the trade paperback versions a little too expensive now have an opportunity to purchase these books in a less-expensive edition, and you may take this posting as our advertisement of these new editions. The bad news is that readers excited by the possibility of a new book may purchase without investigating closely and discover that they have purchased books they have already read. Our fellow blogger Laurel Ann, who is a bookseller, reports that such title changes cause confusion, anger, and returns by disappointed buyers. So caveat emptor, Gentle Readers.

In other news, there are lots of reviews around for Jane’s Fame by Claire Harman, recently released in North America, including the New York Times, which is much less cranky than our own review. ;-)

That’s it for this weekend’s Bookblogging, so until next time, Gentle Readers, always remember: Books Are Nice!

Friday Bookblogging: Mostly Audio Edition


It’s been a while for Friday Bookblogging, but there’s so much today that we couldn’t resist; and interestingly, much of it is audio-based, or at least partly. (There are transcripts for nearly everything if you are at work or otherwise audio-challenged.)

NPR has been featuring Claire Harman’s book, Jane’s Fame, over the past week or so, and there are several audio clips and interviews about the book.

The first is a basic review of the book, which starts out with an unfortunate and undeserved slam of James Edward Austen-Leigh’s Memoir. Continue reading

Friday Bookblogging: No Labor Day Edition


Welcome to Friday Bookblogging, now with more crunchy delicious Tuesday! We had a lovely holiday weekend, because we didn’t have to do anything, including blog, which was a nice break from the past couple of weeks. Nose is back to the grindstone now, though. For those Gentle Readers who are new to AustenBlog, Friday Bookblogging (whatever day it is produced) is a weekly, or whenever we feel like it, roundup of links to articles and items of interest about Jane Austen’s novels and books about or inspired by Jane Austen and her novels.

First of all, right now at Austenprose, check out A Soirée with Lady Susan, a celebration of Jane Austen’s wonderful epistolary novella, which will continue through September 14.

Also, Laurel Ann has put together a roundup post of new Austen-related books coming out in September, which we always like because then we don’t have to. :D However, we do have news of a couple more Austen-related books either recently or soon to be published.

Jane Austen Sings the Blues, a collection of essays edited by Nora Foster Stovel as a tribute to her late husband, Austen scholar and blues aficionado Bruce Stovel, is available. It’s not paraliterature, though we would totally read that fanfic!

Lady Vernon and Her Daughter by Jane Rubino and Caitlin Rubino-Bradway, a mother and daughter team, will be out in October, and they have a book trailer they wanted to share with AustenBlog’s Gentle Readers.

New York Magazine has a review of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

I read S&S&SM with a copy of Austen’s novel open next to me, a tactic that made the mash-up seem simultaneously funnier and sadly diminished. The additions are often clever, and sometimes even sly in a way that’s plausibly Austenian. Reading too closely, however, also reveals the many brilliant touches that had to be left out to make room for repetitive gags about fighting otters and shrimp guts. After a while I found myself most enjoying the passages that had been changed the least. As in the old days, Austen versus the monsters turns out to be not much of a fight.

Publisher’s Weekly has a review (scroll about a quarter of the way down the page) of A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen, edited by Susannah Carson, which will be out in November.

Craft Gossip has some information about Jane Austen’s Sewing Box by Jennifer Forest, which sounds really great for those of us who enjoy needlework. *coughs significantly in the direction of a certain Cub Reporter*

There they go with the Uptight Purist Spinster &c. Janeite meme again.

Here is a short review of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler.

That’s it for this week’s Bookblogging, so until next time, Gentle Readers, always remember: Books Are Nice!