Welcome to readers of the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer

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(It’s our birthday party and we’ll shamelessly self-promote if we want to. Dorothy is serving cake and iced rooibos in the conservatory.)

Two articles about Jane Austen, Janeites, and the upcoming films Becoming Jane and The Jane Austen Book Club mention AustenBlog and The Jane Austen Handbook, and we are thrilled about it!

Caryn James writes about the 21st century enthusiasm for a 19th century author in The New York Times.

She has entered pop culture more thoroughly than other writers because she is almost spookily contemporary. Her ironic take on society is delivered in a reassuring, sisterly voice, as if she were part Jon Stewart, part Oprah Winfrey. Beneath the period details, the typical Austen heroine offers something for almost any woman to identify with: She is not afraid to be the smartest person in the room, yet after a series of misunderstandings gets the man of her dreams anyway. It doesn’t take a marketing genius to spot a potential movie audience for that have-it-all fantasy.

Nicely said; though we would add that they’re just good stories.

All that’s missing from Austen is sex, and many new adaptations are adding what she was too ladylike to mention.

We would say it’s right there. You just have to know where to look for it. 😉

Sexual attraction is the least anyone would expect in a marriage today. In Austen’s time, when arranged marriages and marriages of convenience were common, her extraordinary heroines held out for love, another reason they speak so directly to modern readers.

Marsha Huff, the president of the Jane Austen Society of North America (like so many Janeites, she’s not an academic; she’s a tax lawyer) points to the scene in “Pride and Prejudice” in which Lady Catherine (Judi Dench in the ’05 film), tries to bully Elizabeth into giving Darcy up because she is his social inferior. “Elizabeth reacts exactly the way we would react: she is insulted, she’s indignant at the way this dinosaur from another era would try to tell this intelligent, beautiful young woman what to do,” Ms. Huff said in an interview.

Huzzah!

And however much society has changed, Austen’s heroines — unlike the Brontës’ — deal with the believable, timeless obstacles of class, money and misunderstanding, which make her works adaptable to any era. As Ms. Huff said: “Everyone thinks she’s Elizabeth Bennet; not everyone thinks she’s Jane Eyre. Everyone knows a young woman trying to decide if the guy she’s attracted to is Mr. Right. Not everyone meets a Mr. Right who has a mad wife in the attic.”

Hee hee.

Greater frankness about sex may help make Austen appealing to a younger audience. And because this latest Austen wave is likely to be fueled by the Internet more than the last, the movies are well positioned to reach that audience. The Jane Austen Society (jasna.org) has just added an “Austen on Film” section to its Web site. Among other sites, AustenBlog.com is a witty source of news and commentary, started a few years ago by Margaret Sullivan, who modeled it on the popular Harry Potter site the Leaky Cauldron (the-leaky-cauldron.org). Ms. Sullivan (a Web coordinator for a Philadelphia law firm) is also the author of the useful, entertaining “Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World” (Quirk Books) which explains the difference between traveling in a barouche and a curricle, and offers tips the Bennet sisters could have used, like “How to Elope to Scotland.”

Well, Lydia could have used it, in any event.

Ms. James also wrote a piece on some of the YouTube videos that Janeites have made, though how she could write such an article without mentioning Barbie Pride and Prejudice, the best video ever, we are sure we do not know!

(Thanks to Alert Janeites Kirsten, Lisa, and Sarah for sending us this link.)

The Editrix’s hometown newspaper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, arranged a screening of Becoming Jane for a group of local Janeites, including the Editrix (which is why she is pictured running her mouth, as usual), and the reactions, as might be expected, varied.

The atmosphere is charged with anticipation and amused dread.

Understandably, this is how some members of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) prepare for the coming of the second Jane renaissance in little more than a decade. Will it be worthy of Austen? Or just an attempt to cash in on what member Margaret Sullivan calls the “Jane brand”?

We actually think the filmmakers were quite earnest in what they were trying to do; the film isn’t that cynical. Though of course the current atmosphere of All Jane All The Time probably assisted them in actually getting it made.

Whether it is to the latest film (Becoming Jane, opening Friday), works of fan fiction (Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict), or Web journals (Sullivan’s frisky AustenBlog), the Janeites flock. They are not birds of a feather, but most would agree with the first line of The Jane Austen Book Club (soon to be a major motion picture), “Each of us has a private Jane Austen.”

As Herself put it: “Everybody likes to go their own way – to choose their own time and manner of devotion.”

We have always felt that Janeiteism is a big tent. There is such a variety of people to be met with among Janeites: all races, religions (or lack thereof), political persuasions, occupations; we each appreciate her for something different.

Whether it is to the latest film (Becoming Jane, opening Friday), works of fan fiction (Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict), or Web journals (Sullivan’s frisky AustenBlog), the Janeites flock. They are not birds of a feather, but most would agree with the first line of The Jane Austen Book Club (soon to be a major motion picture), “Each of us has a private Jane Austen.”

As Herself put it: “Everybody likes to go their own way – to choose their own time and manner of devotion.”

😀

“The perception of JASNA is that we’re a bunch of tea-sipping old ladies with cats on our laps,” says Sullivan.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

About one subject – friendship – Austen proved to be less prescient than she was in most other things. “Business, you know, may bring money,” she said, “but friendship hardly ever does.” Friends like hers have made her a box-office powerhouse.

We would add Philadelphia Inquirer film critic Carrie Rickey to the list of Friends of Jane. 😉 (And Friends of AustenBlog!)