Yann Martel tries to make Stephen Harper a Friend of Jane


Alert Janeite Alana sent us an article in the Ottawa Citizen that points to a rather interesting website in which Yann Martel, author of The Life of Pi, sends Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada, various books that he might like to read along with a letter explaining why it is of interest. The latest novel Mr. Martel chose was The Watsons, accompanied by a thoughtful letter.

But back to Jane Austen: boxed in, left only to play card games, look forward to the next ball and keep an eye out for eligible bachelors, surrounded by green pastures and rolling hills, does this strike you as promising grounds for great art?

Well, in the case of Jane Austen, it was. Because she had the great and good luck of having a loving and intellectually lively family, and she was blessed with a keen and critical sense of observation, as well as an inherently positive disposition.

Yes! We think this is often forgotten in the modern lust for melodrama. Some people are overwhelmed by tragedy and things going wrong in their lives, some struggle but get through, and some prefer to focus on the positive. Jane Austen always strikes us as having been a glass-half-full kind of person (admittedly perhaps a bit of projection, as we are the same way). If she was made unhappy by, oh, the failure to find her Mr. Darcy (gag), she didn’t wallow in it. Instead she turned it inside out and wrote hilariously funny novels. This is different from being some kind of Pagliacci, writing comedy as she despaired; her letters, the remembrances of her family, and most importantly her novels paint a picture of a relatively happy person. That does not diminish her genius. One really does not have to suffer for one’s art, you know, no matter what the poets and the lit-crits and the Hollywood filmmakers tell us.