Friday Bookblogging: Harvest Edition


It’s not quite autumn yet, but there is a crispness in the air around AustenBlog World Headquarters (though we no doubt will be reduced to a state of continual inelegance again before the month is out) and the days are growing shorter. We’ve been running across lots of interesting and thoughtful articles about Jane Austen and her work and other books inspired by them lately, and we have been saving them to share (harvesting them, if you will) for this week’s Friday Bookblogging.

A first edition copy of Pride and Prejudice was discovered at the University of Alberta, just sort of hanging out in the Special Collections stacks at the library, where any plebe could come in and put greasy hands all over it. In honor of the late Bruce Stovel, a professor at the University and a well-known Austen scholar, the University has commissioned a handmade preservation case for the book–but it still will be available to be seen and perhaps held. Gently, one presumes. Thanks to Alert Janeites Lisa and Jessica for sending the link. (Jessica is a student at UA–perhaps a field trip is in order!)

Penguin Books has created a minisite for its Jane Austen-related books, including their editions of the novels. The minisite includes podcasts, excerpts from various books, author interviews, and lots of other great stuff. Do check it out!

Library Journal has a roundup of many recent Austen-related titles, many of which have been reviewed here on AustenBlog (and we think in most cases at least mentioned). There’s a lot of good reading there–see if there’s anything interesting you might have missed.

Debbie Jordan reminds us that Jane Austen’s books aren’t just sweet romantic stories.

When Lady Catherine accuses her of wanting to “quit the sphere in which [she has] been brought up” to marry Darcy, Elizabeth notes that her father is a “gentleman” and Mr. Darcy is a “gentleman,” so they are social equals. But the blueblood argues that a legal loophole will leave Mr. Bennett’s five daughters without a significant inheritance and, thus, no way to attract husbands to support them in the manner in which they’ve been raised.

Economic disparity is also inherent to the plot of “Sense and Sensibility,” when a father’s death leaves a widow and her three daughters financially dependent on his only son–and the son’s greedy, social-climbing wife. It is significant that Austen’s own experience parallels part of this story, but without much of the drama. Never fear; in the end, two of the sisters find both love and financial stability, as do most characters in Austen’s novels.

Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, guest-blogged on Booksquare about the perennial question: why Jane, why now?

There is another question I keep hearing, and it concerns the current spike in the popularity of all things Austen. That question is “Why now?” It is difficult to imagine topping Devoney Looser’s hilarious answer (here). Nevertheless, I’ll venture a couple of theories.

Here is the first: Quite simply, it’s score one for the snowball effect of the collective consciousness. Like Austen’s “one shoulder of mutton, you know, drives another,” one could say that “one Austen movie drives another quickly through the development process.” It is, after all, the films that are sexy enough to grab most of the headlines. And there are at least six of them, two in theatrical release (Becoming Jane and the upcoming Jane Austen Book Club) and at least four coming up on PBS. The books then gratefully hitch a ride on the pop culture express.

Here is another theory, which came out of something my husband said to me the other day when I was obsessing over something of no consequence whatsoever. “The mind,” he said, “is an unreliable narrator.” His comment led me to ponder whether we are now living in the era of the unreliable narrator—from our widespread distrust of traditional media and Washingtonian mouthpieces to our own overly analytical and self-helped-to-death minds. Perhaps our need for the reliable narrator is stronger now than ever.

G. Tracy Mehan III, writing in The American Spectator, discovers Jane for the first time on his summer vacation.

This summer I acquired the Everyman’s Library (Knopf) edition of Pride and Prejudice and immersed myself in that supposedly “comfortable stable world” which O’Brian mentioned in his diary. Of course, it is no such thing, as O’Brian understood very well. Austen’s world is one of irony, savage satire, calculation, love, beauty, and civility in the face of harsh realities. It is, indeed, full of “false values & cant” but no more than any age. It is, however, blessed with much that is lacking in our own times, specifically humanity, grace, and insight into the ties that bind human beings to one another whether it be a man and a woman in love or society as a whole.

Reading this wonderful book, and following up with Sense and Sensibility, I found myself regretting that, unlike Patrick O’Brian, Jane Austen did not write many novels. I shall try not to worry about that for now but remain satisfied with the sumptuous feast at hand.

That’s best, we find; enjoy what we have, do not despair over what was lost. (Though it’s SO hard to read that Sanditon fragment…)

And last, but not least…not one bid. Color us astonished. </snark>

Thanks to Alert Janeite Lisa for some of the links mentioned in this post.