Celebrating Jane in Rochester


Alert Janeite Lisa (who is not from Rochester, but not far away from there) sent us an article about Brighton Public Library’s week-long Jane Austen celebration, which includes a talk by Edith Lank tonight (Tuesday). The article includes an interview with Ms. Lank, who is best known for her syndicated real estate column, but is known among Janeites as an inveterate collector of multiple editions of Jane Austen’s novels (many non-English translations) and Austeniana. Those who remember the Editrix’s breathless Twitter at the AGM of “OMG I JUST HELD A JANE AUSTEN AUTOGRAPH OMG” should know that the autographed belonged to Ms. Lank, who actually passed it around the room for all of us to get a turn. Oh Em Gee indeed. 🙂

Q. Many Janeites describe Austen’s characters as very modern. Would you agree? Which of the characters do you relate to the most?

A. Some commentators criticize Jane Austen for painting a cozy world that ignores the world events in which her characters lived — the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and the like. But just the other day at the Brighton library used-book sale, I picked up yet another copy of P and P, as always to read the introduction. This one was by Somerset Maugham, and he made the point that if she had paid attention to the outside world, her books would have become dated and faded away. It is just that concentration on the minutiae of daily life that makes her books timeless.

That’s so true!

Q. Tell me about your collection. What types of items do you look for and what are your favorites?

A. I have more than a thousand books — translations of Pride and Prejudice alone in more than 21 languages, including Arabic, Basque, Croatian, Icelandic, Hebrew, Persian and Catalan. Of the six novels, P and P is, of course, the one most often found in used-book stores; I have more than 100 editions, including Cliff Notes, a comic book (oops, we call them graphic novels these days I guess), a Basic English version and a Reader’s Digest abridgement. Marvel Comics is issuing a new edition on April 1.

(But no superhero capes.)