Michille: Happy Birthday, Jane Austen

512px-SenseAndSensibilityTitlePageJane Austen’s birthday was actually December 16, 1775 (okay, that was yesterday, but that wasn’t my post day). So I will honor her a day late. Jane Austen is arguably one of the most important modern literary voices. Her works of romantic fiction provide a lasting social commentary of English society in the early 1800s. She showed the flaws and foibles of people with humor and charm and, while considered a romance novelist by most, can also be viewed as a humanist for her realistic portraits of society. Four of her novels were published in her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815). Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published posthumously in 1818.

Here are some interesting tidbits about Jane Austen (and her fan base) that you may or may not already know:

  • Her books were originally published anonymously.
  • She hid her writing from servants, visitors and non-family members but for several years when she wrote several of her novels, she had no separate space to write in so she wrote in the sitting room which had a creaking door that warned her if someone was coming.
  • She was a senior officer in the 4th Women’s Battalion, King’s Royal Hussars during the Napoleonic Wars.
  • The cause of her death is a bit of a mystery and has been attributed to Addison’s disease, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, bovine tuberculosis, breast cancer, and Brill-Zinsser disease.
  • Extreme devotees of the works of Jane Austen (i.e., trekkie-like followers) are called Janeites. According to scholar Claudia Johnson, Janeitism is “the self-consciously idolatrous enthusiasm for ‘Jane’ ” and all thing related to her and her writings.

I googled ‘Jane Austen’ and found some other interesting stuff. Would you like a Jane Austen desktop wallpaper? How about a tattoo? I found this funny blog post about Austen Quotes That Would Make Great Tattoos. On a more serious note, this blog post has 9 New Books Jane Austen Fans Will Love so now I have more books on my TBR list. One of the good things about this post is the “For the fan who . . .” so I can immediately discard books that I’m not a fan of (i.e., fan of opposites-attract angle of Pride and Prejudice and not a fan of magic).

Princess Charlotte was a big fan. I wonder if the new Princess Charlotte will be as well? Are you a Jane Austen fan? What is your favorite Austen novel? Have you read any good Jane Austen fan fiction?

11 thoughts on “Michille: Happy Birthday, Jane Austen

  1. My favorite Austen is Pride and Prejudice, followed by Persuasion, but I like them all. It makes me feel like a snob when I say that I like Austen so much that I don’t want to read fan fiction: whenever I’ve picked something up, I always think the voice isn’t Austen’s, so why not go for the real thing? I never get tired of those novels. It’s just the biggest pity that she died so young and wrote so few books, although they’re all good.

    • Pride and Prejudice is my favorite, too. I’ve never seen the Colin Firth version, though. I keep meaning to watch that because I’ve heard it’s the best one. The Jennifer Weiner book, Who Do You Love, might be worth a try. That is supposed to be a good one for people who like Persuasion.

  2. Pride and Prejudice, followed by Sense and Sensibility, followed by all of the others. Will definitely check out the list of Jane-alikes!

    • I want to try Act Like It by Lucy Parker from that list. I’ve never heard of her, but I’d love to find a new author to read. Most new ones that I’ve tried lately haven’t really done it for me.

  3. I know I may lose my license to visit here at Eight Ladies after this, but…
    I don’t like Jane Austen. I’ve tried the books and when that failed, I have tried some of the movies to see, but I just can’t get into her stuff. I’m not sure if it’s a style thing or what. She’s just not my cup-a. There are a few “beloved” authors I just can’t stand – Tolkin is another (he falls well below Jane). I have really tried and he bores me to drooling and tears. 😦

    • GASP!!!! (kidding). I guess you’re not going to rush out and buy the fan fiction, then.

      Some authors hit and some don’t. In my house, I like Tom Clancy and my husband can’t stand all the description, but he’ll read anything by James Michener, and particularly likes Chesapeake (of course, we live near the Chesapeake Bay so that likely contributes to his enjoyment of that story). To each his (or her) own.

    • Since it’s confession time, I should admit that I love, love, love Pride and Prejudice, but none of the others are my cuppa either. Emma needs a good slap, Fanny Price is a wet hen, and so on. I don’t like the straight TV/movie adaptations – with P&P it annoys me that they always stack the deck by making Elizabeth too beautiful and Jane plain-ish. If anyone can recommend a version where they actually played fair with the casting – Jane drop-dead gorgeous and Lizzy strong and vivacious – I’d give it a go. I think Clueless is brilliant – love the script (they had me at ‘disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, Streisand ticket-holding friend of Dorothy) and I find Cher, the Emma-equivalent heroine, funny and sympathetic.

      Michille, I’ve read a couple of great reviews of Act Like It and was thinking I might give it a try over the holidays. I liked the sound of it, didn’t realise it was Austen fanfic.

      • I read Mansfield Park when I was pretty young and the whole marrying the cousin thing was a little squicky for me. Still is, although i realize it was done all the time back then. I haven’t seen Clueless in a while. I’ll have to dig that up. My daughter would probably also like it.

        On Amazon, there are NO bad reviews of Act Like It, which is weird. Usually at least someone hates it, which generally tells me it generates emotion in the reader and I like that in a story. I’ll have to read it, too, and see.

  4. (-: I’ve mentioned it here on the blog several times, but I couldn’t get into Austen seriously until I saw the BBC version. I think reading that collection of essays about Jane Austen that Jennifer Crusie edited was also key — it all happened at the same time. I’m still not hugely into the other books because the heroines just aren’t as charming as Elizabeth Bennet.

    One that is on my “soon to be re-read” list is Northanger Abbey. One, I finally slogged through Mysteries of Udolpho, which the foreword highly recommends before reading Northanger Abbey. And two, I am charmed by the details. The bad boys in the book are obsessed with speedy carriages, drinking, and pretty girls. The girls are also very into boy-chasing, which is not always portrayed in serious fiction. Especially serious classic fiction. The characters aren’t quite as charming as P&P, but the world-building is great!

    I’m not a huge fan of fan fic for stories that I know and love and re-read often. When the author writes something that clunks (and let’s face it, it’s not often for the things I love), it’s forgivable. It’s their world, after all. But if a fan ficcer clunks, I feel betrayed. Shoddy craftsmanship! I could do better than this! Grrr! It’s not a very fair attitude.

    I’ve enjoyed and remembered exactly one fanfic (Harry Potter, which I like, but I’m not invested in), and the author really turned the universe into HER universe by turning Malfoy into a bouncing rat with an arc. I don’t even really register that I’m reading Harry Potter’s universe.

    I think movies have somewhat of the same effect — they basically are elaborate fanfic. If they make the world their own, it often works. But often, a movie will highlight the deficiency of the original, and make other choices that aren’t right. Once in a while, I’ll see a movie that is as good as the book — Howl’s Moving Castle is an example. And I remember only one case where I saw the movie, read the book, and came out in favor of the movie. It was a pretty bad movie, but a really boring book called Rising Sun. The thing that I liked about the movie, though, is that they explored the racial relations for the black, white AND Asian perspectives. Really quite interesting. The book was a straight white/Asian racial exploration (IIRC), and was pretty white-sided.

    • I’ve never quite understood fan fic either. I usually don’t get the connection (i.e., 50 Shades as Twilight fan fic – of course, never read Twilight series because a 100-year-old vampire courting a 16-year-old girl is a little squicky to me – so I wouldn’t be able to make the connection anyway; I thought 50 Shades was creepy, but I chalk that up to my boundary issues). On the other hand, I love a good Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast story regardless of the era in which it is portrayed. I’m a sucker for a strong female protagonist.

      • You know, the only thing I really see in common with the two series (and I haven’t read all of either series) is the common thread of a young woman struggling with her choices of mate. Bella/Twilight seems needier. I feel like Anna(?)/Shades could leave Christian, but she’s just following her curiosity. There’s a guy on one of my mailing lists who studied both books academically (I believe), and he wrote a book or paper on it. He assures me that Shades is fanfic with the serial numbers filed off, and (separate issue, I believe) he’s not very pleased with the writer at all.

        Neither one is on my re-read list (unless I start discussing them with some very interesting, smart people), but I don’t get the vilification. I’ve read worse — from the writing and the moralistic standpoints. I think if these books get people — especially young girls — talking about what marriage means to them, and what they want in a mate and a life partner (besides hunky-hunky old-guy vampire hormones), I think it’s a good thing. Reading and thinking about these books has made me appreciate things like Austen much more. In her day, marriage was really the best option for a single woman’s career. Women really had to weigh what was important. I think in the past few decades, we’ve dismissed marriage as something that can be 1) done at any time, and 2) fixed by divorce if it goes too wrong. But, a good marriage is really a treasure that we need to work to maintain. A bad marriage can be escaped, but the process of divorce is really painful and difficult, especially if the divorce is a result of bad choices in life partner. The partner can make things very messy.

        LOL, how did I get here? Well, Austen really is something I think younger women should be reading. They can be thankful that they aren’t forced to marry for economic benefit, and they can also think more about what a true partnership marriage can be. Passion, love, economics, potential for personal and two-people growth, as well as a first-responder-network for when one (well, two) has kids.

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