The Sunday Salon: Austen-Itis

The Sunday Salon.com

I’m getting ready for church this morning, and today will be the first Sunday we’ve attended all summer long.  My husband is reading in the service today, so I feel somewhat obligated to tag along.   If you’re sensing some reluctance on my part, you’d be right.   Church services and activities seem awfully ponderous to me lately, and not even the prospect of socializing with my friends makes it more attractive.   I confess…I’d prefer to stay home with my book and a fresh pot of coffee.

I wonder if Jane Austen ever felt that way about church?  I’m sure being a “CD” (clergyman’s daughter) meant her weekly appearance at services was de rigueur.  There were were probably numerous Sundays she would have preffered to remain behind, taking advantage of the unusual quiet in the parsonage to write undisturbed.

I also wonder what Jane would have thought about the recent spate of books about her, all the modernized versions of her novels, the imagined stories of her life, even a tv miniseries based on the adventures of a modern day girl who gets whisked back in time to the Austen-era.  

51NjN6Vch4L__SL500_AA240_This thought has been in the back of my mind as I’ve been reading Jane Austen Ruined My Life, by Emily Pattilo.  In this novel, Emma Grant, an English professor and Austen scholar, finds herself in possession of some of Austen’s “lost letters,” the ones everyone believes were destroyed after Jane’s death.  Emma is reeling from a nasty divorce, one which cost her not only her husband but her career.  Her faith in the Austen novels’ “happily ever after” endings has been severely tested.   The letters reveal that Austen herself may have suffered a secret, unfulfilled love, one which has been kept secret from the world.  Emma’s dilemma…whether to reveal this information, thereby making a name for herself in the world of Austen scholarship, or to keep the information private, as Jane Austen so obviously wished.

I chose this novel, and others like it, for the Everything Austen  challenge, but I admit to a twinge of guilt about reading them.  Jane Austen’s life was certainly not the stuff of celebrity fodder – with the exception of her writing, it was quite normal, and it seems a bit odd that there are all these modern novels trying to make something exciting of a rather ordinary existence.   But I own all the original Austen novels, and  I’ve read each one several times.  I’ve seen all the screen adaptations, read the scholarly biographies.   So I hope Jane won’t mind my indulgence in these fanciful forays into her life.  

And now I must be off  to worship ~ I had hoped to spend the afternoon watching my DVD of  Sense and Sensibility, but I’ve spent hours looking for it and can’t find it anywhere.  I’m sure if I rent if from the video store, I’ll run across it immediately, for isn’t that always the way?

Now  tell me, what’s in store for your Sunday?

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10 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Austen-Itis

  1. I haven’t been able to get into all the ‘Austenalia’ that has been around recently. I do, though, remember a wonderful book by Joan Aiken called “Jane Fairfax’, which I read years ago, that told the story of Emma from Jane’s point of view. If you can get hold of a copy it’s well worth a read.

  2. Similar to Lillian, the only non-Austen-Austen-book I’ve read was The Jane Austen Book Club; unlike Lillian, I thought it was a waste.

    For fanciful Austen reading, would you say Lost in Austen measures up?

  3. I too read the Jane Austen Book Club and was, um, not a fan. I was at dinner on Friday with a friend whose daughter was reading Austen with Zombies, or something of the sort.

    I like my Austen just plain Austen, I suspect.

  4. Thanks for the review Becca – haven’t read this one yet. Lots of people are wondering whether Austen inspired works are a good thing. I myself was very loyal to just my Austen books until I bought my first movie ticket.

    My view is this…. even the movies/mini-series have to change the stories slightly. It may only be by omitting some scenes. Perhaps this may have upset Jane more than Austen inspired books.

    She died before she saw her books become widely popular. In her lifetime (short as it was) the books sold but not hugely. She spent many years developing her characters and loved them. I don’t think she would mind Austen inspired books giving her characters more life. I’m sure most are written by people who love and respect her works. If those books introduce her to new people or a new generation I think she would be happy. She certainly found a way to live forever.

  5. Big thanks for the review. I’m intrigued by all these Austen-spin-offs that seem to be everywhere now. I’m also hesitant to read them, since it seems sacrilegious to her memory some how. If her life was “ordinary” I feel guilty imagining some sort of sensational love affair that didn’t really exist. But this book does sound interesting (reminds me of Possession by A.S. Byatt), and I think I’ll have to add it to my list. 🙂

    Alayne
    thecrowdedleaf.wordpress.com

  6. I am shamed to admit that I haven’t read any Austen. I’ve seen the movies and I have a desire to read the books, but it’s been difficult for me to actually get around to it.

    Still, I really like this post. I like the idea of wondering about authors and their intentions, their reactions to things that fans do. In my English Lit Theory classes, my teacher always scolded me for trying to assert my ideas on what the author’s intent might have been because we will never know. But it’s still fun to speculate. I hope to be an author one day and I would love if my reader would care about me even if it’s only in the back of their minds.

    Plus, it also begs the question, once your work becomes famous and you become a public figure of sorts, how much control do you really have over your own image and work? the answer seems to be “very little” which I find to be both terrifying and a little exciting.

  7. Thought-provoking post. Compared to, say, Charlotte Bronte (also a clergyman’s daughter) Austen’s novels contain very few religious references. Maybe that’s why her voice seems so fresh and contemporary. I want to re-read Sense and Sensibility so it’s on the pile by my bed!

  8. I’ve never read a biography of Austen, but the one thing her books tell me was that she had a great sense of humour. I imagine her chuckling away at the inventiveness writers have brought to her life, and she’d know they were all writing and inventing with love for her in their hearts.

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