#69: Enough With The Jane Austen Worship

I like Jane Austen as much as the next novel-writing-and-reading middle-aged woman, which is to say, a lot. Which is really to say, way, way too much.

Do we actually need a whole genre of books about modern Jane Austen lovers, entire clothing lines devoted to Jane Austen wear, multiple tour companies eager to guide you through Jane Austen locales? How about lessons in how to take tea, dance, cook, garden, and of course write a la Jane Austen? There are Jane Austen Festivals and Jane Austen book groups, Jane Austen dolls and Jane Austen tee shirts, Jane Austen movies and Jane Austen bloggers.

Even our babies are not exempt from Jane’s omni-influence: The names Emma, Darcy, and yes, Austen are rising in popularity.

A couple of the most entertainingly over-the-top examples of Jane Austen worship: The Jane Austen action figure. (That’s her in all her plastic glory on the right.) And this tour of Jane Austen’s Google Earth.

It’s not that Jane hasn’t written some great books, but there’s something a little too order-seeking, rich man-loving, and sanitized (i.e. fussily middle-aged) about the J.A. Mania. Why not devote equal attention to the Brontes, who pulled back the curtain on a wilder brand of early womanhood? Or to modern masters like Alice Munro or Louise Erdrich, who are far less widely known and sell many fewer books than Jane Austen. Listen, I love Pride & Prejudice, but my favorite book last year was Lionel (female) Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World.

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9 responses to “#69: Enough With The Jane Austen Worship

  1. I was so pleased at your mention of Louise Erdrich’s work; I have re-read all of her works, some many times. Her “Last Report of Miracles at Little No Horse” remains my favorite book, by anyone. That she remains relatively unknown mystifies me.

  2. Of course I agree. I can’t wait to get her new book of linked stories, A Plague of Doves. The excerpt in The New Yorker was stunning in every sense of that word.

  3. cspademan

    “A Plague of Doves” is my planned beach read (Duck, NC, 2nd week of August) along with a re-read of Lance Armstrong’s first book. Now THAT’S a combination platter…

  4. Hey there Granny,

    It’s time to broaden your horizons: come over to the Google Earth Community (http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/ubbthreads.php/Cat/0) and take a look at the many and varied and over-the-top layers that put the life and works of many creative people into their geographic context. We’re not engaging in worship; we’re helping to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, as Google likes to put it.

    In addition of my Jane Austen Layer (http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/411188/an/0/page/0), you’ll find ones on Jack Kerouac (http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showthreaded.php/Number/240611), Salvador Dali (http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/938627/an/0/page/12), James Ensor (http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showthreaded.php/Number/1051575), PG Wodehouse (http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=571160), all of the places in Shakespeare’s plays (http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/155428/an/0/page/0) and the travels of Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Number=546450). (I’m also rather fond of my layer on the lives of the Six Wives of Henry VIII: http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showflat.php?Number=365164). And of course, you’ll find numerous layers on topics of substance in many other fields.

    So, download Google Earth and give it a spin. After all, the ability to merge one’s traditional interests with cutting edge technology, especially if like me, you were born before personal computers even existed, is one sure-fire way to not act old.

    In the meanwhile, thanks for the extra hits to my file. 😉

    cheers,
    Lucia

  5. What’s this? Nobody ever told me there were Jane Austen clothing lines. I’m eager to learn more, even as it occurs to me that I really don’t look good in an Empire-waist dress. And who can look dignified in a ruffled cap?

  6. I’m with you on the Brontes. I always liked their books better than Jane’s, although I enjoyed hers too.

    I also loved George Eliot. I remember being assigned to read “Middlemarch” over spring break for my English Novel course in college (back in my day we didn’t go to Cancun). I read the whole 900-something pages in that one week and loved it!

  7. Cassie

    Right on, I loved The Post Birthday World too. (I’m 30, I think I’m old before my time – I need this blog!)

  8. Thanks! And my favorite book so far this year is Tana French’s In The Woods.

  9. Why not devote equal attention to the Brontes, who pulled back the curtain on a wilder brand of early womanhood?

    Because after reading Jane Austen, the Brontes make me giggle behind my hand. I like their stuff, mind, I just can’t take it very seriously.

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