Tag Archives: reading

#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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#42: Torch Your Books

If you don’t want to act old, you’ve got to stop reading. Everything except Harry Potter, of course. And whatever is this season’s DaVinci Code. And of course, my books.

But studies show that reading books is in decline among people in all age groups, though most especially the young. Fiftyish women are the most likely to read books (surprise, surprise), while young males are playing Grand Theft Auto or looking at internet porn instead.

If you’re not about to trade in Anna Karenina for Niko Bellic (if you don’t know who that is, ask your teenage son), you may want to revisit your youth by reading Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, to remember why you starting having sex with everybody you could get your hands on; Sue Miller’s The Good Mother, to remember why you stopped; and Sheila Weller’s Girls Like Us, to remember the women you wished you were (and are ultimately glad you’re not).

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