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.