Sometimes I think we give you the impression that all we think about is Jane Austen. This is not so! We think about Colin Firth… and shirts…. and… other things….
Yes, other things! Austen fans are many-sided people, and we intend to prove it to you! That’s why we’re taking this grand tour of the bookshelves of the Beloved Sisters. I could call this Spring Cleaning or Self Discovery or something, but come on. We all know we just want to talk books here. And hey, maybe I like something that I never thought of as being part of my Austen fandom, but you’ll like too!
First stop: The Kitchen
I keep my travel books with my food books, and they all live in the kitchen. This makes sense, right? Cooking is very similar to travel, but, like, imaginary—? I’m not sure if Pemberley is listed in the Dictionary of Imaginary Places or not. But I am proud of my food/books/teacups mélange because I like to think it’s how people lived in Jane Austen’s day. I keep it real.
Next door is my portfolio bookshelf: books I’ve edited, written for, etc. They are just math textbooks, mostly. But they are also mixed with teacups and little things. I shan’t recommend any of these math books for you (but email me if you’re interested!). There are more in the bedroom anyway.
Second stop: The Living Room
I’m actually in the middle of rearranging my books and china because I love to play with them. Here are many of my favorite series and “books by authors that write a lot of books.” Agatha Christie, Jasper Fforde, the Judge Dee books by Robert Van Gulik, Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and more Terry Pratchett. Mystery and wacky alternative-world fantasy comedy are my two basic genres.
Of all of these, I’m actually going to recommend Judge Dee for you. Judge Dee was a real person who lived and detected in 7th-century China. These books are made-up cases from ancient Chinese detective stories translated and added to by a 1950s Dutch diplomat named Robert Van Gulik. I have no idea why I think Judge Dee fits with Austen—I just do. These are crime story books. They have murder and torture and weird sex (off-screen) and almost no romance. On the other hand, there is a lot of tea. Far more than in Jane Austen, actually. And Van Gulik has a simple, clear writing style like Austen, and focuses on daily life in ancient China. So there’s that.
Third stop: The Bedroom
This bookshelf is in flux (and in the dark apparently). Otherwise, it would never have an empty shelf. What kind of book-hating infidel do you think I am? Above we see my old diaries (awww) and my almost complete collection of P.G. Wodehouse. . .
ALL OF YOU, especially all of you who love funny writing, but ALL OF YOU: Put down this post and read some freaking Wodehouse! Now!! Yes, I mean it. I’ll wait. GOOOOO!!!!!
Are you done? That was fast. OK, when you need another fix, try the short story “Uncle Fred Flits By.” Meanwhile, this bookshelf also has Harry Potter, Elizabeth Peters, Gabriel Nix, a few of my children’s books, and, sigh, the 1888 Chamber’s Encyclopedia of Universal Knowledge I bought for Mr. Fitzpatrick as a Christmas present before we were even engaged. He used to post entries from it online under the name of Vickipedia. (I named it that.) If you go there, you can read the entries hosted on that site, but not the ones he moved to his website, multipledigression.com, because that site no longer exists. And now I feel sad.
My beloved Mr. Fitzpatrick gave me a lot of my books. Let me tell you about just one of them: an original British edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I already had my copy of this book with the American title, Sorcerer’s Stone, but as someone with an interest in history, magical thinking, secrets, etc, he abhorred the change in the title. (J.K. Rowling didn’t make up the philosopher’s stone—it was the goal of alchemy.) And he had heard that the original had text differences as well, and he knew how I always want original sources. So, he ordered it from England for me. Alas, there are virtually NO differences* but of course I’ll always keep it.
This corner has everything else! Even some non-fiction, believe it or not. Old friends like Laura Ingalls Wilder, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ramona Quimby, a ton of Madeleine L’Engle, Anne of Green Gables (all 8), Narnia. . .. Nestled cosily into these are my books on origami, math, grammar, neuroscience, art, physics, and fashion. And my Jane Austen books! You can find them at the left, third shelf up, under the math and origami.
What do I recommend for you here? Wow. . . Let’s go list form!
- Mathy Austen fans (yes, this is a thing, you guys): Pearls in Graph Theory by Gerhard Ringel has Austen’s beautiful simplicity. And I’m excited about tackling Geometric Folding Algorithms by Erik Demaine.
- Anglophilia maniacs: I think you will love E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia series. These are about middle-class English daily life in the 1930s and they are wickedly funny.
- Mystery fans: If you have not read Dorothy L. Sayers, why have you not read Dorothy L. Sayers? Lord Peter Wimsey! Harriet Vane! These books are . . . also about middle-class English daily life in the 1930s. But not so funny and with murder and romance. So I run to type a little. Sue me.
- Grammar geeks: You really can’t go wrong with Karen Elizabeth Gordon. The Bad Girl of Grammar! Vampires and corsets! But, you know, before that was cliché.
- And of course, all y’all should read MOAR Austen! The minor works! Sanditon! Lady Susan! The History of England! Good times.
- I’ve also heard there’s this book called Pride and Prejudice. You should check it out.
Well, I hope you have enjoyed this tour through one Jane Austen fan’s bookshelves. What do you ladies and gentlemen read? Show us your diversity!
Next stop: Miss Osborne! Thank you for traveling with Austenacious.
*The main difference is that Dudley’s first word is “shan’t” rather than “won’t.” And this was before they’d twigged that Americans can handle kids calling their mothers “mum.”
Photo credit: All photos ©2014 Heather Dever. If you really want to share them, um, be my guest.
Austen Nation, it’s time to talk bookshelves! Unanimously, the ladies of Austenacious love snooping through other people’s bookshelves—at parties, we’re the ones you’ll find furtively adding things to our to-read lists—and we assume you share our “healthy interest” (read: complete nosiness) in this area. So this week, and for the two following weeks, you’re invited to join us for a guided tour of our personal collections.
This is my main bookshelf, located in my living room; it’s not all of my books, but it is a lot of my books. Specifically, it’s most of my paperbacks, the prettier/older/classic-er hardcovers having been poached for decorative purposes around the house or shelved elsewhere for space reasons. But if you’re looking for a book in my house, statistically, it’s probably here.
Honestly, for reasons of economics and moving every year and a deep affection for the public library, I don’t buy a lot of books. I like having a certain size of print library around (and I don’t own an e-reader), but I don’t necessarily want to commit too much space to books I don’t really love, and I’m definitely not opposed to the occasional purge. I read a lot of classics, in part because I get overwhelmed by the sameness of contemporary “literary” fiction—I read contemporary lit, but I tend not to buy it unless I’m really confident I’m going to want it around long-term—so you’ll find a lot of “hey, I read that in high school!”-type books on my shelves.
My books are organized by section—novels and creative nonfiction, travel, editorial reference, enormous horse books, hardcover children’s classics, Calvin and Hobbes treasuries, things too big to fit elsewhere—and sorted alphabetically by author for easy finding. The stacks on top are mostly borrowed books waiting to be returned: a few to the library, a few to friends and relatives, and Miss Osborne’s copy of Middlesex, with which I absconded when my own copy was out on loan.
I don’t style this shelf, per se (and let’s be real: can I really call myself a blogger if I don’t organize my books by color?), but here we have Action Jane and Sense and Sensibility: An Opposites Primer, written by Jennifer Adams and illustrated by Alison Oliver, and given to me by Dear Friend of the Blog Miss Tarango. Also, a beeswax candle in the shape of an artichoke, as you do.
And now we come to the Austen section. What’s that you say? You only see two of Austen’s novels snuggled in between the Atwoods and The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing? It’s true. My secret’s out: I don’t keep the complete set of Austen’s novels around. Someday! It’s an issue of pickiness, really: I’m waiting for my own ideal edition of each to arrive in the world, and simply haven’t committed to lesser ones (except in the case of Persuasion, oops). Even better, maybe one day I’ll find a matched set! In the mean time, when I need them in print, I raid Miss Osborne’s shelves or go to the library. If it’s just for reference, they’re available searchably and for free online, which is tremendously useful.
What I do have is one paperback copy of Persuasion, which I acquired at some unmemorable time and in some unmemorable place, and two hardcovers of Pride and Prejudice. The first is the 1995 miniseries tie-in version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle on the cover, and I believe my parents gave it to me for my seventeenth birthday. The second is a beautiful Everyman’s Library edition—I love Everyman’s Library, as well as Modern Library—that I bought at Strand Books in New York a few days after Hurricane Sandy. For awhile, I had a third copy, an enormous edition with a slipcover given to me (thoughtfully, and also with excellent attention to my affection for You’ve Got Mail) on a first date. It didn’t work out with the guy, though, and I decided my Everyman’s Library needed no further competition, and passed it on to somebody else.
And that, my friends, is the guided tour of my bookshelves. Stop by next week for continued adventures of the Austenacious Bookshelf Tour!
It’s Publishing Day on Austenacious!
First of all, we offer our congratulations to one of our own: Good job, Karen Joy Fowler! You got an award!
Karen Joy Fowler, who wrote The Jane Austen Book Club back in 2004 and has and remains an active figure in Austeniana, won the fancypants PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction yesterday. Her novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves tells the story of a woman raised by scientists who adopted a chimpanzee as a sibling/science experiment. (Hey, I heard that episode of RadioLab!) The ladies of Austenacious have seen Fowler in person a couple of times since the site began: once on the Jane Austen A Go Go panel at Litquake a few years back, and once in conversation with Bill Deresiewicz at a bookstore in Berkeley. Both times, we’ve agreed that she was thoughtful, well-spoken, and an all-around delightful conversationalist. And it’s always nice to see a fellow Janeite succeed so spectacularly. Well done, Karen!
Have any of you read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves? Please respond with a report on the thematic similarities and differences of living with a chimp for a sibling and negotiating relationships through a book club featuring Jane Austen. Much obliged.
Not much, it turns out. (SURPRISE!) But this piece is an interesting look at creativity, generational wealth, and the concept of “a room of one’s own.” Read it!
Ladies writin’ books and putting them out into the world. It’s a good thing.
If there is a sun in the solar system of ladies, located in Galaxy Anglophilia, which is smack in the middle of the Universe of Nerdery—if there’s an object of such size and immense gravity that it pulls everything else toward itself and gives it all something to orbit—that sun may lie somewhere near the intersection of Jane Austen, Sherlock Holmes (and especially Sherlock), and Doctor Who. And if this week’s news is correct, we may soon be feeling the pull of that sun: Mark Gatiss (Mycroft Holmes; also John Dashwood from 2008) has confirmed, vaguely, that he might be writing a Jane Austen episode for an upcoming season of Doctor Who.
Batten down the hatches, my friends. It’s all coming together.
Gatiss has written a number of Doctor Who episodes, and I’m sure he doesn’t need my help throwing a story together, but the opportunities here are practically endless. And so I present to you, readers, a selection of possible Austen-oriented plots featuring everyone’s favorite humanoid alien in a police-box spaceship:
- Henry Crawford is actually an alien masquerading as a Regency douchebag; the Doctor arrives to take him out and fly the TARDIS over the ha-ha. Fanny accepts the Doctor’s invitation to travel as his companion, and grows a spine as a result of her newly broadened experiences.
- The Doctor accidentally lands the TARDIS in the middle of the ball at Netherfield, where he accidentally sweeps Mrs. Bennet off her feet. Having realized his error, he accidentally forces Lizzy and Darcy to dance, where they fall in love and accidentally circumvent the entire plot of Pride and Prejudice.
- The Doctor visits Catherine Morland at Northanger Abbey. “I KNEW IT!” she cries.
- John and Mrs. John Dashwood are revealed to be selfish aliens with no regard for the human family unit. The Doctor chases them back to their corner of the universe and restores the Dashwood ladies to their rightful fortune, though they retain their lease on the seaside cottage as well, where the Doctor stops by every time he wants to hear the sound of the sea on Earth.
- Anne Elliot meets the Ood, and gets along with them pretty well.
- Emma Woodhouse attempts to matchmake the Doctor with Miss Bates; he politely and regretfully dashes off to chase the Cybermen out of the strawberry patches at Donwell. He and Mr. Knightley celebrate and commiserate later with a nice glass of Scotch.
What about you? Where do you see the Doctor showing up in Austen?
So, now that’s been five months, I guess this is the point where I confess to you that I haven’t been doing a good job of following Emma Approved. I meant to! I honestly think what Pemberley Digital is doing is pretty interesting, and after my epic Lizzie Bennet Diaries catch-up, I promised myself that this was the time I’d stick with it.
And then…I didn’t. I’m currently twelve episodes in—a little less than a third of what’s currently out.
To some degree, this is not the fault of Pemberley Digital or anybody else, except myself: I am terrible at watching videos on the Internet, period. If you are not an awkward college-choir rendition of a choral piece I’m trying to learn, or a meme that everybody else went crazy over six months ago and I’ve been pretending to understand ever since, I probably am not watching you on the YouTube machine. I am trying to get better about this. Internet video: sometimes it’s fun!
But there ARE some choices on Pemberley Digital’s part that I think have helped me keep my distance. First of all, I have to say that the changed-names thing really threw me off. Back when we discussed EA for the first time, a commenter explained that they’d changed a few characters’ names so as not to overlap with characters in LBD: since the two series take place in the same universe, they didn’t want to have a George Knightley and a George Wickham. I get that, kind of; clarity is key, and I can see that picking other historical-sounding names also might not have been the best choice, either. But ALEX? ALEX KNIGHTLEY? It’s a small detail, but it makes me crazy. (Not, however, crazy enough that I didn’t exclaim over Mr. Knightley when I saw him in a car commercial the other day. Good on you, getting TV jobs!)
This brings me to some less-small details: primarily, what’s the deal with Miss Taylor? I see Annie’s value in terms of establishing Emma’s character, but her storyline in the series doesn’t come from the book; it doesn’t even serve a corollary function here. In the novel, the Taylor/Weston wedding is practically a footnote, and a minor bummer for Emma. In the series, Emma creates a circle of havoc trying (sucessfully) to make it happen when Miss Taylor has cold feet. In any case, isn’t Harriet’s story enough to let us know how Emma operates? I hear there are further plot deviations later, and I guess I can’t shake my fist about them until I’ve seen them. (Motivation!)
It’s not that I’m not enjoying what I’ve seen. I think Joanna Sotomura makes a great Emma, and I remain intrigued by the tie-in Internet presence (and surprised it hasn’t simply eaten Pinterest whole). I like Harriet and B-Mart (hee). I just…have concerns, I guess.
What about you all? Are you watching Emma Approved? What’s your take?
There are plenty of reasons why people read Jane Austen. People like romances, and they like great prose, and they like jokes about humanity, and they like stories they can come back to over and over again. But I think one of the main reasons people like Jane is that they find her characters realistic: flawed and funny and well-intentioned (but not always well-practiced), as so many people are. I think we see ourselves and the people we know, for better or for worse, in her work, and I think the flash of recognition is what keeps us coming back.
And so I ask you, readers:
With which Jane Austen character do you most identify, and why?
In a novelization of your life, which Austen character (major or supporting) would play you? Is your favorite character also your doppelganger? When did you first identify your Austen-est self? Tell us all about it.
To the comments!
What’s that you say? It’s the end of the week, and all you want is some fun Jane Austen links while you wait for the weekend to appear? Well, don’t say we never did nothin’ for you.
(Especially delightful: Northanger Abbey. That GLOW!)
(Answer: Knightley.) (It’s because I said Mindy/Danny, isn’t it?)
I now pronounce it The Weekend. Be free! Be free!
If you are anything like the Austenacious team, you will be spending Sunday evening watching people you do not know win awards you did not help bestow. You may or may not care about the awards themselves (though, ahem, you may feel unusually strongly that Cate Blanchett should win for Blue Jasmine); you may be watching to ensure that Lupita Nyong’o has worn something flawless, or to see who’s photobombing whom, or maybe you’re just super into the Mani-Cam.
And at some point, somebody you are rooting for will lose. Somebody you are rooting against will win! That person will make a terrible, boring, pretentious speech. And you will think, just for a second, Well, nobody asked me.
But take heart. WE are asking you. Be our Academy! Below, we’ve created a series of Jane-related categories for which we feel there should be awards, and we need your votes! Click, and make your voices heard! And when La Blanchett wins, we know she’ll thank you in her acceptance speech.
Okay, everybody: Today is Valentine’s Day. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
Today, have you confessed your continued love and faithfulness after an eight-year break? Spent some quality time with a friend (while her husband putters in his garden)? Squeezed the hand of a beloved sister? And let’s be real: Have you sent someone a picture from the Internet to express the depth of your affection?
Oh, you’re missing that last one? Let us help. We made these Valentines just for you! Take them to heart, send them to your loved ones, and remember: We love you like Mr. Rushworth loves a puffed sleeve.
(For you ladies who would prefer see Mr. Knightley fully clothed [we assume to better remove his clothing in your mind], here’s a different version.)
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Oh, Austen Nation, did you hear?
A previously unknown scrap of paper hand-annotated by Jane has appeared, tucked into a book at the Jane Austen’s House Museum!
A small but rare sample of Jane Austen’s handwriting has been found tucked into another book at the Jane Austen’s House Museum. The scrap reads, “Men may get into a habit of repeating the words of our Prayers by rote, perhaps without thoroughly understanding — certainly without thoroughly feeling their full force & meaning.” It is thought to be a passage from one of her brother’s sermons, rather than her own composition, though the museum’s curator, Mary Guyatt, told The Guardian, “What especially intrigued us about this fragment is its apparent date, 1814, and the evidence that offers of the cross-currents between Austen’s family life and her literary reflections on prayer in Chapter 34 of Mansfield Park, published the same year.” Writing on the back of the scrap of paper is less legible, but scholars plan to use humidity to try to clean the paper and decipher it.
I love this. I don’t think I could be more excited if it had been a long-lost novel. It could be a grocery list (“Kale, cheese, cheese, cheese, the good red licorice”), and I’d be thrilled. And while I’m not sure I’d like my own miscellaneous paper trail to turn up for all posterity, I think this is for the same reason I automatically read everything by Kate Atkinson, and why I heard about the Tina Fey episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and watched it at lunch in my office that very day: it’s more. I want to hear what these women have to say about pretty much everything, and I’m happy to follow that trail of breadcrumbs. Even if they’re trivial. Especially if they’re trivial, because trivial so often means unrehearsed. And, of course, because Jane is no longer with us, this little surprise bit of everyday presence seems even more precious and exciting. Even if it isn’t something she herself came up with, it’s something that struck her—enough that she wrote it into that apparently telling passage in Mansfield Park. It’s a little bit of Jane’s brain, written out and hidden in a book for two hundred years.
Thanks for the surprise, Jane.