Arriving in the post yesterday was a new Jane Austen biography/cultural history for my review consideration; Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World. Right off the top – I love the title of this book! It totally proclaims that Jane Austen HAS conquered the world, and I am just fine with that.
I read about this book months ago on author Claire Harman’s website. I am a fan of her pervious book Fanny Bruney: A Biography (2001), and when I learned that she was writing a biography and cultural history of Jane Austen I knew that it would be top on my list of Austen inspired new releases for this year. I have been anticipating its arrival for some time and am eager to dive in. Here is a publicity blurb from the publisher Canongate Books as a teaser.
Award winning biographer and Oxford and Columbia University Professor Claire Harman traces the growth of Jane Austen’s fame, the changing status of her work and what it has stood for – or has been made to stand for in the English culture. – in a wide-ranging study aimed at the general reader.
This is a story of personal struggle, family intrigue, accident, advocacy and sometimes surprising neglect as well as a history of changing public tastes and critical practices. Starting with Austen’s own experience as a beginning author (and addressing her difficulties getting published and her determination to succeed), Harman unfolds the history of how her estate was handled by her brother, sister, nieces and nephews, and goes on to explore the eruption of public interest in Austen in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the making of her into a classic English author in the twentieth century, the critical wars that erupted as a result and, lastly, her powerful influence on contemporary phenomena such as chick-lit, romantic comedy, the heritage industry and film. The first book about Jane Austen to dissect the industry around her, it is a completely original approach to one of Britain’s most enduring popular novelist.
Part biography and part cultural history, this book does not just tell a fascinating story – it is essential reading for anyone interested in Austen’s life, works and remarkably potent fame.
Beside the beautiful cover artwork, a quick perusal through the text and index revealed that Harman’s research encompasses Austen’s rise to fame from the beginnings to the very recent Pride and Prejudice adaptation/parody Lost in Austen. Mentioned in her fanbase are Internet sites and blogs such as The Republic of Pemberley, AustenBlog, Jane Austen’s World, Jane Austen Today; — and gentle readers, I had to get the smelling salts out after reading Austenprose listed on page 276 as ‘particularly prolific and engaged.’ Blush!!!
Regardless of the mention, I am anxious to read this book and shall tear into it after rearranging my reading schedule to move it up. I look forward to reviewing it which should be posted prior to it’s official release date in the UK of 02 April 2009. There is a listing for it at Barnes & Noble and Amazon, but no pre-ordering available yet. That should change in the next week or so I assume and will check with the publisher on US availability. You can preorder it through AmazonUK now.
Anyway, a red letter day for my postbox and my blog! In addition to my joy – anyone lucky enough to live in Bath, near Bath, or want to travel to Bath can catch Claire Harman on April 24th, at the Topping & Company Booksellers for a talk and book signing. Pea green you lucky ducks! Maybe we could convince Jane Odiwe to attend as an online Austen fanbase emissary!?!