Among the Janeites Launch Party with Author Deborah Yaffe, & Giveaway!

Among the Janeites, by Deborah Yaffe 2013 It is a happy day when new books are born, especially when they come from Janeite lineage.

I am very pleased to celebrate the arrival of Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom which launches today from Mariner Books. Please help me welcome author Deborah Yaffe who has kindly contributed a guest blog sharing her inspiration to write about a topic very close to my heart – Jane Austen and her legion of fans. Enter a chance to win one of six copies available from her publisher by leaving a comment with this post. Details are included at the end of the blog. Good luck.

Welcome Deborah!

Like so many Jane Austen novels, the story of how I came to write Among the Janeites, my nonfiction chronicle of obsessive Austen-love, begins with the entail.

Or, rather, with a question about the entail, that hoary element of English inheritance law that is so crucial to the plot of Pride and Prejudice.  Months earlier, inspired by Karen Joy Fowler’s novel The Jane Austen Book Club, I’d roped several neighbors into re-reading Austen’s novels with me, and our P&P discussion had brought up an arcane legal point requiring further research.

Poking around online the next day, I decided to check out a website I vaguely recalled hearing about – the Republic of Pemberley, the Internet’s largest Jane Austen fan community.  And suddenly, there they were: my people. Continue reading

Reading Austen: Guest Blog by Tara O’Donnell

Jane Austen, by Cassandra AustenGentle readers: We are happy to share our second contribution to a new monthly column, Reading Austen. Today guest blogger Tara O’Donnell shares her personal story of how she discovered Jane Austen and why reading her novels is so special for her.

Persuaded into Austen

Like many of many fellow Jane Austen fans out there, I came to her books via a movie. No, it wasn’t that one where Darcy soaks his shirt (although, I have seen it numerous times and own two different DVD editions, plus a VHS set……so you could say I’m familiar with that film). The year was 1995 and I was hearing high praise from movie reviewers about a little British film named Persuasion.

That was also the year of Sense & Sensibility starring Emma Thompson and a pre-Titanic Kate Winslet, which received just as much praise but a much wider distribution in theaters. I had no

choice but to pick up the book first and Persuasion became my gateway into Jane Austen country.

What compelled me to check out this story in the first place was its heroine, Anne Elliot. I was around the same age as Anne was and that anyone, particularly back in a time where women were considered permanent spinsters if they weren’t married before the end of their teen years, would have a mature woman being granted a second chance at love and a life of her own was an eye opener for me.

Also, like Anne, I was somewhat of an “old reliable” sort within my social circle. While my family was much kinder and considerate, plus far from being any where near as snobbish as the Elliots, I did tend to be the one who was instantly counted on or asked to  pass on advice from one person to another, much like poor Anne did whenever she went to stay with her forever “sickly” sister Mary and her down to earth in-laws, the Musgroves. That scene in the film where she’s clearly exhausted after a round robin session of grievances during the first couple of days of her visit is amusingly relatable.

Persuasion is a brief book and a bit more somber in tone than most of the more popular introductory Austen novels that people read such as Emma or Pride and Prejudice. It’s not as lively as say even Northanger Abbey (which was published with Persuasion after Austen’s death) yet the wit and satire is at Austen’s sharpest point in her writing. While Persuasion is getting its due more often these days, back in ’95, the story wasn’t seen as the prettiest sister amongst her more celebrated siblings.

Yet, it struck just the right note with me in its precise portrait of two people (Anne and Captain Wentworth) who felt keenly the regret of their earlier decision not to take a chance on love and so wanted to remedy that but were still uncertain if their affections would be returned. As much as I adore Mr. Darcy, Captain Wentworth’s declaration of “you pierce my soul….I am half agony, half hope.” makes him number one in my heart.

I then went on to not only reading the rest of Austen’s work but learning more about her life and times, which lead me to finding websites like The Republic of Pemberley where I discovered that Austen mania was a worldwide epidemic for which there is no cure, thank goodness!

In addition to joining in on many Austen related discussions, I joined the RoP folk on a trip to England in 2002 that took me to two of the prime locations in Persuasion. At Lyme Regis, I got to walk on the Cobb where silly Louisa Musgrove fell and then went sightseeing in Bath, which I probably enjoyed a lot more than Austen did in her day. That trip was one of the best experiences of my life and one that I will cherish always.

While in some ways I am still like Anne, in the best sense of that statement, over the years I have grown a little more assertive and prefer to take my cues in behavior and decorum from some of Austen’s fine examples of steadfast women such as Elinor Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet and Fanny Price. I can’t credit all of my developing maturity to Jane Austen but she was and is a wonderful encourager of seeking your own way to happiness and it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge her part in my continuing emotional conversation.

Persuasion, much like its leading lady, may have been a most unlikely place for me to begin my literary journey with Jane Austen. However, starting at the end seems to have been a good choice and one that I wouldn’t change for the world.

Author Bio:

Tara O’Donnell is a former independent bookseller who now devotes herself to writing and hopes to have some great novels in book stores herself one day.

In addition to her pop culture blog, Living Read Girl, she recently had a small sketch entitled “Bennet Bridezillas” as her entry into the 2011 Bad Austen writing competition, which was included in the completed companion book Bad Austen: The Worst Stories that Jane Never Wrote from Adams Media.

Over this past summer, Tara released her first eBook, a comic book novella called “The Hench Woman’s Handbook”, which is available as a free download from Smashwords. Jane Austen is only one of Tara’s many literary influences on a list that includes Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Louisa May Alcott, Gilmore Girls, Edith Wharton and Batman: The Animated Series. An odd list, to be sure, however she suspects that Miss Austen would approve at the very least of Buffy Summers and Rory Gilmore.

Would you like to share your personal story of reading Austen here with fellow Janeites? Submit your essay of approximately 750 words revealing how you discovered Jane Austen’s novels and why they are so special to you to Austenprose. It just might be included in our monthly column, Reading Austen, that will be published on the first Friday of every month.

© 2007 – 2011 Tara O’Donnell, Austenprose

Reading Austen: Guest Blog by Anthony Garcia

Jane Austen, by Cassandra AustenGentle readers: We are happy to share our first contribution to a new monthly column, Reading Austen. Today guest blogger Anthony Garcia shares his personal story of how he discovered Jane Austen and why reading her novels is so special for him.

Growing up, if you would’ve asked me who Jane Austen was, I probably wouldn’t have even known the answer. I wasn’t what you would call a reader back then, and nobody who knew me would have ever thought that I would eventually go to a graduateprogram in literature. I actually didn’t read my first novel until I was about 14. It was Lord of the Flies, a far cry from Austen. Eventually I did become an avid reader, but it took a lot of coaxing from teachers and friends who were readers. Even when I found out who Jane Austen was, probably around junior year of high school, there was no way I was going to read her. Why would I? The only people I ever heard talking about her were female, and I certainly didn’t want to be the only guy reading Jane Austen.

So, you can imagine my chagrin when I got to college and one of the first assignments for our English class was reading Persuasion. I was very skeptical, but soon discovered Jane Austen’s magnificence as a writer. After that introduction, I was hooked forever. I read Pride and Prejudice next, followed by Northanger Abbey, and all the rest. Then came the re-readings. Through this process, I became an avid Austen fanatic and started to rent and watch all of the film adaptations. I eventually decided that Austen was my passion in life, and went to graduate school to pursue my love of a female writer from Regency England.

I found that dream more difficult to realize than I had anticipated for a couple of different reasons. First, my gender worked against me. Most people at orientation had read Austen, sure, but they were certainly not men, and they were not making Austen their primary focus. I got a lot of questions about that choice, especially from the other men in the program. I realize now that there are othermenwhoreadAusten, but back then I felt like a weirdo. The second problem that came up in graduate school was the stigma about studying anything that is considered “popular” or that “everybody reads” because it is enjoyable. If you study something that people actually enjoy reading you are punished a bit for it. One of the reasons this stigma exists is practical: for research, many interesting thongs I could point out about a popular novel may have already been said before by other scholars thirty years before me.

After the first semester of graduate school, I realized that my passion, reading Austen, would not be an avenue I could pursue as a career. But, you know what? I am almost glad that was the case. I did still read Austen in school, but I read her for my own pleasure. In between Mary Rowlandson and the Wicazo SA Review, my thesis on Native American literature left little time for recreational reading, but what time there was, I filled with Austen.

I am glad that I never had to associate her with my work. I had a love-hate relationship with the texts I worked most with in grad school, and I am not sure I would want my joy dampened in my readings of Austen’s texts. Reading Austen is not an activity I would not want to enjoy anymore, and the chance of that happening to her through the cynicism rampant in graduate studies was one of the reasons I chose not to study her in school. I was worried that examining her texts too thoroughly may have ruined the magic of reading her stories.

If I was not able to have Jane Austen’s novels to read for respite from the onslaught of literary theory on Native American literature from the 1700s, and hundreds of pages a week of assigned texts, (which were interesting, don’t get me wrong), as well as poorly crafted student papers, I could have gotten so lost in the minutiae of my education that I may have never graduated.

In graduate school for literature, it is really important to remain close to the text that remind you why you went in the first place. This is due to the fact that each day becomes like a test of reading endurance; reading can begin to seem as mundane as drinking a cup of coffee, and it is very easy to lose the joy that you had when going in. Reading Austen for pleasure in my spare time saved me from that fate. In other words, I have Jane Austen to thank for both inspiring me to go to graduate school, and for getting through it with my love of literature intact. I know work, following her footsteps, as a writer, and am working on my first novel. Thank you, Ms. Austen.

Author Bio:

Anthony Garcia recently completed his graduate education in English Literature, and is working as a freelance writer. He writes primarily about education, travel, literature, and American culture, and is an avid fan of literature blogs, especially Austenprose.

In his spare time, he reads as much as possible, and works on his list of life goals, which include currently includes publishing a novel, visiting Spain, climbing Mt. Rainier, and solving a Rubix cube. A New Mexico native, he currently resides and writes in Seattle, Washington.

Would you like to share your personal story of reading Austen here with fellow Janeites? Submit your essay of approximately 750 words revealing how you discovered Jane Austen’s novels and why they are so special to you to Austenprose. It just might be included in our monthly column, Reading Austen, that will be published on the first Friday of every month.

© 2007 – 2011 Anthony Garcia, Austenprose