From the desk of Tracy Hickman:
Jane Austen fans cannot be filed neatly into a single category any more than Austen’s works can be limited to one literary genre. How might an editor attempt to do justice to the multiplicity of Janeite fandom in a slim volume of essays and interviews? This question was uppermost in my mind as I began reading Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen. The Fan Phenomena series website explains that the goal of the series is to “look at particular examples of ‘fan culture’ and approach the subject in an accessible manner aimed at both fans and those interested in the cultural and social aspects of these fascinating–and often unusual–‘universes’.”
What is the joy of Jane? What is it about her work that keeps readers, and viewers, coming back for more? Is it the Darcy effect? Is it the irony, the wit, the romance? Or is it a combination of all these factors? Many critics and authors have compiled works to analyse this vast and still growing phenomenon of fandom…This collection offers material about the fans, for the fans, by the fans, and offers a combination of the popular and the academic. (5)
Editor Gabrielle Malcom’s introduction provides a clear description of the purpose and scope of the collection. She acknowledges the differences between mainstream fan culture and the academic treatment of Austen. After setting Austen’s work in its historical context with a few concise and insightful paragraphs, she provides brief descriptions of the essays and interviews that follow. While Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen has the look of an academic journal, its design and use of color photographs creates a visually appealing experience for the reader, with the exception of the excessively small font size used for the text of the essays. Although I suspect that the text format is dictated by the Fan Phenomena series as a whole and not unique to this volume, the cramped appearance distracted me from the content at times. I found the format used in the Fan Appreciation interviews to be much more appropriate and reader-friendly. Continue reading
Another fabulous year of reading has passed with many memorable books for Janeites to devour. We reviewed 68 of them this past year and would like to share our list of what we feel were the Best Austenesque Books of 2014.
Best Austenesque Historical Novels 2014:
- Consequences: A Cautionary Pride and Prejudice Variation, by C. P. Odom (5 stars)
- Jane Austen’s First Love, by Syrie James (5 stars)
- The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, by Shannon Winslow (5 stars)
- The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice, by Jennifer Paynter (5 stars)
- The Secret Betrothal: A Pride and Prejudice Alternate Path, by Jan Hahn (5 stars)
- Pirates and Prejudice, by Kara Louise (5 stars)
- Emma and Elizabeth: A story based on The Watsons, by Jane Austen, by Ann Mychal (5 stars)
- Mr. Darcy Came to Dinner, by Jack Caldwell (5 stars)
- Follies Past, by Melanie Kerr (5 stars)
- First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett (4.5 stars
From the desk of Tracy Hickman:
I have been a Kim Wilson fan since reading her books In the Garden with Jane Austen and Tea with Jane Austen. Her latest work At Home with Jane Austen, a luscious coffee table book, promises a virtual tour of the places Austen called home. Some of these homes were permanent residences and others were temporary: the sites of visits to wealthy relatives or seaside holidays with her family.
The chapter titles follow the course of Austen’s life. After introducing “The Author” in the first chapter, the remaining chapters are Steventon, Away at School, Bath, Travels and Tours, Stately Mansions, Southampton, By the Sea, Chawton, London, and Winchester. True to its genre, you could have a lovely experience of this book by merely turning the pages and looking at the illustrations and photographs. However, I found Kim Wilson’s narrative of Austen’s life, focused on her surroundings and travels in southern England, to be equally appealing and informative. As Ms. Wilson points out:
Though Jane changed her residence many times, family and home remained the emotional center of her life. She expressed her love of home in her work, creating heroes and heroines who also cherish the idea of home, even when, like Fanny Price in Mansfield Park, they are uprooted and must learn to love a new one: “When [Fanny] had been coming to Portsmouth, she had loved to call it her home, had been fond of saying that she was going home; the word had been very dear to her; and so it still was, but it must be applied to Mansfield. That was now the home. Portsmouth was Portsmouth; Mansfield was home.” (10)
I am very pleased to have the ironic honor of officially revealing the cover of a new book about Austen-inspired book covers, Jane Austen: Cover to Cover, by Margaret Sullivan. I think it rather handsome myself. My background in design gives it two big thumbs up to the artist commissioned by Quirk Books and to the author for having the good taste of approving it.
Cover design is a tricky thing that I am quite opinionated about. Over the years there have been many good, bad and down-right ugly Jane Austen book covers and I am so excited to see what Margaret has selected illustrating our favorite author’s novels, nonfiction and more. Here is a brief preview of the book from the publisher and the author.
Congratulations to Margaret. Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers releases on 11 November 2014. Pre-orders are available through Quirk Books and many online and brick and mortar booksellers.
DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER:
Jane Austen’s six novels are true classics, still immensely popular some 200 years after their first publication.
But although the celebrated stories never change, the covers are always different. Jane Austen Cover to Cover compiles two centuries of design, from elegant Victorian hardcovers and the famed 1894 “Peacock” edition to 1950s pulp, movie tie-in editions, graphic novels, foreign-language translations, and many, many others. Filled with beautiful artwork and insightful commentary, this fascinating and visually intriguing collection is a must for Janeites, design geeks, and book lovers of every stripe.
68 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a copy of Among the Janeites, by Deborah Yaffe. The six winners drawn at random are:
- Ellie who left a comment on August 06, 2013
- Maycomber who left a comment on August 06, 2013
- Karen Field who left a comment on August 06, 2013
- Robyn B. who left a comment on August 06, 2013
- Cathyallen who left a comment on August 06, 2013
- Danielle C. who left a comment on August 07, 2013
Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by August 21, 2013. Shipment to US addresses.
Thanks to all who left comments, to author Deborah Yaffe for her great guest blog, and to her publisher Mariner Books for supplying the giveaway copies.
Book cover image courtesy of Mariner Books © 2013; text © 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose
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.
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.
See, the neighbors in my reading group were smart, insightful women who seemed to like Austen – but they didn’t like her quite the way I had liked her ever since my days as a preteen bookworm who spent every spare moment inhaling classic fiction. They weren’t memorizing Captain Wentworth’s love letter to Anne Elliot, or worrying – really worrying! – whether Marianne Dashwood was going to be happy with Colonel Brandon. People like that didn’t live in my neighborhood; they lived on Pemberley. Continue reading
There are Trekkies and Potterheads and Twifans, but nothing in the pop culture universe can compare to the passion, dedication, and eccentricity of a Janeite. I know this because I am one.
For the benefit of the un-indoctrinated, a Janeite is a fan of English author Jane Austen (1775-1817) who wrote six novels before her untimely death at age 41. Many have read Pride and Prejudice for a school assignment and then moved on. Others, like myself and former journalist Deborah Yaffe, were so enchanted by her humor, characters, and Regency world that we read not only her major works but everything she wrote: juvenilia, minor works, novella, fragments, and letters. That was not enough. We were compelled to become her fans.
In Among the Janeites, a new nonfiction book to be released next week by Mariner Books, Yaffe boldly ventures into the land of Janeites to discover what makes them tick and why they “feel an intensely personal affection for the writer and her books…whom they often call “Jane,” as if she were a neighbor whose kitchen door they could knock on to borrow a cup of sugar.” Yaffe’s journalist background gives her the perfect training for such a task, striving to form an impression of what it is like to live with the obsession and “tease out some common threads that weave this diverse array of individuals into a community.” And tease she does, interviewing and meeting a wide range of her fans, traveling to England for a Jane Austen pilgrimage to her homes and haunts, and attending Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) Annual General Meetings in Portland, Oregon and Fort Worth, Texas.
After the lively introduction which explores her motivations for writing the book, it is broken down into three parts, much like the dramatic structure of Austen’s three-volume novels. Within the ten chapters, one or two different personalities in the Janeite world are featured as an example of the diversity of Austen’s fans and how they express their passion. First, we meet Regency fashion aficionados Baronda Bradley and seamstress Maureen O’Connor and learn all about corsets, pelisses and the lives of these two fashionistas. Multimillionaire Cisco founder and Chawton House Library creator Sandy Lerner has her share of the conversation in a chapter called “Sandy’s Pemberley,” writers Pamela Aidan and Linda Berdol are included in the chapter on Jane Austen fanfiction, and Austen scholar Devoney Looser rattles the ivory tower of academia by admitting to Austen fandom and expressing it with the roller derby persona “Stone Cold Austen” in “The Knowledge Business.” Continue reading