In honor of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, a melancholy moment for anyone who wishes she’d managed to live a little longer and write a few more works, I am sharing her “Plan for a Novel, According to Hints From Various Quarters”:
SCENE to be in the Country, Heroine the Daughter of a Clergyman, one who after having lived much in the World had retired from it and settled in a Curacy, with a very small fortune of his own. — He, the most excellent Man that can be imagined, perfect in Character, Temper, and Manners — without the smallest drawback or peculiarity to prevent his being the most delightful companion to his Daughter from one year’s end to the other. — Heroine a faultless Character herself, — perfectly good, with much tenderness and sentiment, and not the least Wit Continue reading
Like many people, I am a huge fan of Lucy Worsley and could watch clips of her on YouTube for hours. She has a genius for bringing history to life with her stunts, her costumes, and her general way of being in the world, which one writer has memorably compared to “a possessed Christopher Robin.” So I was a little surprised to wake up and learn from my Jane Austen Google news alerts that she has been accused of plagiarism.
An article in Private Eye cites numerous examples of similarity in phrasing and content between Ms. Worsley’s new book, “Jane Austen at Home” and Paula Byrne’s 2014 work, “The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things.”
One does not know what to think about this. Continue reading
Almost five years ago now, I wrote about the strange feeling of going to the a local copy shop to print out copies of my novel in preparation for a manuscript workshop. More specifically, about the strange feeling of walking out of the store with them, that something existing only in my mind had now taken a physical form, had become a thing that existed in the world, like a rock or a highway or a batch of cookies cooling on the counter. Continue reading
Here was a woman about the year 1800 writing without hate, without bitterness, without fear, without preaching. That was how Shakespeare wrote, I thought, looking at ‘Antony and Cleopatra,’ and when people compare Shakespeare and Jane Austen, they may mean that the minds of both had consumed all impediments; and for that reason we do not know Jane Austen and we do not know Shakespeare, and for that reason Jane Austen pervades every word she wrote, and so does Shakespeare.
–Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
Early this morning I walked the dog along the waterfront in the windy darkness, looking at the lights of Manhattan and wondering what Jane Austen would have made of the fact that she’s world-famous and still relevant today, nearly two and half centuries after she was born. I like to think she would have been amused — and not entirely surprised. Does genius recognize itself?
Over at Austenblog, there’s a giveaway of a book of essays that looks to be excellent. Sarah Emsley has a fascinating post about Jane Austen and grandparents. The BBC has a great article by Rebecca Smith about the daily routine at Chawton. And you can still enter the Goodreads giveaway for The Jane Austen Project right here. It runs until next Tuesday.
I stayed up too late reading “Eligible”; I snorted with laughter; I rejoiced in Curtis Sittenfeld’s clever updates to plot points in the original and in her cool, dry wit.
Sittenfeld, an accomplished creator of her own plots and characters, here was given the literary counterpart of a paint-by-number kit: Austen’s people, Austen’s plot, Austen’s wit. But make it modern, please.
Some things are obviously funny, like making Lydia and Kitty crass devotees of CrossFit and paleo diets; others more subtly so, Continue reading
…alone at his desk while he writes the following:
Once she discovered she was not pregnant, she thought of the night with pleasure, especially after she had returned to the priest, who somehow managed to imply that what had happened between her and Tony was not hard to understand, despite the fact that it was wrong, and maybe a sign from God that they should consider getting married and raising a family.
All the time I was reading Jo Baker’s “Longbourn” I had the sensation of not being able to decide if I liked it. This is unusual; feckless and tentative as I am in most realms of human activity, I am generally confident in my literary judgments.
The story, in case anyone missed the large splash it made upon publication in 2014, is “Pride and Prejudice” from the viewpoint of the Bennets’ servants. A brilliant, can’t-miss idea. I like to imagine Ms. Baker, tormented by insomnia and casting around for her next idea for a novel, sitting up in bed.
HOLY SHIT! I’LL CALL IT ‘LONGBOURN!’ Continue reading