Here at the Listener Book Club, we are great believers in reading around a book as much as reading the book itself. Indeed, there is much to commend Tom Townsend’s argument in Whit Stillman’s 1990 film Metropolitan: “I don’t read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelist’s ideas as well as the critic’s thinking.”
We will be returning to Stillman later in the month, for if anyone is a worthy successor of Jane Austen it is him.
But before we get around to that particular topic, we have some homework for you. Lots of homework. But enjoyable homework, we hope – offering you a selection of the many articles published around the world this past couple of weeks to mark the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice.
Actually, the first article we have for you is about one of Austen’s successors. Did someone say Helen Fielding and Bridget Jones? Of course they did. The Atlantic also had the walk of shame and acclaim that is the history of Pride and Prejudice covers.
NPR’s book blog posted this nifty cartoon version of the novel by Jen Sorenson.
The New Yorker ran a couple of special blogs, including this one making the point that without Austen there would have been no Eliot (George rather than TS). In the other blog, William Deresiewicz, author of A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter, argues that in Pride and Prejudice Austen “gives us everything we want: the wittiest lines, the silliest fools, the most lovable heroine, the handsomest estate. And a hero who is not only tall and good-looking, but the richest and most wellborn man in sight. He’s also kind of an asshole, which makes it even better.” The full blog is here.
The London Review of Books dusted down and briefly unlocked from behind its paywall this James Wood review/essay. You now have to take out a subscription for more than a taster of it – doubly tempting when you see that list down the left-hand side of the page of other Austen pieces in the LRB archives. Then again, this Terry Castle review seems to be free. (And who wouldn’t want to read Terry Castle on Jane Austen?)
Reviewing Claudia L Johnson’s Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures and Janine Barchas’s Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity in the Los Angeles Review of Books (a wonderful free online-only literary journal, by the way – although they do invite donations), Devoney Looser revealed: “I am an English professor who has the good fortune to teach Jane Austen by day. By night, I skate on the local roller derby team as my alter ego, Stone Cold Jane Austen. As a result, I regularly field such farcical questions as ‘What would Jane Austen think of tattoos?’ and, from my son, ‘Mommy, who is Jane Austen? Are you Jane Austen?’” Hooked? me, too.
The Huffington Post offered up 12 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Pride and Prejudice - at least not before all the anniversary hoopla kicked in. Abby Rogers, meanwhile, blogged about Why I Hate Jane Austen.
The Daily Beast gathered together a bunch of Austen-related pieces from its archives, alongside a write-off by Paula Byrne, author of The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things (interviewed by us here).
The Byrne book was reviewed (alongside Susannah Fullerton’s Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice) by the Spectator, while the New Statesman republished this 1997 article by Malcolm Bradbury.
Slate‘s Audio Book Club discussed Pride and Prejudice. That was a good idea, why didn’t we think of that?
Some gay pornography (no, really – well, not really) here.
TED Talks. Sort of. And not Austen herself. Obviously.
No shortage of anniversary articles in the Guardian, including writers’ revisionist readings of the novel, small-screen adaptations (not least The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) and the question on everybody’s lips: is it time for a video game? Oh yeah, and there’s a quiz.
Here is the Independent‘s John Walsh on the novel.
Austen would approve of keeping it local: here is what Hampshire’s Daily Echo had to say.
The Daily Telegraph had Joanna Trollope (but of course – the Daily Mail must be kicking itself) waxing lyrical. Trollope is apparently one of six contemporary novelists rewriting Austen’s books. She seems to be doing Sense and Sensibility. As one can imagine Trollope saying about other things: how ghastly. There are also other Telegraph Austen pieces – just scroll down to the “Related Articles” panel of links.
Talking of the Daily Mail, it had – as perhaps only it could – a piece headlined: “Forget 50 shades, for really dominant men read Austen.” The subhead: “Jane Austen created the original Christian Greys.” The piece was written by John Mullan, though – he of the Guardian Book Club and author of the new What Matters in Jane Austen? Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved. (Not sure whether or not she’s the progenitor of the Fifty Shades series counts as a crucial puzzle solved.)
Sticking with the Mail, although dating from last November and originating in that even loftier organ the Daily Star, there was this headline and story: “My male orangutan is addicted to Jane Austen and reads up to 50 pages of Pride and Prejudice a day, claims zookeeper.”
Really, there seems no point going on after reaching this definitive point.
But, as Elizabeth Bennet was wont to say to Mr Collins, enough already.