Monday, April 5, 2010

Before the Zombies and Book Club Novels Got Hold of Jane Austen...

…she had been essentially forgotten as a writer. !!


“The early editions of her books were small, sold only just well enough not to be an embarrassment, and were remaindered or pulped soon after her death. For most of the 1820s, she was out of print—her family thought forever. In the mid-nineteenth century—heyday of the Victorian triple-decker novel—Austen’s restrained Regency romances looked old-fashioned and irrelevant and met with very mixed critical responses.”

The story of how our views on Jane have shifted from forgotten to slap-her-name-on-a-book-or-movie-and-see-the-royalties-roll-in is the focus of a new book by Claire Harmon, Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World.

Just reading the introduction is enough to give this writer a little boost and thrill in that twisted, writerly way:

“Not only did Jane Austen publish her books anonymously and enjoy very little success during her lifetime, but publication itself came only very late, after twenty years of unrewarded labor. I have sought to reconstruct these prefame years in the spirit of uncertainty through which Austen lived them. Her prized irony and famous manipulation of tone I believe owes much to it; part of the reason why she pleases us so much now is that she was, for years, pleasing only herself.”

I’m looking forward to delving more deeply into this invitingly written book to find out more about the ups and downs of Jane’s “career”—and to be reminded that “art” and “career” are always, always something very separate.

Read more about the book—including reviews--here.

Ordering information here.

The Republic of Pemberly: all things Austen (slogan of site: “Your haven in a world programmed to misunderstand obsession with things Austen”—!!)

[Disclosure per the FTC overlords: I received a copy of Jane’s Fame from Henry Holt, the American publishers of the book.]


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.