15 October 2011

Jane Austen Made Me Do it

Janeites take their Jane Austen seriously.  She is "my Jane" in a way that Charles Dickens will never be "my Charles" (er, icky).  I'm a bit picky about Austen variations/sequels/modernizations/also-rans.  Well, a lot picky.  In short, I don't like many.

I heard about the publication of Jane Austen Made Me Do It through Lauren Willig, she of the Pink Carnation series.  Lauren, of course, had a piece in the book so I decided that it was worth a look.

And a purchase.  Edited by Laurel Ann of Austenprose, there are stories in this anthology to suit any taste.  Do you like straight-up sequels? "Nothing Less than Fairy-land" by Monica Fairview looks in on Hartfield after Emma's wedding (and even captures Miss Bates's breathless, pitter-patter way of speaking).  Or a sequel to an homage?  "Me and Mr. Darcy, Again..." by Alexandra Potter.  How about a little absurdist humor ala Jasper Fforde?  "Intolerable Stupidity" by Laurie Viera Rigler.  Perspective from a different character?  "Letters to Lydia" by Maya Slater.  A little ghost story?  Perhaps "The Ghostwriter" by Elizabeth Aston.

I personally liked Lauren's story, "A Night at Northanger", which introduces us to Cate (who also figures in the modern frame of her most recent Pink novel, The Garden Intrigue, pubbing February 2012).  We meet poor Cate, stuck "investigating" haunted houses as an assitant on Ghost Trekkers, who gets the surprise of her life when she stays one night at Northanger Abbey.  The story has Lauren's signature funny asides and is a great Band-aid for those of us drooling for the next Pink book.

I also quite liked "Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss" by Jo Beverley.  The story uses the basic frame of Sense and Sensibility (as well as a few names) and a theme from Northanger Abbey.  Elinor, a widowed, formerly well-off mother with three daughters, is given the point-of-view in a story about finding happiness and Christmas romance, with a little advice from that wicked novelist Jane Austen.

My favorite story, though, involves Sense and Sensibility and the Beatles.  Yes, the Beatles.  "Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!" by Janet Mullany is set in 1964.  Julie Morton is a low-on-the-totem-pole-of-Cleverton High-School-for-Girls teacher of who, unfortunately, draws detention duty with three Beatles obsessed girls.  The students landed in detention for, you guessed it, telling their English teacher what they thought of Sense and Sensibility: stupid, and all the characters are silly cows.  Julie, taking inspiration from the girls' obsession with John, Paul, Ringo, and George, does a bit of literary analysis to show her students that, perhaps, classic literature does have a place right next to Beatlemania (there's also a good feminist side-plot, too).

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