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ccreadathon2 The 2nd Annual Classics Club Readathon takes place Sat. Jan 4th.

What better way to start the New Year than by reading classic literature?! Indeed, a cosy day of tea and classics will be most therapeutic before we all get back to reality on Monday.

Read my Intro Post and Readathon Progress Updates.

The 24-hour readathon kicks off at 8 am EST.  Sign up and join us!!

I have four books at the ready in my readathon pile, although I most certainly won’t get through all of them. I do not like to rush when I’m reading, especially not when I am reading classics. Classic literature is to be savored.

I’ve selected two novels and two collections of shorter writings. Check out my readathon progress.

classics readathon 1

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen is top of my hit list. This year marks the 200th anniversary of MP, so I am very excited to get into the celebratory spirit. This will be the fifth or sixth time I have read “my least favorite” Jane Austen novel. Still, it’s by Jane Austen, so it is of course a standout among books.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson— I think adventure on the high seas will be a nice offset to Fanny’s quiet world, though I suppose it would pair better with Persuasion and Captain Wentworth. Both Treasure Island and Mansfield Park are bildungsroman (coming-of-age) novels, so they work well together in that sense.

The New York Stories of Edith Wharton—I love Edith Wharton’s writing, and I was happy to discover this collection of her stories about Old New York society. I always find it fascinating to read her descriptions of the city, as many of her landmarks are still there.

What is Art by Leo Tolstoy—The Russian master theorizes on “the role of the artist,” in this collection of essays on art, culture, and society. Tolstoy also details his visits to the opera and other contemporary happenings. I made sure to secure Penguin Classic edition, translated by the award-winning duo: Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

WordHits: Classics Club Readathon Intro Post and Progress Update

Classics Club Readathon Official Starting Post #ccreadathon

The 2nd Annual Classics Club Readathon

Readathon Sign-Up

#ccreadathon hosted by @ourclassicsclub on Twitter

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Jane Austen Game TheoristWe all know that reading Jane Austen is good for you. Scientists at Stanford proved this last fall with MRI scans that showed reading Austen’s work boosted neural activity and even increased blood flow to the brain. Now, it turns out, we Janeites have also been unwittingly indulging in sophisticated Game Theory Economics.

Yes, Game Theory—the very discipline which garnered John Nash (of A Beautiful Mind fame) the Nobel Prize in Ecnomics.

UCLA professor Michael Suk-Young Chwe argues this in his new book, Jane Austen Game Theorist.

Instead of bothering with chalk boards and lengthy variable-laden formulas, Austen imparts economic wisdom via the subtext of Marianne Dashwood’s swoons—indeed, Chwe cites this as an example. Who knew that while I was reading about Fanny Price deciding which necklace to wear, I was actually engaging in “the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation.”

As I reread Pride and Prejudice for the 200th Anniversary, I will be subconsciously learning the mathematical analysis of strategic thinking. Just like when moms puree broccoli to hide in brownies. And all this time I thought I hated math.

Seriously though, tremendous kudos to Chwe for giving us yet another way to examine Austen’s work. If more economists read Austen, perhaps we could finally settle the debate over the Laffer Curve.

Chwe’s emphasis, however, is more on the political ramifications of Austen’s strategic thinking, and I must say I am fascinated by his approach. According to Chwe, Jane’s observations and theories can be applied to the Cold War stalemate, as well as to military mistakes made in both Vietnam and Iraq. And that’s just what I have gleaned from reviews and excerpts … I cannot wait to actually get my hands on this book!

Janeites, this would be a perfect pick for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013.

All this does make me feel better about myself, mathematically speaking. Even though I struggled with trigonometry in high school, I made it through each of Austen’s books twice so I must have actually been a math prodigy. I’m also feeling rather smug about opting out of ‘Intro to Economics’ in college for a course that compared Northanger Abbey to the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (No joke—great class!)

One can’t help but feel bad for those poor souls who actually studied economics. Why bother with the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times when you can just read Emma? Or Jane Austen, Game Theorist?

Given that prominent economists like Thomas Schelling (Nobel 2005) endorse this book, I do wonder if the all-knowing Jane also offers clues as to how I should invest my IRA? I will have to keep this in mind as I dig into Jane Austen, Game Theorist, and when I reread Persuasion.

Economics, Game Theory, and Jane Austen via PBS NewsHour

Game Theory: Jane Austen Had it First via The New York Times

More Austen on WordHits…

The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge

When Pride and Prejudice Clicks: Boring to Brilliant

How Did I Not Know about Marvel’s Pride & Prejudice

Kate Middleton Decried as Jane Austen Character

So Glad Jane Austen Made Me Do It

A Joyous Season for Janeites

Spoiler Alert: This Book Has No Ending

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pride-prejudice-bicentenary-challenge-2013-x-200I just signed up for the Pride and Prejudice Challenge! I have actually been celebrating the novel’s 200th Anniversary on my own, but now I am making it official. (Also, despite my daydreamy browsing of Janeite blogs … I’ve only just discovered the challenge.)

I always love rereading P&P, but this year I am trying to be more mindful of its ongoing influence on our culture.

The Bicentenary Challenge does just that, by prompting us to look at the different books, films, and updates that this beloved novel continues to inspire 200 years later.

Like Potterheads and Trekkies, we Janeites just can’t get enough of Pride and Prejudice!

You can sign up for the challenge until July 1:

Neophyte: 1 – 4 selections
Disciple: 5 – 8 selections
Aficionada: 9 – 12 selections.

If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice … now is the time! No just watching the movie doesn’t count, especially not the somewhat improvised 2005 Kiera Knightley version.

I’m shooting for Aficionada. Here’s what I’ve read, watched, mulled so far:

1. Pride and Prejudice 200th Anniversary post

2. Pride and Prejudice (reread)

3. Sense and Sensibility (reread)

4.  Pride & Prejudice graphic novel by Marvel Comics (amazing discovery!)

5. Pride and Prejudice 1995 BBC Miniseries

6.  Pride and Prejudice 2005 film

7. Spotlighting Jane Austen in the News:

Jane Austen, Genius of Economic Game Theory

Kate Middleton Decried as Jane Austen Character

8. Perusing Austen blogs and #JaneAusten via twitter for even more Austenalia

 

More Jane Austen on Word Hits…

The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013

Jane Austen, Genius of Economic Game Theory

When Pride and Prejudice Clicks: Boring to Brilliant

How Did I Not Know about Marvel’s Pride & Prejudice

Kate Middleton Decried as Jane Austen Character

So Glad Jane Austen Made Me Do It

A Joyous Season for Janeites

Spoiler Alert: This Book Has No Ending

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triple covers

How, HOW did I not know that Marvel published a comic book, er graphic novel, of Pride & Prejudice?! It came out three years ago. I am hugely, abominably embarrassed. I wouldn’t even share this mortifying tale, except for the hope that others might benefit.

Let me say up front that this Marvel P&P is a gem. Regency romance meets comic book—pure genius!

p and p danceAs a kid, I loved Betty and Veronica and all the superheroes comics. I don’t read them much anymore. (I go to all the movies!) When I see the Marvel or DC logo, warm memories of childhood summers flush to the surface. For Christmas, I got my 10-year-old godson the DC Comics Encyclopedia. He already had the Marvel one (the boy is very advanced).

To blend Marvel with Jane Austen is such a frothy new twist (well, to me). The illustrations really capture the characters—except Mr. Collins could be more repellent. Also, Pemberley looks a bit like the White House, but overall the settings are spot on. The editors chose the best quotes—the banter between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, the snobbery of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. They even included the moment when Darcy acknowledges that Jane Bingley is very pretty, “though she smiled too much.”

Here’s another great way to celebrate Pride and Prejudice’s 200th Anniversary. Even better news: Marvel has also come out with Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and Emma. I haven’t been this excited since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!

fun extra coverAusten Fans Celebrate 200 Years of ‘Pride and Prejudice’

When Pride and Prejudice Clicks: Boring to Brilliant

So Glad Jane Austen Made Me Do It

A Joyous Season for Janeites

Spoiler Alert: This Book Has No Ending

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Kate MiddletonIn an attempt to criticize Kate Middleton, British radio host Sandi Toksvig has dismissed her as being ‘very Jane Austen.’ Now I cannot even begin to fathom how that could be construed as negative, but it gets worse. Toksvig complains of Kate, “I cannot think of a single opinion she holds—it’s very Jane Austen.”

Clearly Toksvig has never actually read any Jane Austen, because her books are almost entirely composed of characters giving their opinions.

In fact, Austen’s novels were actually rather progressive in her day because her heroines were so expressive. Spirited Elizabeth Bennet readily speaks her mind, much to the discomfiture of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who remarks “upon my word, you give your opinion most decidedly.” Mr Darcy notices this also, and it’s one of the things that draws him to Lizzy.

Emma Woodhouse also shares her opinions eagerly, even when, as noted by Mr. Knightley, they are completely off-base. “Mr Knightly loves to find fault with me,” she tells her father. “We always say what we like to one another.” Indeed, Emma dislikes Jane Fairfax precisely because “there was no getting at her real opinion. Wrapt up in a cloak of politeness, [Jane] seemed determined to hazard nothing She was disgustingly, was suspiciously reserved.”

Marianne dashwoodMarianne Dashwood, aka ‘sensibility,’ is most demonstrative about her romantic ideals. Her sister Elinor, who has more ‘sense,’ is equally ready to counter with arguments for reason. To Colonel Brandon she worries that Marianne’s openness is “setting propriety at nought.”

Also in this novel, the respectable and educated Edward Ferrars realizes that he cannot love Lucy Steele when her letters contain flattery but no substance.

While Persuasion’s Anne Elliot may be reserved, her opinion is well-regarded (except by her unkind father and sister). After Louisa Musgrove’s accident, both her brother Charles and war hero Captain Wentworth turn to Anne for advice and leadership. “‘Anne,’ cried Charles. ‘What is to be done next?’”

Even Fanny Price, the ‘Most Likely to be Voted a Pushover,’ takes a stand when her cousins plan to perform a risqué play. She also, despite enormous pressure, refuses to marry the disingenuous Henry Crawford, which gets her banished from Mansfield Park. Both Fanny and Lizzy Bennet decline financially advantageous proposals from foppish men, despite the very real threat of indigence and homelessness.

If Kate Middleton is like a Jane Austen character, it is because she exhibits a similar tempered resolve as well as much grace under challenging circumstances. Why all this Kate bashing? Ahem, Hilary Mantel.

P and P sistersIn addition to strong heroines, Austen liked to poke fun with a variety of foolish, ill-informed, and opinionated characters. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, though she has never studied piano, determinedly criticizes the finger work, style, and execution of anyone who plays for her. From the tiresome Mr. Collins, to the know-it-all Mrs. Elton, to the pompous Sir Walter Elliot, these caricatures opine confidently, and often nonsensically, on topics they know nothing about. Does this not seem rather like Sandi Toksvig in her disparaging of Jane Austen (and of Kate)? Perhaps it is Toksvig who is the Jane Austen character after all.

British Radio Host Hits Out at Duchess of Cambridge as ‘Very Jane Austen’

Author Hilary Mantel Calls Kate Middleton ‘Plastic’ and ‘Designed to Breed’

Hilary Mantel Defends Kate Middleton Comments

Royal Bodies — A Lecture by Hilary Mantel

Jane Austen Bio and Links via JaneAusten.org

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P&P pen classicToday, January 28, marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and celebrations abound both here and in the U.K. For many years now, P&P has been one of my favorite books. I confess, however, that when I first tried to read it I simply could not get into it. I was 15, and having been primed on Judy Blume and Danielle Steele, I wasn’t ready to appreciate Austen’s refined language and her subtle, yet nice, plot pacing (‘nice’ here in its regency-era connotation).

The characters all seemed stiff and a bit dull. Austen does a great job early on of making Mr. Darcy seem like rather a jerk, nor was the landed gentry thing working for me. My taste in heroes ran more towards Indiana Jones. But my eldest sister made me promise to finish, so on I read … until I got to the letter that Darcy writes Elizabeth after she has refused his marriage proposal:

“Be not alarmed, Madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments, or renewal of those offers, which were last night so disgusting to you.”

I burst into laughter, caught myself, and read it again. I ran to ask my sister who said that yes it was supposed to be funny. Suddenly, Mr. Darcy had some spunk and personality. I won’t go into the letter, which has important plot points. But through that missive, both Elizabeth Bennett and I became acquainted with a different side of Darcy. He’s actually very clever and amusing, something that Colin Firth managed to bring out so perfectly in the must-see BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice.

Recent editions of Pride and Prejudice.

Recent editions of Pride and Prejudice.

Not only did I fall for Darcy, I finally fell for Jane Austen. I flipped back to earlier parts of the book. Aha. Now I saw Mrs. Bennett as silly comic relief (not just tiresome). I howled when Mr. Bennett, weary of hearing about Mr. Bingley at the ball, retorts “say no more of his partners. Oh! That he had sprained his ankle in the first dance!” I just loved the supercilious Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who scowls at Elizabeth’s piano playing and boasts: “if I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.”

Aside from the caricatures, I grew to know the keen, observant, and witty ‘Lizzy’ Bennett. Instead of pining over sonnets, she quips, “I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!” Then, after her disastrous encounter with Darcy and her dear sister Jane’s own broken heart, Lizzy heads off on a walking tour. “Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains?”

I raced through Pride and Prejudice, with newfound enthusiasm, and then devoured Austen’s other novels. Like most Janeites, I’ve reread them so often that whole sections seem to be lodged in my head. My favorite keeps changing—sometimes Emma, sometimes Persuasion—really, must one choose? Still, Pride and Prejudice will forever be special to me because it sparked me to ‘get’ Jane Austen.

Austen Fans to Celebrate 200 Years of Pride and Prejudice

So Glad Jane Austen Made Me Do It

A Joyous Season for Janeites

Spoiler Alert: This Book Has No Ending

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Tony RomoI’m not sure about all this Tony Romo bashing. It seems rather obvious and easy for everyone to point to him. It’s sort of like blaming the character holding a bloody knife over the dead body in an Agatha Christie novel. Except that person is never the one who did it.

Books are rife with such red herrings, dubious characters who turn out to be just the opposite in the end. There’s the cast-off but ever-faithful Cordelia in King Lear. The men who challenge d’Artagnan to a duel turn out to be The Three Musketeers. The scruffy Strider eventually becomes the king in The Lord of the Rings. Jane Austen was especially fond of offering up red-herring suitors: the simple farmer Mr. Martin in Emma, the not-dashing Colonel Brandon in Sense & Sensibility, and, most notably, the pompous Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice.

Now I am *not* comparing Romo to Mr. Darcy. Robert Martin, maybe. But the point is that these red herrings distract us from the real villains at work: Mr. Willoughby and Mr. Elton respectively. Or, in Romo’s case, Jerry Jones.

Yes, it looked like Romo choked against the Redskins. (Ok, it always looks like Romo chokes.) He threw three interceptions. But some of the NFL’s best quarterbacks have had the most interceptions: Brett Favre holds the record with 361. Fran Tarkenton and Dan Marino are also in the top 10, with John Elway ranked 13th overall. The fewest are by Damon Huard and Joe Ferguson—ever heard of them?

Also, it wasn’t Romo who gave up 361 yards and 28 points to the Redskins. It’s easy to blame Romo, but doesn’t that sidetrack us from the bigger, more insidious problem? After all, the Cowboys have been floundering for about 15 years now, ever since owner Jerry Jones inserted himself into the coaching process. Jones has not relinquished full control to a coach since Jimmy Johnson in the early ‘90s, coincidentally the last time the Cowboys won a Super Bowl or won the Division. (Really, Switzer was mostly coming off Johnson’s coattails in ’95). Current Redskins coach, Mike Shanahan (who took the Denver Broncos to two Super Bowl wins) is one of many notable coaches rumored to have declined an offer from the Cowboys because of Jones.

Back to Romo, I do wonder what he could do under a coach like Shanahan. Ok, so Romo’s not Darcy or d’Artagnan. He’s more like Professor Snape, the ultimate red herring who seemed to foil and thwart Harry Potter through all seven books, which I guess rather aptly makes Jerry Jones “He-who-must-not-be-named.”

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ImageAs it’s Jane Austen’s birthday, December 16th, and also the season of giving, I wanted to spotlight an absolutely delightful collection of Austen-inspired short stories, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress.

I should preface by saying that I am usually very skeptical about all the Jane Austen riffs. I avoid them as they can be painful, excruciating, to read. Mr. Darcy has been reimagined as everything from a hillbilly to a rock star to a (groan) vampire. (Thanks a lot Twilight!) All of this pop-culture running roughshod over Austen is simply “not to be bourne.” (Disclaimer here: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is pure genius, but that’s for another post.)

Part of the problem is that these knock-offs only make me pine for authentic Jane even more. But now, Janeites take note—the drought is over! A wonderful collection of short stories has done the unimaginable, the unthinkable. Austen’s beloved characters have come to life again in an enchanting series of vignettes, many of which are backstories or codas to our favorite novels. Well before Persuasion, Captain Wentworth earns his stripes as a Midshipman in the Royal Navy. We learn how Mr. Bennett landed himself his “very silly wife.” The now married Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy prepare for Georgiana’s ‘Coming Out’ ball. And, things get complicated when Mr. Knightley moves in with Emma and her father. Teensy spoiler alert: this story also offers happy news for poor Miss Bates. I loved getting another glimpse at these characters. It’s almost like the bonus deleted scenes you get with a dvd.

Jane Austen herself makes a few cameos, finishing up her Mansfield Park manuscript, and also acting as a sort of deus ex machina for star-crossed lovers in a very Austenesque Christmas tale. A few of the stories take place in modern times, including a clever ghost-busting romp in Northanger Abbey. The only glitch is that current owner, Mr. Tilney-Tilney, comes off sounding a bit more like Thurston Howell the Third than a British gentleman. Still, it’s a fun little parody, much in the vein of the original and complete with papers appearing and disappearing in the very chest that so vexed Catherine Morland. Indeed, most of the stories have similar sly ‘easter egg’ allusions for Janeites to uncover.

While, no one else can write like Jane Austen, these stories come close and they certainly capture her spirit. The collection reads almost like the literary equivalent to a tribute album.

Janeites will certainly delight in and savor Jane Austen Made Me Do It. A perfect Christmas gift. I usually pass books along, but this one is a keeper.

Jane Austen Made Me Do It–official link

A Joyous Season for Janeites

Jane Austen Unfinished Fragment Sold for $1.6 Million

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Are e-books a “radical” threat to society? Jonathan Franzen said as much at his first press conference over the weekend at the Hay Festival, in Cartagena, Columbia. “For serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience,” said the author of Freedom and The Corrections. “A screen always feels like we could delete that, change that, move it around. So for a literature-crazed person like me, it’s just not permanent enough.”

Having been driven away from Kindle by the intrusive and annoying “popular highlights” feature, I have to agree. Yes, I know you can disable it, but the collective e-commentary on great works of literature feels like a violation. Hey, when I’m reading Anna Karenina, I want to sink into Tolstoy’s world, not be notified of that a committee of readers has highlighted a certain phrase. It’s not a work memo.

Franzen went on to argue that doing away with this sense of permanence is harmful to individuals and, thus, to society as a whole. “I do fear that it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.”

In just a few sentences, he managed to indight e-books for the ultimate demise of the civilized world—quite the verbal sally from someone not known to mince words. Oprah-Book-Club-gate comes to mind.

E-books causing the downfall of civilization? Hmm. I thought Angry Birds was doing that. Still, Franzen’s comments struck a chord with me. I’ve always preferred physical books, and now I’m thinking that this sense of permanence—this feeling that you are holding your own, perfect piece of art—may be why. “Someone worked really hard to make the language just right, just the way they wanted it,” said Franzen. “They were so sure of it that they printed it in ink, on paper.”

It’s the interaction with this ink and paper that makes my reading experience. I love the smell of books and the stiffness of the binding that softens as you read along. I like to ruffle the corners of the pages, and I get a real satisfaction as I turn them. I run my fingers across the dust jacket, daydreaming about the design and the writing within. Despite the warning, I often buy books just for their covers.

But, no. I don’t think this makes me a more serious reader than those who are glued to their screens. Some of my bookwormiest friends are strictly e-readers. Kathleen, who runs our book club and goes through books like they are episodes of 24, was an early e-dopter. Even before Kindle, Nook, iPhone, or Google Books, Kathleen would surf arcane online collections of universities or libraries to download public-domain works. Sometimes she reads onscreen, and sometimes she prints out pages, but I think that digital ownership adds to her connection with the material. Lest anyone confuse speed with lack of seriousness, Kathleen does not read book candy (unlike me). She favors literary fiction: Ian McEwen, Philip Roth (one of her favorites), and most recently, Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending, the Booker Prize winner. However someone ‘gets their read on’ works for me. It just saddens me (for them) when they don’t read at all.

Still, Franzen’s provocative comments keep turning in my head: the sense of permanence and the dangers of impermanence. It’s not just e-books, but also smartphones, tablets, laptops, video games, picture-in-picture TV screens (one show isn’t enough?) and on-demand programming—a constant stream of instant gratification. Anticipation has been largely replaced by impatience. Is it any wonder that so many of us have ADD?

“The combination of technology and capitalism has given us a world that really feels out of control,” said Franzen. He then argued that technology has empowered the bankers over elected politicians. “We are hostage to that because we like our iPhones.”

Oops, guilty. I love my iPhone and my iPad. The first thing I did was launch the iBooks app with its fun “bookshelf” graphic. My first download: The Lyrical Ballads. It’s a digital reproduction of the original 1798 edition, just as it appeared to Wordsworth and Coleridge. Well, almost. I then downloaded the books of all three Brontës, and of course, all of Jane Austen. I just love having a library in my pocket wherever I go. Ultimately though, I find the e-read is not as rewarding as the printed page.

We defenders of said page got an alarming jolt last May, when Amazon announced they were selling more e-books than bound copies. This week, we learned that Barnes & Noble is struggling to survive. Who would have thought we’d be rooting for Barnes & Noble? It does feel like the inexorable march towards an all-digital dystopia.

Yes, I do despair over about the future of books and bookstores. It’s hard not to when you consider how quickly the music industry collapsed. Does anyone buy CD’s anymore? I fear that one day I will become the biblio version of a vinyl geek, scouring the back alleys of Berlin or Hay-on-Wye for shops that actually sell old-school, printed books. Perhaps Franzen is right. For me, a bookless world would be indeed a giant leap backwards for civilization, or perhaps, a sign of Apocalypse.

The Telegraph: Jonathan Franzen: E-books are Damaging Society

The Guardian: Jonathan Franzen Warns E-books are Corroding Values

The Telegraph Blog: Franzen Wrong About E-Books

NPR: No More E-Books vs Print Books Arguments, Ok?

Fast Company: Amazon Sells More E-Books than Paper Ones

NY Times: The Bookstore’s Last Stand—Barnes & Noble in the Fight of It’s Life

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Today, December 16, is the birthday of Jane Austen. This year also marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility. Though a classic, S & S has somewhat permeated the pop culture, as have all of Austen’s novels. Just like there are Trekkies and fanboys, there is a group of discriminating and elevated bibliophiles (ok pretty much every woman who reads) that are dedicated to all things Austen: the Janeites. Some scholars look askance at Janeitism, which Princeton professor Claudia Johnson derides as “the self-consciously idolatrous enthusiasm for ‘Jane’ and every detail relative to her.” But, as someone who has reread all of Austen’s novels several times (yes, even Mansfield Park), I do understand this fervor and frustration at the finite amount of Jane.

The Janeite phenom has spawned a burgeoning industry of Austenalia—riffs and takeoffs in print and on screen. Many of which, alas, are abysmal. Just as Star Wars fanboys might while away a Friday night watching the Clone Wars on the Cartoon Network, so will Janeites devour all sorts of faux sequels with cringe-worthy titles such as Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife or (if this can possibly be believed) Fitzwilliam Darcy: Rock Star. But this season, Janeites can rejoice in two new delightful derivatives that are above and beyond the usual dross that is fobbed on us. (Christmas-list makers take note!)

 Jane Austen Made Me Do It, ed by by Laurel Ann Nattress is an outstanding collection of short stories by writers who have decided to take the lack of Austen into their own hands. Also, Death Comes to Pemberley, by the inimitable PD James. The mystery maven offers a paean to Austen’s characters and writing style, but still imbues the novel with her trademark atmospheric suspense. I will follow up with blogs about each of these, but both are wonderfully satisfying.

Advent with AustenFinally, must give a shout-out to Advent with Austen, in which a lovely group of Janeites are reading and blogging about Jane all month.  They also have a twitter feed: #AWAusten. If you haven’t read Sense and Sensibility (seriously, you need to) then you can join in their group read.

So happy birthday to Jane and happy holidays to all the Janeites out there!

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