Readersforum's Blog

October 30, 2013

Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

by Steve King

On this day in 1811 Jane Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility, was published. Early reviewers found it to be “a genteel, well-written novel” as far as “domestic literature” went, and “just long enough to interest without fatiguing.” Virginia Woolf would take a different view: “Sometimes it seems as if her creatures were born merely to give Jane Austen the supreme delight of slicing their heads off.”

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April 23, 2013

TES poll reveals teachers’ favourite reads

| By Joshua Farrington

A list of teachers’ favourite books compiled by the Times Educational Supplement (TES) has declared Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as number one. Harper Lee’s popular school text, To Kill a Mockingbird, came in second, while JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series came in third.

500 teachers responded to an online survey to name their favourite books, to create a list which TES editor Gerard Kelly called: “a masterpiece of erudition and entertainment” which “could be one of the few things that Michaels Gove and Rosen agree on”.

In the magazine’s leader column, he wrote: “Strip out the children’s books, the inclusion of which is only to be expected from people whose job it is to engage children, and what you are left with is a pretty canonical list. There’s enough Dickens, Steinbeck, Hardy, Wilde, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Hugo and Eliot to satisfy even the most conservative of politicians, and of course, plenty of modern greats: Kerouac, Ishiguro, Roy and Plath, to please the modernists.”

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March 29, 2013

Austen, Emma, and the Prince

Filed under: Today in Literature — Tags: , , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 7:23 am
jane-austen-emma-tell-me-135x209On this day in 1815, Jane Austen completed Emma, the last of her novels to appear in her lifetime. That it appeared with a dedication to the Prince Regent, a person whose debauched lifestyle Austen had condemned, and a type she would normally satirize, is a story that might itself have stepped from one of her books — all of them written by “laughing at myself or other people.”

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March 27, 2013

Barbara Pym gets rediscovered — again

barbara_pym-620x412From Paula Fox to Richard Yates, literary rediscoveries are in vogue. The latest model is wry satirist Barbara Pym

By Laura Miller

It sometimes seems there are two schools of enjoyable fiction. In one, the fate of the world hangs in the balance: There’s running and shooting on the low-brow end of this spectrum, and scheming and intrigue higher up. In the other school, the stakes are low — in fact, that’s a key to its appeal. Making this latter sort of fiction work is infinitely more difficult, but the author who pulls it off, especially if he or she is funny, can command a fearsomely loyal readership. Barbara Pym is one of those authors.

Born a solicitor’s daughter in the West Midlands of England in 1913, educated at Oxford, serving in the Women’s Royal Naval Service during World War II and working for much of the rest of her life at the International African Institute in London, Pym was a quintessential middle-class Englishwoman, much like her idol, Jane Austen. Like Austen, Pym wrote comedies of manners about the members of her own class, modeling the characters on people she knew. Her novels are populated by vicar’s wives, dotty unmarried sisters living in rural villages, holders of mid-level office jobs in sleepy London concerns and assorted anthropologists (based on the ones she met at the institute).

Pym had a modest success with the first six of these novels, publishing during the 1950s, but in the early ’60s, one publisher after another rejected “An Unsuitable Attachment.” She believed this was because her low-key style and unsensational subject matter had gone out of fashion. To a correspondent she conceded that her seventh book “might appear naïve and unsophisticated, though it isn’t really, to an unsympathetic publisher’s reader, hoping for that novel about negro homosexuals, young men in advertising, etc.” She was, probably and typically, right on the nose about that.

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February 8, 2013

Pride and Prejudice retold from servants’ viewpoint

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 5:26 pm

Pride

A new novel that retells the story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of its servants has been sold around the world.

Longbourn, by Jo Baker, was snapped up by US and UK publishers last week.

“Jane Austen was my first experience of grown-up literature,” said Baker.

“But as I read and re-read her books, I began to become aware that if I’d been living at the time, I wouldn’t have got to go to the ball; I would have been stuck at home with the sewing.”

The 39-year-old British author said she drew her inspiration from her family’s years in service.

“Aware of that English class thing, Pride and Prejudice begins to read a little differently,” she explained.

Longbourn follows a romance between a newly arrived footman and a housemaid in the Bennet household that runs parallel to the love story between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

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January 27, 2013

Pride and Prejudice at 200: looking afresh at Austen’s classic

Alison Steadman as Mrs Bennet in the 1995 BBC adaptationMr Bennet’s a bully, Elizabeth can’t stand women and Mr Darcy needs therapy. On the 200th anniversary of Austen’s novel, writers from PD James to Sebastian Faulks offer new readings

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November 19, 2012

Would Jane Austen Write A Blog? (and other things writers probably shouldn’t do)

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 6:52 am

By Cath Murphy

Twitter, NaNoWriMo and blogging are activities writers now take for granted. But spin back two decades and blogging would have been easily confused with something people did behind the steamy windshields of cars. It’s hard to imagine how we spent our time in the dark days before WordPress; it’s even harder to work out whether the time and effort spent on some of the activities we take for granted is justified. In the spirit of ‘what would Jesus have done?’ I’m going to pierce this fog of confusion by using three authors as a prism through which the torch of truth may be concentrated.

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July 19, 2012

Oh Mr Darcy! Pride and Prejudice among classic novels to receive erotic makeover

By Sherna Noah

A publisher of adult fiction is giving literary classics such as Jane Eyre and Pride And Prejudice an erotic makeover.

The company said that it was “100% convinced” that there was a market for the racy versions of the 19th century novels by authors Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen and that the spicing up of the much-loved books will introduce the classics to “a new generation of readers”.

Other titles to be published under the Clandestine Classics collection include Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories featuring Sherlock Holmes.

The announcement comes following the phenomenal success of EL James’s “mummy porn” title Fifty Shades Of Grey, which is said to be the fastest-selling book of the year.

Some original fans of Jane Eyre might be unhappy to discover that the female protagonist has “explosive sex with Mr Rochester” in the publisher’s erotic edition.

In Wuthering Heights, heroine Catherine Earnshaw “enjoys bondage sessions” with Heathcliff while sleuth Sherlock Holmes has a sexual relationship with his sidekick Dr Watson in the new e-book.

Claire Siemaszkiewicz, founder of Total-E-Bound Publishing, which is releasing the titles from July 30 in digital format, said: “We’re not rewriting the classics. We’re keeping the original prose and the author’s voice. We’re not changing any of that.

“But we want to enhance the novels by adding the ‘missing’ scenes for readers to enjoy.

“People are going to either love it or hate it. But we’re 100% convinced that there’s a market there.

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July 18, 2012

Jane Austen Remaindered

Filed under: Today in Literature — Tags: , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 5:56 am

Jane Austen (1775 – 1817)

On this day in 1817, Jane Austen died, at the age of forty-one. She had been increasingly ill over the previous year and a half, probably from a hormonal disorder like Addison’s Disease. Austen’s devoted older sister, Cassandra, inherited all the author’s papers, from which she expurgated some but not all of Jane’s enduring wit and one-liners.

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May 19, 2012

Ten questions on Jane Austen

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 7:45 am

Jane Austen … ‘Of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness.’ Photograph: Stock Montage/Getty Images

The plot of which Austen novel relies on the weather? Where does Wickham have a tryst with Georgiana Darcy? And which character says ‘I hate money’? Accuracy is Austen’s genius, and asking specific questions about her work reveals its cleverness.

By John Mullan

Jane Austen’s admirer Virginia Woolf said that “of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness”. It is a brilliant insight. The apparent modesty of Austen’s dramas is only apparent; the minuteness of design is a bravura achievement. But it cannot be shown by some grand scene or speech. Accuracy is her genius. Noticing minutiae will lead you to the wonderful interconnectedness of her novels, where a small detail of wording or motivation in one place will flare with the recollection of something that happened much earlier. This is one of the reasons they bear such rereading. Every quirk you notice leads you to a design. If you ask very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, you reveal their cleverness. The closer you look, the more you see. Try these 10 questions.

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