Monday, April 05, 2010

Jane Austen Redux. And how?

When last heard of, Aunt Jane is thriving merrily under the solicitous and caring tutelage from her great grand nephews and nieces across the big pond, wonder of wonders. Now she is solving crime – it’s Austen and not Marple I’m talking of, mind you – in Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen mysteries sporting such antique-sounding titles as Jane and the Unpleasantness at the Scargrave Manor, Jane and the Man of the Cloth, Jane and the Wandering Eye, Jane and the Barque of Frailty and so forth. Their authentically Austenesque text reads thusly: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that the expectation of pleasure is generally preferred to its eventual attainment – the attainment being marred, at its close, be the resumption of quotidian routine made onerous by the very diversions so lately enjoyed.” (Jane and the Man of the Cloth, Chapter 1) More recently, Aunt Jane has made inroads once again into Regency-era England this time set in an alternative universe and infested by the persistently pesky undead (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). Her other foray into Regency-era England set also in an alternative universe features sea creatures arrayed against humankind (Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters). Both the pastiche mash-ups in the gothic horror genre got fairly good (read “enthusiastic to middling”) response. PPZ is slated to spawn a series of spin-offs: a graphic novel, a video game and even a movie. This plethora of multi-media parodies seems to me to be an apt stratagem to lure contemporary young readers, game players and movie-goers to Austen.

All this reminds me of June 2006 when I found re-reading Pride and Prejudice after more than four decades somewhat daunting. I cannot quite recall what I had thought of Austen when I first read Pride and Prejudice, if memory serves, in the 1950s. In the late summer of 2006, I found her 18th-century spelling as quaint ('chuse', 'teaze', 'shew', 'stile', etc.) but her dialogue and storytelling impeccable, to be sure. Imagine keeping me riveted – in eager anticipation – to the exploits of young damsels in rural Regency-era England seeking desirable husbands! Austen's most popular and well-known novel was originally written between October 1796 and August 1797 (qua First Impressions) but published only in 1813. In 1811, her Sense and Sensibility was published and became an instant success. After that, she revised First Impressions and it was published a couple of years later. At the well-organized and copiously informative website, you’ll find more about Austen’s P&P characters, timeline and locales. Don't forget to take a good look at the 1895 edition illustrations by Charles E Brock, either.