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|Interest in Austen
Written by CarrieB
(4/5/2004 5:28 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Questions for Carrie Bebris, penned by Kim in AK
I first read JA when I was 15. I picked up P&P on my own after I read an excerpt of S&S (that wonderful scene where Fanny talks John out of giving his sisters any inheritance) in a lit anthology but couldn't find the full S&S at my local library. Of course, I loved P&P (how could anyone not?). My violin teacher saw me reading it one day while I waited for her previous student to finish his lesson, and she said to me, "Read it again when you're 30 – it will be a completely different novel." I have since read it many times (actually, writing this series has me more or less perpetually rereading it!) and she was absolutely right. I never fail to discover something new in it, and it remains my favorite. Persuasion a very close second and NA third. I have to say, though, that I just finished writing the second Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery, which is based on S&S, and having now become so intimately familiar with that book, I appreciate it more than I ever did before.
As I suspect is true of many of us here, my love of JA's writing led me to study her work both formally and informally to enhance my appreciation. When I was in graduate school, I had the good fortune to study Austen's work in depth under Dr. Claudia Johnson, a leading Austen scholar. We read not only all of Austen's fiction, but also novels by some of her contemporaries. (That's where I first encountered The Italian.) I've been a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America since I was in college; here in Wisconsin we have a large, active chapter that provides lots of opportunites to get together with fellow Janeites for activities both serious and purely fun. One experience I'll never forget was meeting Joan Austen-Leigh, who, as I expect most of you know, was JA's great-great-great niece and an author in her own right. A small group of us went to dinner with her one night, and I had the incredible fortune of sitting next to her. She was just what you might expect—gracious and well spoken, with a charming sense of humor. Though this was years before I got the idea for Pride and Prescience, I was already a published novelist, and we spent part of the evening talking about writing. To have that kind of conversation with someone who's the closest person on earth to Jane Austen – well, as I said, it was an experience I'll never forget, and one that came to mind often while writing Pride and Prescience. (I must come up with some sort of shorthand for that title, by the way, that distinguishes it from Austen's P&P. P&Psc? Alas, I digress . . .)
Right now, I'm reading Austen's letters (in preparation for our JASNA chapter hosting next year's national conference, which will focus on them). I'd read some before, but not all, and I'm really enjoying them. I also take delight in her juvenilia. If anyone reading this has yet to venture beyond her novels, I recommend giving these lesser read works a try.
I will answer your other questions in separate posts, as this one has grown quite long . . .
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