NPR logo It Is a Fact Universally Acknowledged...Janeites Are Intense

It Is a Fact Universally Acknowledged...Janeites Are Intense

The BBC production of Pride and Prejudice was almost a religious event in my life (thank you, A&E!). The combination of Jane Austen and Colin Firth was almost too much for me to bear (and for my roommates; I was living with a shared TV at the time). I am an Austen fan, but as my sister can attest, my love for Austen comes nowhere close to hers, nor to the incredible legions of passionate readers who protect the Austen altar and legacy. In the article that prompted the segment we're going to do today (with the author of the Annotated Pride and Prejudice), The New York Times' William Grimes wrote about this passion, "Austen is a special case. Certain writers create worlds that readers do not want to leave, ever. Extreme devotees of Austen do not simply enjoy the novels, they want to sit in the living room at Longbourn with the Bennet sisters, drinking tea and analyzing Darcy's behavior." And online, those worlds exist. Want to find out what advice Lady Catherine de Bourgh might have about a romance? Go here (the entire Pemberley website is a treasure of Jane-o-philia, in fact.) Want to take an Austen quiz? You can, ad nauseum. Want to read/write fanfaction? Go for it. What is it about the books that lend them to this kind of adoration? I think it's because nothing about them feels like a history book (which may be why there are so many wonderful adaptations). They reference the period, but they're mostly about, well, boys. Of course they're much more complicated then that; truly they're about social relationships, but the trials and tribulations of love, marriage, and social climbing are utterly timeless. Meanwhile, I am not pretending my love comes close to the love of true Austen fans ... my taste runs more to the Ellen Olenska, than spunky Elizabeth Bennet. I'm off to find the Edith Wharton webring.