I've recently finished writing my first novel and sent it out into the big, bad world in the hopes that some lovely publisher will like it.
I've finally decided on the subject of my second book - or what will be a tangential subject within the book, at least. The main character is going to be a Austen scholar, because I've decided to fight it no more and just own up to my absolute adoration of everything Jane Austen. And what better excuse to spend large amounts of money on the dozens of books I've been denying myself for years, than that of research?!
The thing is, the explosion of books and films about, adapting, or based on Jane Austen's life or works have been proliferating at such a rate since the latter half of the twentieth century that love of Jane Austen has become somewhat hackneyed in recent years. As an English student in University it was considered utterly passe and positively pubescent to confess to an ongoing love of Jane Austen or the Bronte's. We were supposed to have left such pedestrian authors behind at the end of secondary school. It was considerably more fashionable to profess an addiction to obscure writers of the early twentieth century, or to take up a position arguing that Shakespeare had done more harm than good to the English language. I did my duty and latched on to Chaucer and his contemporaries of the early modern period, and there I stayed for several years.
The awful irony is that it was precisely because of such writers as Austen and the Bronte's that I wound up studying English in UCD in the first place. My love affair with Jane Austen's world began when I was twelve, and had just begun secondary school. All of my close friends and neighbours were a year or more older than me, and relished the pastime of terrifying me about the forthcoming ordeals of secondary school. One of their favourite topics was the turgid, brain-bleeding awfulness of the Jane Austen texts which were on the curriculum every year, on a revolving basis. As my best friend 'suffered' under the weight of Persuasion in the year ahead of me, I dreaded what awaited me.
The text for my year was Pride and Prejudice. I opened the fairly weighty tome on the first day in class, fascinated in spite of myself, and read the first line. I won't repeat it here, you all know it. ;) I read it once, then, disbelieving, read it again - and guffawed out loud in the middle of the class, much to the disapproval of the presiding nun.
I was hooked.
We were supposed to, very slowly, read our way through the book during the course of the entire school year, a few pages at a time. Instead I brought the book home and devoured it whole, then began again at the beginning. I argued heatedly with the horrible nun teacher over plot points, irony and sarcasm in the text (she didn't like me much, for some reason).
Then one day I was in a bookshop and there before me was a cheap paperback edition of the complete works of Jane Austen. It was five pounds - enough for a night out with my mates, or a new top at the time, and all the money I had in the world - but I had to have it. I bought it and read it cover to cover, then read it again, and again. Throughout my life since it has been my greatest inanimate source of comfort, and something I still turn to if life is unpleasant or complicated. I'm about to start reading it again, although this time I intend to read the novels in chronological order, rather than order of publication.
Anyway, to help me with my broader research on Jane Austen while I write this next book I thought I would turn my thoughts on the subject into a blog, both to help condense my thoughts and to share any interesting facts or insights with other Austen devotees.
I'd also love to hear of other people's love affairs with Austen.
Till next time,