::Literate Blather::
Monday, December 31, 2007
5 Questions About: Jane Austen

An Interview with Carol Pippen, News Editor of the Jane Austen Society of North America

(DaRK PaRTY has read “Pride and Prejudice” twice and wishes we could be reincarnated at Mr. Darcy. What’s not to love about Jane Austen – one of the greatest novelists in literary history? Scholar Daniel S. Burt, in his book “The Literary 100,” lists Austen at number 18 and the first woman on the list. “Austen redefined the novel as a delicate instrument to reveal human nature,” Burt wrote. “Her novels demonstrate that commonplace, everyday experience can be the source of great and enduring art.” That got us thinking and pondering about Ms. Austen. So we reached out to Carol Pippen, the news editor at the Jane Austen Society of North America. Carol graciously agreed to answer our questions about first great English woman author)

DaRK PaRTY: Jane Austen, who has been dead for 190 years, is hot once again. Why do you think her novels remain so popular two centuries later?

Carol: Jane Austen was basically a good storyteller, who created characters that readers cared/care about. The characters are not perfect, of course, but appear as young people with major life issues. These characters have to make their way through life without guidebooks or even older people whose words they can follow. These novels still have the capacity to take readers to another world even as they continue to address recognizable issues in today's world.

DP: What is the biggest misconception about Jane Austen and her work?

Carol: The biggest misconception is that Jane Austen wrote "chick lit" or romances about silly girls who just want to get married. Jane Austen wrote comedies about the social order of her day, when girls needed to marry to survive.

DP: Jane Austen wrote six novels during her 41 years. Which one is your favorite and why?

Carol: Although this may sound cliché, but I don't have a clear favorite. I love Pride and Prejudice,” easily the winner for most read. I love Persuasion” because it is her last and seems more melancholy and even pensive about the future. Emma” is considered by many to be her best book structurally. It is fine, but I do not like the Emma/Knightley romance. I like the layering in “Mansfield Park and I even like Fanny Price, but I don't like most of the characters or the Fanny/Edmund romance. Sense and Sensibility” offers too many oppositionals although I like sections, including the funny second chapter. Northanger Abbey” is less developed in one form, and I wish that Catherine Morland had been better explored. She could have been my favorite heroine.

DP: All of her novels have been made into films or adapted for television. If forced to pick, which one would you say is the best and why?

Carol: “Pride and Prejudice” with Colin Firth, who may be single-handedly responsible for the growth in the Jane Austen industry.

DP: What is the Jane Austen Society of North America and what is the JASNA's mission?

Carol: JASNA is a group of readers whose favorite author is Jane Austen. I am not sure what the stated mission is, but it certainly is a place where Austen admirers and scholars can read about and talk about the novels and Austen's place in the literary world with other admirers and scholars. It is one of the few literary groups that welcome all; it is not just for the scholars. The organization has a literary journal “Persuasions” that comes out once a year; a thrice-yearly newsletter of about 30 pages; and a website that keeps members or potential members tuned in to current happenings.

A yearly annual general meeting in October brings members together for plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and other events. The 2007 AGM took place in Vancouver, B.C., and the 2008 will take place in Chicago; the 2009 will take place in Philadelphia. Check out the website.

Read our 5 Questions Interview about Poet Joyce Kilmer here

Read our 5 Questions Interview about Writer Ambrose Bierce here

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