Celebrating Famous Readers of Austen
Jane Austen: A Celebration
Edited by Maggie Lane and David Selwyn.
Fyfield Books, 2000. xv + 96 pages.
Reviewed by Christopher L. Reese.
Since 1995, "The Year of Jane Austen," it has become quite fashionable to be an admirer of Jane Austen's work. However, due to the overwhelming number of film and television adaptations of the novels that have come out since 1995, an "admirer" of Austen may really mean more of an admirer of Emma Thompson's vision of Austen, Andrew Davies' view of Austen, or even Alicia Silverstone's ideas of Austen. While all of these may be worthy view of Austen and offer a variety of vantage points at which to examine the work of our humble author, it is vital that we truly appreciate the writings of Austen first and then move out into these other ventures.
It is with this spirit of examining and celebrating the differing views on Austen herself that Maggie Lane and David Selwyn have put together the collection of writings that they have titled Jane Austen: A Celebration. The aim is "to offer a view of what Jane Austen means to people who have distinguished themselves in various walks of life." And while some of the selections are "taken from published writings, others came in response to an invitation to contribute to the book and have been written specially for it." The purpose here is not to achieve any kind of scholarly perspective of Austen, but instead to examine the way in which individuals react personally to Austen. The range of individuals chosen to respond to Austen is also very wide, the only restriction being that the editors chose only to take writings from 20th Century British personalities. Some of the comments come from people as widely diverse as P. D. James, Sir Winston Churchill, Beatrix Potter, Philip Larkin, Ranulph Fiennes, Virginia Woolf, and Joan Austen-Leigh. The majority of the contributions do come from writers, but even within the group of writers there is a great amount of diversity.
Christopher L. Reese is a graduate student at the University of Southern Mississippi and is currently working on his Master 's thesis. He is also known as the "Austenite " of the USM English Department.
JASNA News v.16, no. 3, Winter 2000, p. 29
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