The Murder Mystery No One Expects
I know a Good Story / November 9, 2017

At one point, there was just Jane Austen.  A British lady, (by which I mean gentlewoman, not a member of the aristocracy) gifted with humor, keen powers of observation, and the tenacity to create fiction in a time where few men and no women were encouraged to write. Her novels were known to humorists and English Majors but considered too esoteric for the hoi polloi.  In those days, she was just Jane Austen. Now, Miss Austen is an industrial source.  Her six major novels have been analyzed, adapted, pillaged, and parodied beyond belief (I have friends who debate the merits of filmed version of P&P), there are shelves heavy with revisionist tales drawn from her original stories and Jane-mania  has spawned at least two books of its own: Austenland and the Jane Austen Book Society. None of this surprises me.  In our culture, anything worth doing is worth overdoing. What I did not expect was murder, that darkest, most obsessive of crimes, would be linked to Jane Austen. And yet, the tie may be true. Of course, it would take a crime writer to see it. The Mysterious Death of Jane Austen Enter Lindsay Ashford, a crime journalist, late of the BBC.  With a reference…

Finally, getting it right
I know a Good Story / November 16, 2016

There’s a wonderful line in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that says, “Everything will be all right in the end…if it’s not all right, then it’s not yet the end.”  There’s more than mindless optimism in that phrase, that’s an expression of faith. It encourages you to keep going, and not be dismayed, even in the face of disaster.  It’s a faith Jane Austen endorsed when she wrote Persuasion, her last story with a sensible heroine. Austen wrote about two types of women, those who think before they speak and the rest of us. The impulsive, strong-willed ones like Marianne Dashwood, Emma Woodhouse and Catharine Moreland are easy to identify with because they say what they feel and they cause most of their own problems.  The responsible heroines are a little bit deeper.  Elinor Dashwood, Fanny Price and Anne Elliot are always aware that odds and circumstances are against them so they’re careful about what they say and when they speak. Most of the time, this is a good trait but in Persuasion, Austen shows the downside of being too careful. In case you don’t know it, Persuasion’s set-up is simple.  At nineteen, Anne Elliot broke her engagement to Lt….

The difference ‘tween diamonds and pearls

When you’re an English Major, you have to deal with Jane Austen.  She’s one of the writers whose work you have to know before you graduate, like the medical students have to pass A&P.  This can be a problem because readers love or they hate her books with a passion.  There’s no middle ground.  Granted, Mark Twain said an ideal library contains none of her stories but his heroes create their own destinies by ignoring the rules of their cultures. Miss Austen’s characters don’t have that luxury.  They have to carve solutions to their problems out of a narrower field.  Nevertheless, constraints don’t defeat Austen heroines, they enhance them. Difficulties turn Jane’s women into jewels. Pressure abounds in Pride and Prejudice.  The Bennet daughters are all old enough to marry but there’s an unspoken demand that at least one of the girls marry a man with money.  Mr. Bennet has no savings and his death would leave any dependent family homeless. The two older sisters know this although both would rather marry for love than a fortune. They also live in a world that runs on gossip and rumor and it’s hard to find the truth.  Nevertheless, Elizabeth Bennet withstands…

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