Monday musings on Australian literature: Aussie writers and Jane Austen
Funnily enough, I’m not the only Australian who loves Jane Austen – and so we too have our very own Jane Austen juggernaut. We see the films and miniseries, we have the Jane Austen Society of Australia – and we have academics and others researching and writing on all sorts of topics relating to her. Today, I thought I’d post about one of the lighter Australian-published books on her because it is, after all, that time of year when we tend to relax the brain power a little – or, at least, I do. The book is Jane Austen: Antipodean views (edited by Suzannah Fullerton and Anne Harbers).
I clearly remember when this book was published, nearly 10 years ago, because it included comments that I related to – that tickled me, in some cases – by some Aussie writers, and so this is what I’m going to share now.
The comment that made the greatest impression on me was the one from John Marsden, a popular and award-winning Australian children’s writer:
I’ve deliberately refrained from reading Persuasion, so that I would never get to the point where I had no more Jane Austens left to read. When the doctor, with grave countenance, gives me the news that I have only three months, the grief will be mitigated by delight that at last I am allowed to read Persuasion. In the meantime, I am avoiding crossing roads when busses are in sight.
Now, I can relate to this because I too saved a Jane Austen for quite a long time. Although I’d reread all of the others a few times, I was saving Mansfield Park for the same reason. Finally, a decade or so ago, I decided that I could put it off no longer (mainly because the Patricia Rozema film version was coming and I wanted to read the book first!). I’m glad I changed my mind and I hope Marsden has too, as rereading Jane Austen is as enjoyable, really, as reading her the first time. Why deny yourself that pleasure?
I find in old age, I have forgotten the novels, in particular the magic of being lifted into other lives and background. Re-reading is one of the Best Things of old age. Forgetfulness – it’s like having a present.
This one tickles me because my reading group often jokes that when we get to a certain age – and it’s moving rapidly closer – we’ll read the same book over and over because it’ll be new every time! I’ll be very happy if that one book is a Jane Austen…
My third favourite comment – and those of you who regularly read my blog will soon see why – comes from the mellifluous broadcaster and writer, Phillip Adams:
The longer I live the more bored and irritated I am by excess - and the more grateful to find such a wide range of emotions, and such accuracy of observation, in the less-is-more prose of that remarkable woman.
“Less-is-more”. Exactly so! Need I say more?
There are many more comments along similar lines to those above but, just to be even-handed, I’ll end with the words of the award-winning but clearly unenlightened children’s book author and illustrator, Graeme Base:
The cheek of it!
Suzannah Fullerton and Anne Harbers (eds)
Jane Austen: Antipodean views
Neutral Bay: Wellington Lane Press, 2001