Friday, January 15, 2010

The Lady Vanishes

When I made a Wordle out of Chapter 21of The Jane Austen Project, the most obvious thing was that this is the first one where the words "Jane Austen" have been bigger than any other. (Word size, obviously, is based on how often the word appears in the text.)

Usually "Liam" has been the biggest word. I thought this was an interesting illustration of how a story I had conceived as being about traveling back in time to meet Jane Austen has turned out to be more about the relationship of the time travelers to each other, and to the new world they find themselves in. I also did not expect this book to be so much about sickness, with Death always lurking in the background.

Frankly, I was expecting it to be funnier. So much for that. (Can I make it funnier in rewrite? Get me rewrite!)

Jane Austen is hard to write about. She's a slippery fish. I am increasingly conscious of how many people I will annoy with my imagined idea of Jane Austen, if they ever get the opportunity to read this. Every person who loves Jane Austen has his or her own idea about what she was really like. Other fans, perhaps, they like not knowing much, that for Jane Austen, unlike many writers (names like Emily Bronte, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath come to mind), the outsize myths about the life are not part of the story. The work stands on its own, solitary and fabulous, not unlike Shakespeare's. Which people can't even agree Shakespeare wrote.

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