Jane Austen Made Me Do It Edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

Laurel Ann Nattress, the woman behind Austenprose.com, is now the editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, a collection of Jane Austen-inspired short stories (check out the tour).  Authors not considered Austenites per se, like Frank Delaney writes with Diane Meier and Adriana Trigiani join those known for their Austen spinoffs, like Amanda Grange, Jane Odiwe, Alexandra Potter, and more.  The collection even includes the winner of the Jane Austen Made Me Do It short story contest — Brenna Aubrey’s “The Love Letter.”  But some Austen retelling favorites like Abigail Reynolds, Mary Simonsen, and Eucharista Ward are notably absent.  However, this only begs the question as to whether there will be another anthology in the future as the Austen subgenre continues to grow.

It is only fitting that the collection begins with the woman who started my journey onward into the world of Jane Austen and subsequent retellings and inspired novels, Syrie James with “Jane Austen’s Nightmare.”  The short story personifies every writer’s nightmare — that the characters will not like how they have been drawn and will seek justice.  From characters perceived as too perfect to those with a great number of flaws, Austen meets them all in her nightmare set in Bath, a city she despises.  Kicking off the collection here is a great introduction to all of Austen’s novels and characters and to her own fears and character as we know her to have been, possibly.

“Austen’s rise to fame has been steady since her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh’s biography, A Memoir of Jane Austen, introduced ‘dear Aunt Jane’ to broader readership in 1869, but recently, two elements have been her strongest catalyst:  the Internet and a wet shirt.”  (page xii)

There are stories for five of her six novels, and Mansfield Park, though mentioned in passing or referred to slightly, is the one left out as an inspiration for a complete story.  Each author tackles a different novel and/or theme from the ridiculousness of ghost stories in “A Night at Northanger” by Lauren Willig to the trials of living with one’s in-laws, like in “Nothing Less Than Fairy-Land” by Monica Fairview.  Clever renderings of finding love in the most unlikely places in Beth Patillo’s “When Only a Darcy Will Do” are joined by modernized stories of renewed love and patience.  These stories are perfect for those looking for more Austen and for those who are unsure whether they would like Austen retellings/continuations.

There are outstanding stories and those that are not quite as good, but let’s be clear, if you love all-things Austen, you want this collection and there are no stories here that you will want to miss.  Writing Austenesque stories requires a certain level of imagination, while at the same time a certain commitment to her characters as she has created them.  Each of these writers does just that.  Jane Austen Made Me Do It has enough clever wit and modern sensibility for any reader, and would suit those looking for prime examples of how a short story can capture the heart.

About the Editor:

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of Austenprose.com a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington. Visit Laurel Ann at her blogs Austenprose.com and JaneAustenMadeMeDoIt.com, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.

My Mr. Darcy…

Me & Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter made me want to pull out the old Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice again and watch the Keira Knightley movie, which I did last night. Potter’s dialogue can be witty at times and her parallels to the original work are uncanny and hard to miss, particularly between Emily Albright and Spike Hargreaves. Emily is much like a modern-day Elizabeth Bennett given her reliance on e-mail, text messaging, and other things. Spike, on the other hand, is no Mr. Darcy. Like any other nonsensical romance, there are unbelievable leaps of faith to be had in this book.

***Spoiler Alert***
The book opens with another horrible date about to end for Emily in New York City where a modern day man is asking her to put in more money for the restaurant bill because she ordered extra toppings on her half of the pizza. How dare he ask her to pitch in?! This part confused me, perhaps because I am not a New Yorker or because I am interested in paying my own way even on dates. I’m not sure, but she seemed a bit petty to me in the beginning…though he did ask if she had the additional 75 cents for the bill and proceeded to count her change as if he did not believe she gave him the correct amount. After her date and being left on the curbside when her date steals her cab, Emily swears off men.

At the bookstore she manages in SoHo, her co-worker arranges for them both to be off for Christmas and New Year’s so they can go to Mexico on a 18-30 binge. Emily, the bookworm that she is, doesn’t want to even think about the nasty, sweaty, drunk men she will meet there and makes up a vacation, which to her delight becomes a real vacation in the countryside of England–the home of Jane Austen and Mr. Darcy.

The trip to England has her butting heads with Hargreaves, who is no Mr. Darcy in stature, eloquence, demeanor, nor beauty. He’s an average guy with average looks (sorry, I did not find him appealing–call me a snob if you must) and an investigative reporting job with England’s The Daily Times. He’s on the literary tour to interview its participants, including Emily, because a recent survey of women discovered Mr. Darcy is their dream date.

Suffice to say, as the tour continues, Emily gets wrapped up in her fantasies of Mr. Darcy. Whether she hits her head a lot, faints, becomes unconscious, or what have you is unclear. What is clear is how real these encounters with the fictional character seem to Emily.

***End Spoiler Alert***

I won’t go into all the details that parallel Austen’s work here because they should be easily picked up on. Had the book been titled differently, I may have not gotten the connection right away.

Would I have made the same choice as Emily? Probably, but then again my fantasy dream date is not Mr. Darcy.

Now what I really need to check out is this Pride and Prejudice movie with Colin Firth. I hear from Emily that its a romantic’s dream.

For the moment, I’m traveling down The Road with Cormac McCarthy.