Female authors were very definitely in the minority when Jane Austen was writing, but certainly not in 2017! The Bookseller‘s analysis of literary fiction book sales from last year found that there was only one male author on the list of top ten bestselling authors in the UK in 2017.
Topping the list last year was Margaret Atwood, who saw TV adaptations of The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace released last year. Sales of her books last year reached almost £2.8m.
Next on the list was Sarah Perry, the author of the incredible hit The Essex Serpent, with sales of approximately £1.6m. Third was the lately departed Helen Dunmore, whose novel The Birdcage Walk and her poetry collection Inside The Wave were released in 2017.
Also making the list were Italian author Elena Ferrante, and the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Naomi Alderman, whose apocalyptic novel The Power comes highly recommended by us at the Jane Austen News (though it’s nothing like an Austen novel, we have to warn you).
Award-winning author Haruki Murakami, who released his short story collection Men Without Women last year, was the only man to make the top ten. The rest of the top ten were Ali Smith, Zadie Smith (no relation), Maggie O’Farrell and Arundhati Roy.
Sadly, women writers still take up less than half of the slots in the Bookseller’s overall UK top 50 bestselling author of 2017, but nevertheless we can’t help but feel that Jane would be delighted to know just how far the recognition of female authors’ talent has come. Also, how pleased Mary Wollstonecraft might be that there has been such a vindication on the “writes” of woman (sorry, we just couldn’t help ourselves).
North American Austen fans might like to know that in 2019, between October 4th and 6th, Williamsburg in Yorktown, Virginia, will host the annual Jane Austen Society of North America conference.
Amy Stallings, regional coordinator for the local chapter of the organization, expects that over 700 Austen fans will attend the conference, and explained why she feels Austen is still such an important figure in literature today. “She is a literary survivor for a reason. Austen is an excellent depictor of human character, and at the same time makes readers laugh. Jane Austen is for everybody.”
The conference will include over the course of the two-day event: lectures, bonnet-making classes and a full performance of a musical adaptation of Northanger Abbey. An extravagant ball will be the finale at the end of the weekend.
The theme for the conference in 2019 will be “200 Years of Northanger Abbey: ‘Real, Solemn History’”, and will encompass broader subjects relevant to the cultural background of Northanger Abbey, such as the idea of the picturesque, the popularity of the Gothic novel genre, and the economics of importing India muslin versus producing muslin in England.
It sounds like it will be a great event although, naturally, nothing beats coming to Bath for our annual Jane Austen Festival in September, and being able to visit the real locations Jane was writing about in Northanger Abbey!
We really enjoyed this spoof news article from the satirical online magazine The Onion, and we thought you might appreciate it too:
Frustrated with the nonstop unwanted intrusions, local man Russell Goldin wished that the women in crowded O’Donnell’s Pub would let him read his Jane Austen novel in peace.
“Will all these women just go away and let me enjoy Pride And Prejudice without being constantly interrupted,” said Goldin, explaining that just because he’s smiling and shaking his head as he reads the book in view of female bar patrons doesn’t mean he wants to be hit on.
“Every single time I start becoming enraptured by an exquisitely rendered piece of British drollery, I’m pulled out of it by some lady trying to ask me what I’m reading. I came here to drink red wine and be transported to the world of the 18th-century British landed gentry, not make flirtatious small talk.”
At press time, Goldin was forced to give a fake number to a woman who approached him asking if he would be interested in discussing Austen over dinner sometime.
Clearly someone at The Onion has tried this trick as a sort of passive chat-up technique. Either that, or one female satirist is dropping a very heavy hint to the single men out there!
If you prefer audiobooks to sitting down to read a physical book, then this might well be music (audiobook) to your ears.
Acclaimed comedienne, author and audiobook narrator Alison Larkin recently finished recording the six completed novels of Jane Austen from her home-recording studio in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. (It took her nearly 81 hours to do!)
Although she is by no means the first to narrate an audiobook edition of Austen’s novels, in an interview for The Berkshire Eagle she explained what she hoped to bring to her narration:
“I think the challenging thing for me has been to look at it with completely fresh eyes and to make it sound like it’s the very first time it’s been said because Pride and Prejudice is one of the most famous books in the world. Everybody’s read it. What can I do — how can I make it different? How can I make it accessible?”
Accessibility lay in humour; Larkin especially wanted to highlight the comic side of Austen, something which David Denby from the New Yorker felt she absolutely succeeded in doing:
[Larkin] approaches Austen as a satirist. The initial tinkling sound darkens and attains body and weight as the book goes on; she makes her voice lower and heavier for the men without caricaturing them. Like Page, she italicizes, but she has genuine theatrical skill, so her Mrs. Elton, swooping and dipping in flights of arrogant self-serving nonsensical observation, and her Miss Bates, anxious and desperately self-conscious even as she talks without end, are both sustained comic creations. The voice reveals all.
You can listen to extracts of Larkin’s narration on her site. She has added that $5 from every audiobook download of The Complete Novels from alisonlarkinpresents.com will be donated to the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation.
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