Last June I wrote a review of Jane Austen for Dummies for Jane Austen Today. I liked the book then, I like it still, and I use it often for reference. Several months after I shared my humble opinion, academician Stephanie Looser made a satirical reference to Professor Joan Klingel Ray’s book in her tongue in cheek essay, Jane Austen, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda. The comments under this article are as interesting to read as the article itself, including the response from Dr. Ray, who (accidentally I hope) dissed The Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by my blogger friend, Laurie Viera Rigler. A few weeks ago, Laurel Ann from Austenprose wrote her astute assessment of the situation.
Let’s face it, Jane’s writing is more than brilliant, her stories are more than about mere romance, and her observations on the foibles of human nature are spot on and timeless. We all respond to her work in a very personal way. In fact, I am always open to others’ opinions about Jane and their reactions to her work. In turn, I ask for the same forbearance from others.
While a good debate is healthy (and I have exchanged opinionated ideas with several bloggers), some of the rabid, almost viral responses in discussion boards or the comment sections of blogs utterly perplex me. One individual, for example, jumped on Joan Klingel Ray’s supposedly wrong date for the French Revolution. Disliking the book for various other reasons, she dismissed Dr. Ray’s authority. Excuse me? Dr. Ray happens to be one of the premier authorities on Jane Austen.
Let’s lighten up folks, and take Stephanie Looser’s essay for what it was: irony and fun. We 21st century denizens might have more sophisticated toys to play with than our regency era counterparts, and 200 extra years of war, famine, pollution and inventions under our collective historical belts to put things in perspective, but our predictable behavior and reactions are of the sort that Jane relished satirizing.