We’re delighted this week to welcome author, editor and playwright, Dr Gabrielle Malcolm, to Tabby Cow!
Gaby throws an alternative perspective on the question we’ve been asking about how not having Jane Austen in your life might affect it, and asks: would it really be so terrible?
Read on to hear what she has to say on the subject, and do please comment with your thoughts! Over to you, Gaby!
If I allow my mind to wander over the possibility of an alternative universe – of a world without the novels of Jane Austen – there are a few things that occur but, perhaps unexpectedly, one of the first questions is: would it be such a bad thing?
When I was growing up there were bookshelves everywhere in my home. They lined the walls in almost every room of the house. We built bookshelves out of books to accommodate more books. Boredom was never an option. Austen was a member of the universe of authors that lived there with my family. My mother talked about literature all the time. Austen and Shakespeare and Dickens sat at the dinner table with us on a regular basis.
I think that I like Jane Austen so much because she likes me. Her writing tells me that. She is in the room with me describing the conversations that her characters have and letting me in on all their secrets. Austen and I have a conspiratorial and gossipy friendship and we share the same sense of humour. Or, perhaps, she shaped my sense of humour? But she is so discrete at doing it that she lets me take credit for it – that’s a true friend.
I only read dog-eared and well-thumbed copies of her novels. The cover of Persuasion was falling off. Pride and Prejudice had been dropped in the bath more than once. I had a lurid yellow and white Mansfield Park paperback with a cover illustration that bore no relation to the story inside (Why do publishers do that? Have they not read the book?). That copy saw me through my A Levels – just. It had my sisters’ scribbled notes in the margin. Vandals.
I found Fanny really irritating, and Mrs. Norris hilarious. Lady Bertram was bonkers, and Edmund was really dull and indecisive. I wouldn’t have, and still wouldn’t, kick Henry Crawford out of bed for eating biscuits. And I maintain that Tom is the coolest character and I definitely would pick him over his brother!
But what if I had never met Austen, and what if her books did not exist? Would it really be so terrible? Perhaps those who pine for the perfect man would not be so afflicted, or fussy? There is something to be said for not subscribing to the romantic fallacy. However, without Austen there would be others. Nature abhors a vacuum and readers must be satisfied. That yearning for the funny, skilful, happy, and satisfying narrative must always be met. If you can’t find the right book to do it, you might end up writing the book that will.
Austen refined the plot but it existed before her. She managed the characters expertly, and others have continued in her footsteps. Dramatic, romantic, and satiric heroes and heroines abound. Darcy has many relatives and descendents.
Thanks to this I have embarked on my next writing project. This will be an exploration of all that is gorgeous, daring, threatening, sinister, and sexy about Darcy and his descendents. Heathcliff, Henry Irving, Dracula, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Batman – and many more – all in one book, and that’s before we even get to the wet shirt.
Join me in 2017 for Darcymania!
Dr Gabrielle Malcolm is an author, editor, and playwright. She has written a number of articles, books, and papers on Austen, Shakespeare, and Victorian Literature. She writes for children’s theatre company Moon On A Stick and her next book, Darcymania, is in the works.
Contact Keane Kataria Literary Agency for more information: Keane Kataria Literary Agency
Once again, we’re offering one lucky reader of this Blog the chance to win the following:
- A copy of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen (eBook or paperback, open worldwide)*
- A laminated bookmark showing the topaz crosses given to Jane and her sister, Cassandra, by their brother, Charles
- A map of Bath in the time of Jane Austen (specifically, from 1803, a significant date in the story)
- A set of Jane Austen bookplates
- A charming necklace with a quote from one of Jane Austen’s Bath novels
There will be further chances to win the same bundle of prizes each week throughout our series of guest posts.
* Books will be sent out once the release date is reached (7th July)
How to Enter
Just leave a comment below about anything in Gaby’s post above, or simply share how your life would be affected if Jane Austen had never published her novels.
All those who comment will be entered into a draw to select the prize winner, which will be announced the following week.