Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Jane Still Reigns

Jane Austen is awesome.

Can we take this as gospel truth or do you require evidence?

Austen has reached that rarefied air -- which, unfortunately, is even more rarefied for women writers -- of ubiquity.

Even if you've never read any Austen, you're familiar with her stories. Just like you know the story of A Christmas Carol or Romeo and Juliet without cracking the cover, most people know Emma, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility and, most of all, Pride and Prejudice.

They've become Academy Award-winning movies, critically acclaimed miniseries and even the odd zombie romp.

(Yup, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is something that really happened. So is Sense and Sensibilities and Sea Monsters. I'm still waiting for Minotaurs in Mansfield Park.)

In 2003, Pride and Prejudice was voted the second most popular novel ever in a BBC poll. She only lagged behind Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It topped everything from Thomas Hardy to the Brontes to Douglas Adams. Perhaps, most impressively, she edged out J.K. Rowling.

While Austen's style has come in and out of vogue over the last couple of centuries, her influence has been absolutely everywhere for the last 20 years.

Moreover, Austen's themes of love, independence and marriage (and where the three intersect) have proven malleable. They still work when dropped in Beverly Hills, as Amy Heckerling did when she transformed Emma into Clueless.

Austen's work may be timeless, but her influence is as timely as ever. Some have even argued that she is the progenitor of the genre we call (some, derisively,) chick lit.

So the Mentor Public Library is celebrating all things Austen with Jane in June. It's a series of programs in which we look at the writer herself, her work and her influence.

The MPL Reader blog has been building to Jane in June for months by reviewing books that were directly influenced by Austen.
Check out their reviews of:
Now, the Jane in June series begins June 1 with A Date with Jane Austen -- a performance by Austen impersonator, Debra Miller of,

Miller portrays Jane Austen in the most vibrant and hopeful time of her life – from Chawton Cottage in the autumn of 1815 after her first three novels – Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park – were published and Emma was complete

You can hear from Jane’s own lips what she is writing and all about her inspiration and life.

This one-hour performance delves deeply into Austen's personal life. Learn about her exotic cousin Eliza, her mentor and friend Madame LeFroy and the loves and losses that shaped her life and informed her perception of the world. 

(Patrons are asked to bring chairs and/or blankets to sit on during the performance.)

We follow up our date with a special Jane Austen-centric tea party June 6 on the Read House lawn.

The tea will be casual and everyone is welcome.

Read a Jane Austen book, an adaptation of one of her books or something inspired by Jane’s prodigious influence. The library will bring and serve the tea. Feel free to bring a dish to share and don’t forget the recipe.

Finally, we conclude our Jane in June series with a look at Austen's modern influence on June 10 in the James R. Garfield Room of Mentor Public Library's main branch.

Amy Patterson -- a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Cleveland chapter, as well as a writer and presenter of all things Jane -- will speak about modern adaptions of Jane Austen’s novels and the way her work is viewed today.

Whether participants love Austen’s writing style, her era or the themes in her novels, everyone is welcome to hear about where Austen came from and how her work is being revisited today.

All three of the Jane in June events are free to attend. However, we do ask that you register with us beforehand. You can register by calling (440) 255-8811, ext. 247 or online at

So we hope to see you at the library soon. If you love Jane already, you'll find some like-minded individuals here. If you don't love her yet, check out Jane in June and you'll become a believer.

By the way, seeing as we are a library, we also have plenty of Jane Austen books (and movies based on her books) that you can check out.

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