Jane Austen’s Fresh Perspective
by Lori Smith
Jane Austen loved to watch people. She enjoyed going to art exhibits, but watching the people looking at the art was more her thing. One gets the sense that she was constantly studying those whose lives intersected with hers, seeing in them greed and charity, mercenary marriages and real romance, kindness and pride.
In her writing, she loved to skewer the ridiculous, to isolate and display the character flaws of people at every level of society—the bombastic nature of Pride and Prejudice’s Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the faithless grasping of Northanger Abbey’s Isabella Thorpe, even the vanity of her dear Elizabeth Bennet. Which is why, if she were here today, she just might rejoice at the sheer amount of absurd behavior on display.
Hook-ups. Reality TV. Everyone looking for their 15 minutes of fame. Maxed out credit cards. Overwhelming debt. Our obsession with romance and finding “the one.”
Maybe we’ve been going along with the flow long enough that these things don’t seem crazy to us. Which is why stepping back and looking at things through Austen’s eyes can provide a fresh dose of valuable common sense.
Austen relished life, truly, without ever having much money. She’s one of the greatest writers in the English language, but she never looked for fame. She was a woman of substance—thoughtful, continually seeking self-knowledge—and expected that of both her fictional characters and her friends. She thought romance should involve the mind as well as the heart. She wanted to be happy, and believed that happiness and contentment were to be found primarily in sound moral character.
She represents the wonderful, sensible antithesis to so much of what we believe today.
Two hundred years after her novels were released, Austen is still extraordinarily popular. Maybe because her stories embody what we have lost. I think she still has so much to teach us.
As a child, Lori Smith’s mother had to pay her to read books. So it’s a bit ironic that she now gets paid to write them. Lori feels connections to Austen on many levels—as a writer, a single woman, an Anglican, and as someone struggling with a mysterious chronic illness.
For her last book, A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love, and Faith, Lori spent a month in England tracing Austen’s life and works. Readers voted to give that book the Jane Austen Regency World Award for best nonfiction.
Time article: entertainment.time.com/2012/06/04/jane-on-the-brain-austen-advice-book-trend-peaks/
World Magazine review: www.writerlorismith.com/2012/06/world-magazine-review/
Blogs: www.writerlorismith.com, www.austenquotes.com
Thank you Lori for your insights into your latest novel!
Are you a Jane Austen fan? Stop by tomorrow for my review and a giveaway of Lori's book The Jane Austen Guide to Life.