In With the Old!
Or … Why Jane Austen Looks Damn Good for Her Age
Young people, it seems, have an aversion to anything they perceive as old. I try to introduce my children to favorite books, music, or shows from my childhood, and their response is often an enthusiastic “Meh.” Anything that occurred before they walked the earth is regarded as primordial—be it dinosaurs, the Egyptian pyramids, or a Bruce Springsteen song. In fact, whenever we watch awards shows and I point out favorite actors or musicians from my youth, my son will invariably exclaim “They’re still alive?”
I came across this attitude as a teacher, too—especially whenever I tried to convince my students to read a book published more than a few years earlier. Any book with a three-digit age would be met with expressions typically reserved for delicate medical procedures and sipping sour milk. To them, classic novels were old tales about old people doing old-timey things. As if gripping stories didn’t exist before 1985. As if our species reinvented itself the year they were born. As if nothing on the pages of centuries-old books could possibly relate to their lives.
I’m ashamed to admit that I was also of this mindset as a teen—until I discovered Jane Austen. I read Sense and Sensibility and was astounded at how wonderful, witty, and smartly written it was. In particular, I connected with the two sister characters, Elinor and Marianne. It had never occurred to me that sister relationships in Britain’s Regency era could be so similar to sisterhood in the modern day U.S.
The book remained a favorite, and I reread it many times over the next several years. As a teacher and parent, I was relentless in trying to convince young people to read it. In fact, I adored the novel so much, it inspired me to write my own version of it: Sass & Serendipity.
There are good reasons why classic novels endure. In Jane Austen’s case, it’s because her characters are vivid to the point of seeming familiar. They deal with problems of love, identity, family, friendship, economic hardships, reputation, and peer pressure—all issues that we contend with in this day and age. Plus, Austen is funny. Her writing is always full of witty banter, oddball characters, and subtle irony.
So what, exactly, do young readers object to? The fashion? The semicolon usage?
Sure, the world has changed in two hundred years, but people really haven’t. In essence, the terms “old” or “new” are meaningless when used to describe literature, because good stories are timeless. It is my hope that Sass & Serendipity might serve as a bridge between the contemporary and the classic. If readers recognize the eternal truths of my story, perhaps they’ll want to trace its literary family tree back to Austen.
It’s always a thrill when someone reads and connects with one of my books. But if my novel can inspire young people to seek out the original version—the source of my inspiration—well, that would truly be . . . serendipitious.
A Sassy Giveaway! Three lucky winners will each receive one copy of Jennifer Ziegler's SASS & SERENDIPITY along with Jane Austen's classic, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. To enter, send an e-mail to SassandSerendipity@gmail.com. In the body of the e-mail, include your name, mailing address, and e-mail address (if you're under 13, submit a parent's name and e-mail address). One entry per person; prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on 8/5/11. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on 8/6/11 and notified via email.
To learn more about Jennifer, visit her website or blog
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Monday, July 25, 2011
In With the Old!