Super Old Chick-Lit?

{Part of the 200 Books Project}

I wonder how Austen’s work would be perceived or categorised if she were a writer now?

I have just finished Persuasion. I liked it well enough but not in a particularly deep way — it’s a fun romp featuring a few characters and a sea of caricatures. I can imagine that it delighted its original audiences with its scathingly knowing rendition of their milieu and everyone loves a good romance, a good lady-fall and a good few fools now don’t they?

It crossed my mind that a modern Persuasion would most probably fall into the category of chick-lit. Eurgh, that came out like a cat expectorating a fur ball because I am a chick-lit snob. There, I admitted it.

So, does Austen get away with it because the historical gap is wide enough to filter out any potential identification with the dreaded *c-l* category? Is reading Austen a bit like reading Harry Potter with grown-up-book cover art?

Or does the comparison simply fail at every level because Austen was ground-breaking? Am I doing her skill a huge disservice?

Probably so but I would add that I think it is a shame to be too clever about Austen. Her work is a bit worthy and heavy-handed in places but for me, that’s part of the charm. You hardly have to read between the lines at all in any of her books to sense the sparky opinions, the concerns or the character of Austen herself. In fact, I would go so far as to say that she is the central character in her novels.

That’s the beauty of them: In her writing, Austen found a way to find a voice betwixt and between the welcome regulations and the unwelcome restraints of her society. Thankfully, Austen was witty, wise and wonderful. Her novels are super old chick-lit cleverly used as a vehicle for a formidable lady to say what she really thought.

And subversive chick-lit must be OK. I cannot however, no matter how hard I try, unsee these things:

One response to “Super Old Chick-Lit?”

  1. Stephanie

    I like to think of her as the first t.v. writer, even though she was lacking in the technology. Her commentary does not feel very much like literature, it seems modern, geared to another time and sensibility, with a mix of zippy one-liners and unspoken gestures.

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