For years I've faked reading Austen's work. Even after my beloved Henry (James) wrote about his love for Austen I couldn't make myself crack her books. I already was coerced into watching the BBC productions of Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility more than I wanted. And when they (the BBC) redid all of the books I watched the entire set, every week, on an old security monitor we hooked up to an old VHS player that had an internal receiver strong enough to pull a signal from KQED San Francisco.
My wife is an Austen devotee.
She even had us watch the Jane Austen Book Club which I ejoyed, largely because of Maria Bello and Emily Blunt.
I thought I wouldn't like Austen. I read men. I read strange men. I read writing that is harder than lyrical (excepting James, but he ruins everyone's idea of what should and shouldn't be). When we (my wife and I) get into this discussion she brings in my love for Joan Didion. Then I read her a line from After Henry and she says, "nevermind." Didion's a ball breaker.
Full disclosure: I read women (Allison, Lorde, Krauss, Walters, Silko, Otsuka, Morrison, Lahiri, Chrystos); I don't read lots of women . I'm a women writer myself. I use the men thing because it's hard to argue. The one fact about Austen that no one will argue: Austen is a woman.
The last few months I've liquidated more than three quarters of my library. In the process I've read Austen. I started with Sense and Sensibility, then I moved to Persuasion and am now into Pride and Prejudice.
While designing the rewards for my Kickstarter project, Life or Honor: Life As Stranger, I wanted to name each reward in honor of select authors who've had tremendous influence on me—through their life and work. Austen came to mind immediately . Her artistic choices and personal refusal to give up the work speak to the type of artistry I experience in this life of writing.
Letters play a very pivotal role in her work: Darcy's letter to Eizabeth, Willoughby's letter to Marianne, and Captain Wentworth's to Anne Elliot. I love to receive them and I love to write them. In this age they are not of the same quality or character as they are in Austen's world, but they can be.
In selecting a number, five, of letters to exchange between myself and all Austen backers I'm opening up the text and the project content itself to they mystery born in sustained correspondence. I still write by hand. I believe in the physical power of language that transforms both writer and reader.
Austen Reward: Karma Positive + Access to Kickstarter Exclusive Updates + Handwritten postcard thank you from author + E-copy of book + 4" x 6" Original art created from novel (Kickstarter Exclusive) + An exchange of 2 letters between you & visual artist, Niki Lee + An exchange of 5 letters between you & author.