Happy Birthday, Miss Austen!

Next to Shakespeare, Jane Austen is arguably the most widely read and widely copied English author of all time. Her six novels, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey are still in print — in fact, several publishers have released gorgeous hardcover editions for the holiday season.

And many of us remember 1995’s “P&P” which singlehandedly launched Colin Firth’s sex symbol career, that same year saw the release of Sense & Sensibility, which won an Oscar for Emma Thompson’s screenplay, and the witty homage to Emma that was Clueless. One year later, Gwyneth Paltrow’s glowing portrayal of the title character in Emma earned her rave reviews. Suffice to say that the mid-1990s were all about Austen, indeed.

Well, ladies and gentlemen the original ‘chick lit’ author is having another surge in popularity. First there are more the books – everything imaginable from horror spoof Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, to murder mystery Death Comes to Pemberley to, dare I self-promote, my own romantic comedy The Jane Austen Marriage Manual (published in April 2012). Then there are the movies starting with Bridget Jones’ Diary in 2001, the brilliant spin on P&P by Helen Fielding followed by P&P starring Keira Knightley in 2005 (she received an Oscar nomination for her role of Elizabeth Bennett).

Currently two more film are set to enter the Austen-esque domain; Nora Ephron is directing a film adaptation of the BBC television series Lost in Austen, while Twilight author Stephanie Meyers is producing Austenland, based on a novel of the same name.
So you see, Austen’s impact on society continues. Let the new generation of Austen addicts be born!

—Kim Izzo