Austen Powers

The NY Times noticed the recent commercialization of Jane Austen on Sunday:

How did this early-19th-century novelist become the chick-lit, chick-flick queen for today? It is not only because she is an enduring writer. So is Melville, but bumper stickers and T-shirts read “What would Jane do?” not “What would Herman do?” A few other female writers have achieved pop culture celebrity: Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath for the drama of their suicides, the Brontës for the gothic romance of their novels and the contrast to their quiet lives. None inspire the warmth, fanaticism — or merchandising — that Austen does.

She has entered pop culture more thoroughly than other writers because she is almost spookily contemporary. Her ironic take on society is delivered in a reassuring, sisterly voice, as if she were part Jon Stewart, part Oprah Winfrey. Beneath the period details, the typical Austen heroine offers something for almost any woman to identify with: She is not afraid to be the smartest person in the room, yet after a series of misunderstandings gets the man of her dreams anyway. It doesn’t take a marketing genius to spot a potential movie audience for that have-it-all fantasy.

Becoming Jane, the heavily fictionalized biography of Austen's one-and-only romance (which, in real life, didn't work out) is out on Aug 10.

Every girl in the world is Elizabeth Bennet, but is Anne Hathaway Jane Austen? We think yes.

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