Austen on my Mind
Having major surgery and the long healing process afterward is definitely taking up most of my time — and most of July was a whirlwind of comic invalid helplessness, and was spent in the hospital. Now, my abdominal wound is healing pretty well and I have homecare nurses come in every day to re-pack the dressing. And so of course, naturally, I am functioning at semi-capacity, and am not allowed to lift or pick up anything over 10 pounds (in other words I am somewhat screwed… since I cannot lug big heavy books around or rummage in boxes filled with books, or toss books like dwarfs… among other things that normal non-writerly convalescent people in my place cannot be expected to do).
You might wonder what this has to do with Jane Austen, and I can safely tell you — or better yet, paraphrase Diana Birchall’s recent quote in her recent wonderful Jane Austen in Alaska blog entry that “pretty much anything can be connected to Austen.” In my case, let me tell you about a couple of things that happened, directly related to our favorite Jane.
About a week ago I had a follow-up appointment to go see my surgeon. He had been gone on vacation the week before, so I had to see other doctors in the interim. But at last, here he was, back, ready to see the progress of my wound for the first time, and I went in for a check-up of my sutures and open wound.
At this point, let it be noted, I carried a certain book with me.
Before surgery, there had been the usual bittersweet discussion that, as a result of the hysterectomy, I will no longer be able to have children. I told the surgeon that yes, I understood, but fortunately I did have my books instead — my books are my kids. I don’t know how much of that he remembered…
However, here we were, post-surgery, and after the medical portion of the visit was over, I reached over to my bag and took out a shiny new autographed copy of Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy’s Dreadful Secret. I thanked the doctor for pretty much saving my life (as it turned out, there had been cancer, but they got all of it, so I do not need chemo, thank God!), and gave him the book as a gift of gratitude, saying that I could still have children after all — the book kind!
Which also brings me to Jane Austen. She had never had the fortune to have human children, but her literary offspring are so virile and prolific that her literary “genetic material” is filling the world, and multiplying (via fan fiction and, yes, Austen Authors!).
But this is not all. When you are sick, and when you also happen to be an Austen Author, Jane Austen is really on your mind a whole frigging lot of the time. And I mean, A LOT….
As I was lying in the hospital bed, hallucinating monstrous ducks, dreaming, aching, drinking clear fluids (and filling catheters), whiling away the wee hours, I was not only inventing improved medical equipment (yes, don’t laugh, that’s where some of my creativity went), and watching Adrian Paul as the Highlander on the overhead TV, but dreaming of the plot of my upcoming Austen-related novel.
When I got home, and was feeling well enough to hold up and read a very thick and heavy book (but safely under 10 pounds), out came my beat-up ancient hardcover copy of Austen’s collected works, and still being laid up, I had the chance last week to do a reading of Persuasion, in preparation for my next book in the Supernatural Jane Austen Series — Pagan Persuasion: All Olympus Descends on Regency. While Ancient Greek gods and epic battles were churning in my head, and the Olympics were on TV, it occurred to me that Persuasion is such a melancholy book in a number of ways.
Compared to her earlier novels, Persuasion is rather short on sparkling dialogue, and big on subtle introspection, with more “telling” than “showing,” and a kind of sense of subtle, gentle, lovely world-weariness that made me think that Jane Austen herself may have been already in poor health or ill outright when she was writing this one, because the energy of her wit was more subdued, the satire underplayed, and the romance and relationships far more grave and intense and serious. Maybe this was the secret result of her own personal sorrow — mostly unknown and unsuccessful romantic life.
Which means that I have my work cut out for me — the insane humor and the vivacity and the crazy silliness of my supernatural parodies will definitely blend in an “interesting” way with gentle Persuasion the original, to create the high-energy Pagan Persuasion (coming this December, on Jane’s birthday).
I can’t wait to begin this exciting challenge!
But first, must recover a bit more… Heal, tummy wound, heal!
Calling on you, O Homeric Muse!