(illustration credit to Dale Stephanos for this image from the Wall Street Journal)
For those with short memories who may not recall, two years to the day (plus one day for Leap year?), Goodread’s blogger Jessica Donaghy posted the surprising discovery and plans for publication of a long-lost Jane Austen novel, Mirth and Mischief.
I didn’t come upon the post until late afternoon, hours after I’d become inured to jest attempts having already suffered a disappointing blow at realizing Puppy Chat would not be a real thing (AND WHY NOT, I continue to ask to this day).
While I did not fall for the news, I did enjoy reading the comments of those who had, and who described their brief, fleeting brush with joy at the thought of another Austen tale. Most took the joke in stride. Some found it too cruel. Others didn’t care for it for reasons having to do with them having very little sense of humor or love for Austen.
Yet all understood the root of the joke…the poignant angst of limited supply.
Jane Austen did not know the limited time she had to create her works. There are less than a million words, really, between her novels, short works, juvenilia, and letters. A University of Arizona study released the same year of the Austen April Fool’s Prank found the average person speaks 16,000 words a day. While the range of spoken words is large, even the average illustrates a point: the average person will speak a million words in just over two months.
I hear the objections already: that the written word is different from the spoken word, that the fictional word is more weighted and meaningful than casual conversation. And so fine, I bow to these realities. But even if we double, triple, quadruple, the impact of Austen’s million words that we have, the fact that remains they are so very little. A small amount of words for someone with so large a presence.
April Fool’s is a wonderful time to poke fun, to joke, to be fooled, and to laugh, and to consider things that may hurt to consider: we will never have what feels like enough of the things we love, and so we must love them as much as we can while we do have them.
Happy April Fool’s, and may you trick someone you love, if only for a short while.