Jennifer Crusie, editor,
Flirting With Pride & Prejudice:
Fresh Perspectives on the
Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece

(BenBella, 2005)

What is it about Jane Austen's novel Pride & Prejudice that makes it so enduringly popular? Surely an early 19th-century gentlewoman can have nothing to say to 21st-century readers? Can she? And yet Pride & Prejudice continues to be in print and has recently been made into not one, but two movies, 2005's Pride & Prejudice starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett and 2004's Bride & Prejudice: The Bollywood Musical, which translated the 19th-century English setting to 21st-century India.

In Flirting with Pride & Prejudice, editor Jennifer Crusie has gathered the "fresh perspectives" of 24 diverse authors, including writers of romances, sci-fi, television and, of course, chick-lit. The book is divided into seven sections: Jane as Social Commentator, Jane & History, Jane & Academe, Jane & the Movies, Jane's Hero, Jane's Untold Stories and Jane in the 21st Century.

The collection begins with an introduction by Crusie, then moves right into Beth Kendrick's "Does This Petticoat Make Me Look Fat?" in which the author argues that the demands on the women of Jane's day (be accomplished and witty and perfect) are not so different from the demands placed on today's women (be accomplished and witty and perfect). Next, Jennifer Connell ponders "A Little Friendly Advice" to brides-to-be marrying men who do not suit them, while Laura Caldwell considers "High-Class Problems" -- those problems that only seem to befall the rich.

In "A World at War," Lawrence Watt-Evans wonders why Jane wrote about what was going on in her characters' lives, but barely mentioned that England was, at that time, at war. If you've ever wondered why the Bennett girls, and especially their mother, spend so much time worrying about getting married, Jo Beverly answers your question in "Gold Diggers of 1813."

Elisabeth Fairchild compares Jane's works to onions in "Any Way You Slice It," while Adam Roberts treats us to a dialogue between Constance Reader and Professor Academicus in "Jane Austen & the Masturbating Critic." Shanna Swendson asserts that Jane, rather than any modern chick-lit authors, wrote "The Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece" and Laura Baratz-Logsted claims that there is "Plenty of Pride & Prejudice to go Around" in the publishing world.

Meanwhile, over in the movie section, Jennifer Coburn is comparing Pride & Prejudice to Fiddler on the Roof. After all, both Tevye and Mr. Bennett have more daughters than they know what to do with. Laura Resnick takes a look at Bride & Prejudice: The Bollywood Musical and what the Indian filmmakers kept and what they changed when updating the story and moving it halfway across the world, while Sarah Zettel compares several different film versions in "Times & Tenors." Teresa Medeiros examines what it is that makes women swoon in "My Darling Mr. Darcy," and Lani Diane Rich fantasizes about meeting Colin Firth in "My Firth Love."

Next up, Mercedes Lackey shows what happens when Elizabeth Darcy tries her hand at matchmaking. And what about Darcy's poor, forgotten sister Georgiana? Jane Espenson lets us know that she, too, found happiness. Melissa Senate follows up with "Charlotte's Side of the Story." After all, Charlotte knew precisely what she was doing when she married Mr. Collins. Jill Winters lets us in on "The Secret Life of Mary," who turns out not to have been quite the prig everyone thought. In "Lord Byron & Miss A," Cheryl Sawyer enlightens us about a weekend meeting between the poet and the novelist.

Michelle Cunnah begins the final section by taking a look at "Pride & Prejudice. With Cell Phones," while Erin Dailey gives us the results of a Cosmo-style personality quiz in "Bennets & Bingleys & Bitches. Oh My!" How would Miss Austen's novel translate to television? Joyce Milliman tells us in "Pride & Prejudice: The Reality Show." Meanwhile, five modern girls discuss their book club selection in Alesia Holliday's "The Evolution of Envy." Karen Joy Fowler closes out the book with "Jane & Me," a discussion of how Jane's books change every time she reads them.

As someone new to the cult of Jane Austen (I just read Pride & Prejudice for the first time last year), I found this entire book fascinating for the different perspectives offered. I'm sure even long-time Janeites will find something new and enjoyable in these pages.

by Laurie Thayer
8 April 2006

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