Damn Right Jane Austen Got Rejected


By Neal Comment

Sarah told you this morning about the guy who shopped Jane Austen around town to see “what sort of reception the writer might get if she approached publishers and agents in the age of Harry Potter and the airport blockbuster,” as the Guardian put it. Like Sarah, I can’t believe anybody still pays attention to people who pull these stunts, unless they’re just too lazy to go out and find real stories to report on, and I’m not convinced that most of the publishers and agents he contacted “failed to spot that he was ripping off one of the world’s most famous literary figures.” Just because their rejection letters didn’t say, “Hey, asshole, thanks for wasting my valuable time with the opening pages of Pride and Prjeudice,” doesn’t mean they didn’t know that’s what this clown was up to—as, in fact, one publisher indicates in their response to the British press.

John Scalzi agrees with me on that point, but he also reaches what may seem an even more provocative conclusion: Jane Austen’s all wrong for the 2007 marketplace. Sure, she’s a classic now, but for a new writer to try to break into the industry writing in that style? He’s not having any. “In point of fact,” he adds, “I’d probably reject anything written in a 19th-century manner, with the possible exception of Mark Twain‘s work; for my money he’s probably the only 19th-century author whose writing style doesn’t make me feel like I’m slogging through a morass of commas and odd language structure.”