No, Jane Austen Is Not Your Bestie

I propose we get our noses out of Jane Austen. Not her books, her life.

.. But there’s more than a little sexism in the condescension. We don’t call Charles Dickens, Charles; Joseph Conrad, Joseph; or Franz Kafka, Franz.

.. By personalizing Jane Austen, and trying to make the world of her novels continuous with our own, we denigrate her seriousness.

.. Only “Mansfield Park” speaks overtly of “barbarism.” But the prospect of moral chaos is never far away in any of her mature novels. Her seriousness of intent is not the stuff of literary prattle. Never mind whom she loved. And she isn’t Jane, your best friend. She is Jane Austen, a novelist of unfamiliar and uncomfortable genius.