I remember the day well, although many details are lost. I was having a pleasant meal with a highly educated Christian couple. Somehow the conversation arrived at who some of my favorite authors were. I named Jane Austen as one of my favorites. The husband, I think with a smile, said, “Aren’t those chick books?”
The question took me by surprise. I was used to thinking of Jane Austen as one of the supreme literary geniuses in world history. To suggest that her books would appeal only to females, was a new idea to me. I suppose I made some sort of defense of her books as suitable for everyone. I am pretty sure the man has never attempted to read a book by Jane Austen. I was a failure as a persuader.
Since then I have encouraged at least two other very intelligent Christian men to try the books of Jane Austen. No prize for guessing the results: complete failure again. I am not sure if they assume that the books are only “chick books” unsuitable for men. Or whether their reasoning goes something like this: “If an idiot like Carl likes those books, I had better avoid them.” Or maybe it’s just another case of The Iron Law of Inadequate Appreciation, which says that every good writer will fail to reach as wide an audience as he/she/it deserves, and will fail to reach as wide an audience as would enjoy his/her/its books. In any case, I am having no success at persuading anyone that they should try the books of Jane Austen.
In fact, it is probably time to admit I was wrong. Her books are rotten. Misery loves company, and I was just trying to encourage other people to read her so that a few other people would be in the gutter with me. Whatever you do, don’t read even one of the books of Jane Austen. The six finished books are chick books, of no interest to anyone, but especially of no interest to males. If you’re a male and you read one of Jane’s books, the next thing we know you’ll be demanding a transgender bathroom. If you’re a male and you see a Jane Austen book lying around, man up! Throw it in the wastebasket.
The first book by Jane Austen that you should not read is Pride and Prejudice. Many of her defenders would contend that it is her most clever book, and that it also contains a lot more than cleverness. They’re wrong. It’s just another chick book.
Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, all have little of potential interest to the normal person. Northanger Abbey, an early work, is even worse. Persuasion, her last work, may be her best (according to the sick people who like her books), and when not reading it, perhaps you should not read it last. After she wrote that book, God killed her. No wonder. What took Him so long?