Sunday, January 14, 2007

Darcy's Story

Darcy's Story, by Janet Aylmer

As you may know, I am a Jane Austen obsessive - a Janeite, if you will. I mean, I've visited her museum and her grave site. I have stood and worshiped outside the house where she died. I've taken the Jane Austen walking tour of Bath. I've watched the 1995 BBC presentation of Pride and Prejudice more times than I can count - my whole family can quote extensively from the screenplay. I've read all of the books multiple times - I love the books. So, when dear friend and colleague R came across Darcy's Story in our library's new books, she immediately let me know. And now, after waiting patiently for several months on the waiting list, I finally got to bring the book home. Now, I've read some Jane Austen fanfic before, and I've always rather considered it schlock, or shock. Either it is grossly sweet, or it destroys the characters in its unsweetness. But, this particular book is actually really well done.

Janet Aylmer follows the timeline, and the plot of Pride and Prejudice, but she tells the story from Darcy's point of view. She examines his motivations, his experiences, and his reactions to the events of the book. And, I think, she maintains an integrity in her depiction of the characters. One of Austen's many geniuses is her creation of memorable characters. She is a master of the humorous supporting character, and equally a master of the deeper, more developed romantic lead. Aylmer respects this, and does not seek to change or improve upon the characterizations in any way. It is clear that this author has a great love and respect for her source material, and that she is exploring other parts of the story from a desire to know more of her well-loved characters.

It was really very interesting to look at the familiar story from this point of view. In Pride and Prejudice, we are very much involved in the story of Elizabeth and her family. Everything is told from her point of view, and we follow her story. Darcy really only appears in a few scenes. But he is such a beloved and appealing character that readers want more of him. While this narrative may not be the ultimate examination of Darcy's story, it is both appealing and entertaining. I was truly gripped. It did not carry the satiric and caustic weight of its source material, but it was an excellent example of successful and entertaining fan-written fiction.

Highly recommended for Pride and Prejudice fans.


Maggie said...

I wonder how that works with publishing fanfiction. Does the writer have to get permission from the author's estate? Or because Jane Austen is long dead is her work now considered public domain, and any author can do what they want with it?

MadJenny said...

I'm guessing it is the public domain thing, since she's been dead almost 200 years now. This edition is put out by HarperCollins, although it looks like it was originally published in 1996 by a small press (with no current home to be found on the Internet).

But, it is an interesting issue isn't it, when you consider all of the fanfic for current works that is available on the Internet.

False Prophet said...

If you regularly find the author's seminal works available for $6.00 or less in the bookstores, it's safe to say they're public domain now (generally works enter the public domain 50 years after the death of the creator in most Western countries).

I think for most living authors (and their publishers), there's no real reason to go after fanfic writers. As long as they're not making money or defaming the property on a large scale, it's counter-productive to pursue litigation against some of your biggest fans. But dumber things have been known to happen. ;-)

MadJenny said...

I believe that many authorities are now looking to change it to 75 years, and already families/estates can apply for extensions. However, I do know that Jane Austen's work is in the public domain.

As for fanfic about current authors's works, the thing that strikes me as being of concern to them is when people publish unauthorized sequels, in which characters are made to act in ways they never would within the author's story world. For instance, J.K. Rowling has been heard to wonder aloud, in a somewhat displeased way, about the fanfic that has incongruous couples like Malfoy and Hermione getting together - it kind of defames her characters, doesn't it. I don't think these stories would get published for money, it is just an example, but I think it illustrates my meaning.

False Prophet said...

In the US, it's already 70 years past the death of the creator. And Disney (thanks to the Sonny Bono law) has so far managed to keep Mickey out of public domain. Yet another reason I despise the House of Mouse. They wouldn't exist had they not exploited the public domain to its fullest, and yet they want to pull up the ladder behind them (I could do a similar rant about Metallica, but I'll save it for my own blog). L.M. Montgomery's descendants have also co-opted Parliament into this shameful form of protectionism.

I understand the point about unauthorized sequels. Then again, sequels "authorized" by the late author's estate aren't always up to snuff either--Frank Herbert's classic Dune novels now have crappy prequels written by his son Brian and Kevin J. Anderson. This sums up how I feel about that.

Then again, some living authors write sequels to their hits long after they should have put the word processor away. (This actually includes Frank Herbert--the last two Dune novels were pointless.) This is an all too-common practice I like to call "milking the cow". :)