A really interesting overview of Jane Austen fandom touching upon the cross-roads of popular fandom and scholarly criticism.
I absolutely love Jane Austen's books, but I wouldn't call myself a Janeite. Still, I was curious and Degrees of Affection thought highly enough to recommend it as worth reading. I tend to read non-fiction right before going to sleep, and this book was perfect for that; each chapter looks at a different facet of Jane Austen's appeal and how a love for her books has directed the course of many lives in unique directions. As none of the chapters are overly long, it was easy to pick up the book each night, read a chapter or two, and put the book down with a sense of completion.
As I said, I wouldn't call myself a Janeite; when it comes to books, I'm a live-in-the-moment kind of reader; books don't often haunt me after I've finished them (maybe that's why I so enjoy re-reading good books?). But it would seem there's a little bit of the rabid fan in me, as I discovered when I got to chapter 7 "Austen Therapy". I could start going on at this point about child rearing in Regency England amongst the monied class, but that would drag this on forever, so let me just sum it up by saying this:
Mr. Darcy is NOT on the spectrum!!!!
Which leads me to my favorite quote of the book: "You know, sometimes people aren't autistic, they're just dicks."***
I was surprised at how strongly I reacted to this chapter - the previous chapter discussing Arnie Perlstein's theory about "shadow stories" in each of Jane Austen's works I found merely absurd, but this chapter actually made me – not angry – but..exasperated.
Still I really enjoyed the writing of the book; the author remains mostly neutral throughout, and I found the biographies of the fans Ms. Yaffe focussed on intriguing. An excellent read.
*** Please note that I do not in any way disparage the legitimacy of the autistic spectrum, or those that find themselves struggling with autism to any degree. I save my disparagement for those that want to plug everyone they meet (or read) into a diagnostic hole. Sometimes people are just rude, ill-bred, or in Darcy's case, a product of their times, class and cultural mores.