A few years ago, I would have been ashamed to admit this, but I’ve been reading a lot of Jane Austen fan fiction. There was a time when I thought that type of literature was beneath me. I am an intellectual, and we read Austen and Bronte, not Reynolds and Grange. Still, after a huge Sourcebooks eBook giveaway in December 2010, I found myself with 10 novels based on Austen’s characters, and shortly after tentatively stepping into the Austen fan fiction waters, I dove in headfirst. I can’t remember if I read Mr. Darcy’s Diary first, or if it was, Fitzwilliam Darcy, the Last Man in the World. Either way, the Darcy those two women presented was the Darcy I wanted, so I kept reading . . . and kept reading . . . and kept reading. And before I knew it, I found that my collection of Austen-related fiction was growing pretty large.
There is a certain appeal to reading what I call “literary junk food”. As an English major, almost everything I read in a semester is something I have to analyze. I read with a critical eye, looking for the deeper meaning behind the writing. I consider the historical time frame, and what the author was experiencing that may have influenced the work. However, with my “literary junk food”, I don’t have to do any of that. I can simply read for my own enjoyment. I read those books because they make me happy, not because I may have to write an essay over it someday.
This “junk food” isn’t always well written. I have discovered a few writers that are really talented, but for the most part the writing is pretty bad and many of the story plots are ridiculous. Still, I enjoy them, because I know how they are going to end (almost always the way Austen wrote them), and because I don’t have to think about them until I want to read them again.
So, there it is . . . my deep, dark literary secret. Truthfully, I really love some of them. I read Reynolds and Grange over and over. I have all of the best fan fiction sites bookmarked. I have my favorites that I read over and over, and I have a mental list of the stories I’ll never read again.
As I head into this semester, I am excited about getting back to the basics, back to the Austen I love and the depth of her genius. I look forward to the undoubtedly heated discussions I can expect to have on Tuesday nights. I am ready to explore all of Jane through the eyes of a scholar.
But don’t be surprised if you find me sneaking in a few pages of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre once in a great while.