Giveaway: Lego Jane! #AustenInAugustRBR

Welcome back, Janeites!

As I mentioned at the top of yesterday’s guest post, today, our friend Chris from Book Cougars is here with a special giveaway for Austen in August: Jane Austen Lego!

All you have to do to be considered is:

  • be a subscriber of Roof Beam Reader (email or WordPress); and
  • leave a comment on this post saying you’d love to win; and
  • make sure I have a way of contacting you if you win (email, social media handle, etc.).

Remember, as you’re reading through Austen in August and sharing any Austen-related content, please post links to your blogs or social media posts about the event in the comments on our master post. Use the #AustenInAugustRBR hashtag to share on social media.

Note: This giveaway is open until 11:59 PM pacific time on Wednesday, August 10th. One winner will be selected at random. Winner will be contacted for shipping information and will have 48-hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. Giveaway host will ship item to the winner. Neither the giveaway host nor Roof Beam Reader are responsible for any items lost or damaged in the mail.

Jane Austen Archives #AustenInAugustRBR

Today, we welcome the wonderful Chris from Book Cougars, who is here with an absolutely fascinating discussion of Jane Austen archives. Stop by again tomorrow for a special giveaway sponsored by Chris!

The other day it dawned on me that I had no idea if there is a publicly available digital archive of Jane Austen’s manuscripts or papers. I set off to find out via Google. 

A search for “Jane Austen archives” netted 8,160,000 results. The first half dozen results were hits on the Internet Archive which led to various texts by or about Austen. (Do check out if you’re not familiar — set a timer though, because you might find yourself going down a deep rabbit hole.)

The second to the last result on the first page was what I had in mind — “Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts”. This resource is the result of a three-year project funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council. Led by Professor Kathryn Sutherland of Oxford University, a team of researchers set out to digitize and make available online all of Jane Austen’s manuscripts. This is no small task when a collection is in one location, let alone scattered in various institutions on different continents.

Why aren’t Jane Austen’s manuscripts in one place?

After her death in 1817, Jane’s papers passed on to her sister Cassandra. As is widely known and wildly lamented, Cassandra burned the bulk of Jane’s letters in 1843. After Cassandra’s death in 1845, Jane’s manuscripts and papers were dispersed among family members. Then, in the 1920s, they were scattered among various institutions and private collections.

What’s the big deal about manuscripts?

Manuscripts are invaluable for what they can tell us about a writer’s creative process and growth. Writers don’t always save early drafts of their work in progress. It is fascinating to see what changes a writer makes on a draft: different word choices made, sentences sharpened, whole paragraphs or more cut, sentences added between lines or in the margins. It is amazing that some of Jane Austen’s manuscripts have survived for 200 years.

It can be a magical experience seeing a favorite writer’s handwriting for the first time. Looking at a handwritten manuscript helps you picture them sitting at their desk, pen in hand, forming letters, words, beloved lines, and whole pages of a well-loved story. And then they pause and gaze out the window or perhaps come back to the page the next day and cross out whole lines because they’ve thought of a better way to write what they want to stay, like this example of Persuasion.

You can see the actual manuscript on the right and the transcription with Jane’s edits on the left.

Prior to digital archives, it was time and cost prohibitive for scholars to visit these scattered manuscripts in person. By bringing the manuscripts together in this “virtual reunification,” opportunities for studying Austen’s creative process have become accessible to all for the first time. 

Unfortunately, digital files and the technology used to display them as intended are often much shorter lived than good old paper files. This is the case if you want to see a larger, zoomable image on “Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts.” The site was created using Adobe Flash Player for such display, a technology which is no longer supported. There is an editorial note on the home page explaining this and stating that they are looking for a new display option. However, don’t let that stop you from checking out the site. You can still see smaller images of the documents and read the transcription such as this example of a note Jane wrote.

If there are images you would like to see in full or zoom in on, there might be other options. The owner of each manuscript presented on “Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts” is listed. For example, the note “Profits of my Novels” is owned by the Morgan Library & Museum in NYC. You can access the digital copy on the Morgan’s site, zoom in, and also read details about the document in the accompanying notes. Below is a zoomed in screenshot of the note. Click the image to explore Jane’s note for yourself.

Professor Sutherland also edited a hardcover edition of the project which was published in 2018 by Oxford University Press: Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts

There might be more Jane Austen digital archives out there, but this one will keep me busy during this year’s Austen in August. Do you enjoy poking around on digital archives? If you do, whether they are Austen related or not, please share your favorite(s)! 

Thanks so much, Chris, for this interesting exploration! Austenites, remember to stop by again tomorrow, August 5th, for our first event giveaway, generously offered by Chris.

Austen In August Year 10! #AustenInAugustRBR


Welcome to the Master Post for our 10th Annual Austen in August event! This is a one-month event focused on all things Jane Austen, including her primary texts, any re-imaginings of her works, biographies, critical texts, etc. In mid-June, I announced sign-ups for the event, and was excited to discover that people are ready to come back to Jane! I know many of you, like me, have been anxious to get started, so thank you all for your interest, for signing-up, and for spreading the word.

I have a few things planned for this month-including giveaways, guest posts, and, of course, my own reading and reviewing of Jane Austen works. I plan to share some favorite posts from years past, too, in celebration of an entire decade of this event!

There’s also a group read of Mansfield Park happening this month, so if you haven’t picked a text, that might be a good one!  

First, let’s talk logistics: Whenever you review a book or write a post related to the event, please link it in the comments section of this master post and include some kind of title or description. This will ensure that others will know what your post is about before they click on it. Please make sure to only link-up your posts in the comments on this main post!

Whenever you link a post, you will become eligible to win the giveaways that I will be hosting here throughout the month. The only way to be entered for these prizes is to make sure your posts are linked-up here (this includes reviews of the books you’ve read, commentary on Austen topics, giveaways, or any other posts directly related to this event).

There are also going to be giveaways hosted by participants of the event (thank you for your generosity!). Specific details for each of these giveaways may be different, so be sure to read the rules on those giveaway posts carefully and enter if you are interested! For any of the giveaways, here or at other participants’ blogs, you will need to be pre-registered (by August 3rd) for this event in order to win. 

Be sure to use #AustenInAugustRBR to chat about this event on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc. 

Are you participating? What are you planning to read? Let us know in the comments! 

Human Nature by Serge Joncour

Set in 1999, as France prepares to welcome a new millennium, the country is battered by storms. But holed up on the farm where he and his three sisters grew up, Alexandre seems less afraid of the weather than of the police turning up. Alone in the darkness, he reflects on the end of a rural way of life he once thought would never change. And his thoughts return to the baking hot summer of 1976, when he met Constance, an environmental activist who fell for the beauty of the countryside and was prepared to use any means to save it.

Human Nature by Serge Joncour, translated by Louise Rogers Lalaurie, will be published on August 8, 2022 (Gallic Books).

The original edition of Human Nature won the 2020 Prix Femina. It is an impassioned, ambitious novel that charts three decades of political, social, and environmental upheaval in rural France, where Joncour’s previous novel, Wild Dog, was also set. Told through the lives of a French farming family, Joncour explores the delicate bond between the human and natural worlds as they threaten to snap.

Joncour is interested in the different relationships people have with nature depending on whether they live in the countryside or an urban environment. He offers a critique of globalization, corporate greed, and the notion of progress—adapt or die. Human Nature will stir up conversation and debate about commonplace things like supermarkets, highways, urban environmentalism, intensive agriculture, productivity, mad cow, and livestock disease.  

About the Author: Serge Joncour is a French novelist and screenwriter. He was born in Paris in 1961 and studied Philosophy at university before deciding to become a writer. His 2016 novel Repose-toi sur moi won the Prix Interallie and was published in English in March 2022 under the title, Lean on Me. He lives in Paris.

About the Translator: Louise Rogers Lalaurie is a translator from the French and the author of Matisse: The Books. Her translations have been shortlisted for the CWA Daggers and Best Translated Book awards.

Many thanks to Meryl Zegarek Public Relations for the review copy of this book.

Crush by Richard Siken

I read Richard Siken’s Crush mostly on the recommendation of a co-worker, though I’ve owned the collection for quite some time (as evidenced by the fact that it ended up on my TBR Pile Challenge list this year!) I’m glad to have read it, though it wasn’t what I expected.

Given the title of the book, its praise as a notable work of gay poetry, and, yes, the collection’s cover image, I fully expected this collection to be about love. Sure, maybe a gnarly kind of love, but love poems nonetheless. Then I read Louise Glück’s ruminations in the Foreword. Here’s what she had to say:

“If panic is his ground note, Siken’s obsessive focus is a tyrant, the body. His title, Crush, suggests as much. In the dictionary, among the word’s many meanings, ‘to press between opposing obdies so as to break or injure; to oppress; to break, pound, or grind.’ Or, as a noun, ‘extreme pressure.’ Out of this cauldron of destruction, its informal meaning: infatuation, the sweet fixation of girl on boy. In Siken, boy on boy . . . The risk of obsessive material is that it may get boring, repetitious, predictable, shrill. And the triumph of Crush is that it writhes and blazes while at the same time holding the reader utterly: ‘sustaining interest’ seems far too mild a term for this effect. What holds is sheer art, despite the apparent abandon.”

Louise Glück

“It writes and blazes.” That’s it, exactly. And as you’ll see from her marvelous introduction, she begins with that action verb: not just crush, but “to crush.” There is a force and physicality to these poems, not just in their subjects, in which force, even brutality, is certainly present, but in the delivery. Siken intends that these poems will hit the psyche, the heart, the soul, and they do.

This is one of few poetry collections that I longed to re-read as soon as I finished it. (This is not to say that I don’t re-read poetry. I do, all the time. But I usually want a nice, long break between re-reading.) I felt almost desperate to revisit these to make sure I felt and understood them, and because I think I almost numbed myself to receiving them on the first read through. And then I went out and immediately ordered another Siken collection, War of the Foxes.

Crush won the 2004 Yale Younger Poets prize and was acclaimed not only by one of my favorite poets, Louise Gluck, but also by one of my favorite writers of all-time, Dennis Cooper. It was almost a given that I’d fall in love with this collection, and that I’d be disturbed by that fact if I thought about it too hard. But with poems like “A Primer for the Small Weird Loves” and “Little Beast,” how could I resist being crushed?

Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us. / These, our bodies, possessed by light. / Tell me we’ll never get used to it.

from “Scheherazade”

If you haven’t read Richard Siken, what are you waiting for?

Crush is Book 7 completed for my 2022 TBR Pile Challenge.