Programming note: Steyn's Song of the Week can now be heard weekly on Serenade Radio, every Sunday at 5.30pm British Summer Time. If you missed today's show, you can hear the repeat at 5.30am Monday UK time - that's 9.30pm Pacific Sunday evening on the West Coast of North America, or Monday lunchtime in Australia.
If that doesn't suit, Serenade has now added a second repeat on Thursdays at 9pm London time - that's 4pm Eastern.
Meanwhile, welcome along to the fiftieth audio adventure in our series Tales for Our Time. When we ballyhooed it yesterday, South Carolina Steyn Clubber Larry Durham could barely contain himself:
A new Tale for Our Time! It's like an early Christmas present!
We certainly hope so, Larry. In this case, it's an author listeners have been asking for since we launched this feature over four years ago. Veronica from Auckland, New Zealand:
I enjoy all aspects of the website but Tales for Our Time would have to be my favourite although it would be nice if you would include a few more lady novelists from time to time, Jane Austen wrote some good stories I believe :)
From across the Tasman, the doyenne of Down Under Steyn Clubbers Kate Smyth agrees:
Jane Austen would be great material for Tales for Our Time!
Wanda Sherratt, a First Week Founding Member from the Canadian capital, wanted Mansfield Park; Elisa Angel, a First Month Founding Member from the American capital, preferred Persuasion.
Alas, for this inaugural dip in Austen waters, I've opted for Northanger Abbey, the first novel Jane completed, although one that was not published until after her death. Every jobbing wordsmith will enjoy Miss Austen's foreword and its sniping at her original publisher:
This little work was finished in the year 1803, and intended for immediate publication. It was disposed of to a bookseller, it was even advertised, and why the business proceeded no farther, the author has never been able to learn. That any bookseller should think it worth-while to purchase what he did not think it worth-while to publish seems extraordinary. But with this, neither the author nor the public have any other concern than as some observation is necessary upon those parts of the work which thirteen years have made comparatively obsolete...
All that is "comparatively obsolete" are some of the original targets of Jane Austen's wit. Northanger Abbey is a satire of Gothic novels, to which our heroine Catherine is far too susceptible. That leads her to all kinds of dread speculations as to what's going on in the unused apartments of the eponymous abbey. But the books Miss Austen is satirizing are long forgotten, and hers endures on its own merits, not least for its vivid portrayal of social relations between the sexes in what for Catherine is the too, too exciting city of Bath. As we discuss in my introduction, "social relations between the sexes" have evolved since then, not least in the sense that there are no longer any "sexes", but there is wisdom in young Jane's account that will outlast even the most novel pronouns.
To hear me read the first part of Northanger Abbey, Mark Steyn Club members should please click here and log-in.
We hope Miss Austen will appeal to the lads, too, but, if you pine for blokier fare, we have the male camaraderie of Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, and its Manhattan equivalent in P G Wodehouse's Psmith, Journalist - oh, and some fusty notions of honor and duty in a certain other fellow's The Prisoner of Windsor. Tales for Our Time in all its variety is both highly relevant and a welcome detox from the madness of the hour: over four years' worth of my audio adaptations of classic fiction starting with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's cracking tale of an early conflict between jihadists and westerners in The Tragedy of the Korosko. To access them all, please see our easy-to-navigate Netflix-style Tales for Our Time home page. We've introduced a similar tile format for my Sunday Poems and also for our Hundred Years Ago Show.
We launched The Mark Steyn Club over four years ago, and I'm overwhelmed by all those members across the globe who've signed up to be a part of it - from Fargo to Fiji, Vancouver to Vanuatu, Cook County to the Cook Islands, West Virginia to the West Midlands. As I said at the time, membership isn't for everyone, but it is a way of ensuring that all our content remains available for everyone.
That said, we are offering our Club members a few extras, including our monthly audio adventures by Dickens, Conrad, Kafka, Gogol, Louisa May Alcott, H G Wells, George Otwell, Baroness Orczy, Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Louis Stevenson - plus a couple of pieces of non-classic fiction by yours truly. You can find them all here. We're very pleased by the response to our Tales - and we even do them live occasionally, and sometimes with special guests.
I'm truly thrilled that one of the most popular of our Steyn Club extras these last four-plus years has been our nightly radio serials. If you've enjoyed them and you're looking for a present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, I hope you'll consider our special Club Gift Membership. Aside from Tales for Our Time, The Mark Steyn Club does come with other benefits:
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
~The chance to engage in live Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly, such as this Thursday's;
~Transcript and audio versions of The Mark Steyn Show, Mark's Mailbox, and our other video content;
~My video series of classic poetry;
~Booking for special members-only events, such as The Mark Steyn Christmas Show, assuming such events are ever again lawful;
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world, assuming "live appearances" become a thing once more;
~Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest;
~and the opportunity to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget that special Gift Membership. As soon as you join, you'll get access not only to Northanger Abbey but to all the other yarns gathered together at the Tales for Our Time home page.
One other benefit to membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, if you think my rendering of an enduring classic is less equal than others, feel free to have at it.
And do join us tomorrow evening for Part Two of Northanger Abbey, and every night circa 1am Greenwich Mean Time thereafter.