Welcome to the latest in our series of audio adventures, Tales for Our Time. This month's pick is Jane Austen's first finished novel, Northanger Abbey - and I thank you for your kind words about our opening episodes.
How good is Jane Austen? Kevin Clark, a First Weekend Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club from Franklin, Tennessee (where I had the pleasure of being just a few months ago), writes:
I saw a list of greatest writers where Austen was ranked second, behind only Shakespeare. I only wish she'd written more.
Well, early death will do that to you, Kevin. That hit parade sounds a bit apples and oranges, given that one was a playwright and poet and the other a novelist. But, taking it at its word, that would make Miss Austen the greatest novelist of all time.
In tonight's episode of Northanger Abbey, Catherine deepens her friendship with Isabella, in the Pump Rooms, in the Crescent, or in the drawing room with suspect books:
They called each other by their Christian name, were always arm in arm when they walked, pinned up each other's train for the dance, and were not to be divided in the set; and if a rainy morning deprived them of other enjoyments, they were still resolute in meeting in defiance of wet and dirt, and shut themselves up, to read novels together. Yes, novels; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel-writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding—joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! If the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard?
That's a brilliant sentence, aptly confirming her place on Kevin's Top Ten.
If your tastes run to something a bit more directly pertinent to our times, you can hear my Orwellian adventure, Nineteen Eighty-Four, here.
If you have friends who might appreciate Northanger Abbey, Nineteen Eighty-Four or our other tales, we have a special Steyn Club Gift Membership that lets them in on that and on all the other fun in The Mark Steyn Club.
If you've only joined the Steyn Club in recent days and missed our earlier serials (Conan Doyle's The Tragedy of the Korosko, Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel, Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda, plus Kipling, Kafka, Dickens, Gogol, Louisa May Alcott, P G Wodehouse, H G Wells, Scott Fitzgerald and more), you can find them all on our easy-to-access Netflix-style Tales for Our Time home page. Indeed, it's so easy to access that we've introduced a similar format for the audio editions of The Mark Steyn Show.
The Mark Steyn Club is now in its fifth year, and helps keep all our regular content - whether in print, audio or video - out there in the world for everyone. In return, membership confers, aside from Tales for Our Time, a few other benefits:
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
~The opportunity 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 (if live stage shows are ever decriminalized);
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world, assuming any such things ever take place again;
~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 please join me tomorrow for Part Four of Northanger Abbey.