Book Review: Camp Austen

If you have seen waves of articles about the Jane Austen fan community over the last month, it was likely part of the lead up to the release of Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan by Ted Scheinman.

Not only do I admire Jane Austen, I live a little like her, waiting for books to appear in my not-so-circulating library before I read them. Luckily, my county library is fast to purchase new books and I was able to read this book in a couple of delectable sittings.

The Book

The author writes a mini-ethnography/memoir through a retelling of a summer participating in a Jane Austen event.

I found myself immediately swept into this, whether for the familiarity with the immersive events that combine dancing and academia, or because I really enjoyed the tone the author set.

He seems to want to make a point that he is not the Janeite in his family, that title belongs to his mother (and indeed, his relationship with her does come into play in the story, in a very Austenesque way). Despite his misgivings, he serves as a sharp narrator for this experience, for surely “Camp Austen” (the Austen-event he was roped in to helping with) is nothing less than an experience.

There are times it feels the author has inadvertently encountered only the stuffiest of the Janeites. After a particularly rude interaction where someone is harangued for wordplay that makes Austen seems to sexy…

Like Julia, Harding finds remarkable the irony that there are Janeites who seem to have no sense of irony about themselves, no apparent glee for mischief, no inner Lizzy Bennet.

It’s an experience we, at Drunk Austen, have seen ourselves. People who want a very specific version of Austen, and believe everyone else should subscribe to it.

This is a delight for any of us who have spent time in any kind of Jane Austen related event that wasn’t just an academic talk, but an immersive experience. There are times it makes you feel happy to be part of the community, amused by familiar experiences and a little embarrassed thinking about what Jane would think of it all.

What you should drink with this:

I’d recommend port, aged and sweet, but strong.

Who should read this:

If you’ve ever longed to go to a Jane Austen event that involved dancing, discussion and Darcy, pick this up to live vicariously.

If you’ve ever attended one of these immersive events you’ll appreciate the novice, yet not really, perspective.

– Admin B

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