Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Page 69: Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 

We put Ted Scheinman's Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan to the test

Set up page 69 for us. What are we about to read?

This is from the second chapter, and it picks up partway through a visual survey of the Jane Austen Society of North America's public market at the society's annual summit. In film terms, what you're seeing here is a portion of a tracking shot.

What is Camp Austen about?

It's a reported work of narrative nonfiction, all about the rhapsodic (and occasionally riotous) world of Jane Austen superfans. The book also doubles as a family memoir: Austen is very important to my mother's side of the family, and I use these family reflections to illuminate the larger world of Austen enthusiasts. I also offer short analyses of Austen's novels, and of her biography, that help explain why so many readers find themselves singularly drawn to Austen. A lot of Austen conferences are like a big party among a boisterous extended family, and I want readers to enjoy eavesdropping on the party as much as possible.

Do you think this page is a good reflection of the book overall? Does it align itself with the book's overall theme?

I think it does! You see most of the book's concerns here: the flirting, the crowdsourced costume advice, the radical democracy of the fan-fiction world, the sheer characters who inhabit this universe dedicated to Jane (“Stone Cold Jane Austen”!). Also, Janeites place a charmingly serious emphasis on apparent trivia, and I think we get a flavor of that on the page in question (furled vs. unfurled umbrellas, etc.). This page is more of a catalogue or epic list than most pages in the book, and you'll find more slapstick elsewhere, but I think this offers a representative taste.


[… Ed]ward Taylor, upon whom (the Austen letters indicate) Austen had “fondly doted.” Women and men dressed as period haberdashers will remain in character while pressing homemade bonnets upon you; other people dressed as period haberdashers do not remain in character but nonetheless press homemade bonnets upon you.

     Outside the market, authors perch behind a row of tables, selling and signing books and answering questions from their public. At one table, several of the world’s most decorated Austen scholars share sympathy over their colleagues’ physical ailments while fielding breathless questions from graduate students for whom the presence of these scholars has the effect of an oracular experience. Four tables to their right, another author is peddling romantic spin-offs of the Austen novels—there is even a subset of fan-fiction predicated on subtextual homoeroticism in the original books; you wouldn’t believe what Darcy and Bingley get up to when the rest of Netherfield is asleep—and, to her right, two authors are signing mystery novels (The Suspicion at Sanditon!). If you poked your head in from the street, you might meet Devoney Looser, a professor at Arizona State University and an accomplished roller-derbyist who, when she’s on skates, goes by the moniker “Stone Cold Jane Austen.” Depending on the year, you might bump into John Mullan, a perceptive critic of Austen who has also answered one of the enduring questions of Austenworld: How many umbrellas appear in the novels? How many of them are furled? (The answers are seven and six, respectively.)


Bio: Ted Scheinman is based in Southern California, where he works as senior editor at Pacific Standard magazine. His essays and reporting have appeared in the New York Times, the Oxford American, the Paris ReviewPlayboy, Slate, and elsewhere. His first book, Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan, is available via Farrar, Straus & Giroux/FSG Originals.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Scott Navicky 's Guide to Books & Booze

Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Books & Booze challenges participating authors to make up their own drinks, name and all, or create a drink list for their characters and/or readers using drinks that already exist. 

Today, Scott Navicky is throwing all the booze at the his recently released new book 3Essays onImagereality.

Ready to get your booze on???


An Anythingarian Boozehound’s Guide to Absinthe & Afternoon Drinking
(Alternative Title: Barry Barry Barry Bonds, Y’all)

James Joyce pinched the portmanteau from Jonathan Swift. I pinched it from Joyce, stripped it of its religious vestments, and added alcohol. When it comes to booze, I’m a renowned anythingarian: I’ll drink anything as long as it isn’t sold in a hardware store. The one constant in my alcohistory is absinthe. The protagonists in both Humboldt: Or, The Power of Positive Thinking and 3Essays on Imagereality are absintheminded. My favorite absinthes are Émile Pernot Vieux Pontarlier and Lucid Absinthe Supérieure. Both are classified as historic absinthes. (While technically American, Lucid is produced in the famous Combier distillery in Saumur, which, in addition to being a working distillery, is also an absinthe museum.)

When drinking absinthe, it is essential to be mindful of not only what you’re drinking, but when you are drinking it. Drinking absinthe too late in the evening can be an invitation to riotous escapades. The traditional Parisian l’heure verte, or “the green hour,” was five o’clock. Observing l’heure verte transformed me from an evening drinker into an afternoon drinker, and this transformation opened up a plethora of new drink possibilities. For example, I adore Irish Coffee and steadfastly maintain that a well-timed Irish Coffee can save your life, but I’m often underwhelmed by its presentation. The temperature tends to be too tepid and it’s usually gone too soon. To avoid this disappointment, I create a Barry Barry Barry Bonds, Y’all. Don’t bother looking this drink up in Mr. Boston: The Official Bartender’s Guide because it’s not in there. I conjured it. The recipe is wonderfully simple:

1 espresso
1 pint of Guinness

Simply pour the espresso into the Guinness & enjoy

But don’t be misled by the simplicity of this creation: finding a good Barry Barry Barry Bonds, Y’all isn’t easy. You either have to locate the perfect proximity between coffeeshop and pub, or stumble upon a bar that offers both good espresso and Guinness on tap. One of my favorite Barry Barry Barry Bonds, Y’all bars is named Nighttown after a famous Joycean portmanteau. (Within the Circe chapter of Ulysses, Nighttown is Joyce’s rechristening of Dublin’s red-light district, known to local Dubliners as Monto.)

Circe is foregrounded by a drinking party at the National Maternity Hospital. When the party becomes too raucous, the revelers, including both Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, relocate across the street to Burke’s Pub, where Stephen begins ordering absinthe. Immediately after Stephen places this order, an ominous toast appears in Latin.

Translation: We will all drink green poison, and the devil take the hindmost.

The woozy wobblers stay at Burke’s until chuckingout time. When the entourage spills out onto the street, the scene is set for absinthe’s finest hour. No other author has been able to so playfully portray absinthe’s lucid beauty alongside its accused lurid vulgarity.

Easily the longest chapter within the novel, Circe is a delight for quotehounds. Lewd chimpanzees wander the streets, as the famished snaggletusks of an elderly bawd protrude from a doorway. In the middle of a lengthy hallucination, Leopold Bloom vows to build the new Bloomusalem. The ghost of poor Paddy Dignam appears via metempsychosis. Leopold Bloom speaks to his dead father, while Stephen is confronted by his mother’s undead spirit. Amidst all of this greenmadness, a Hobgoblin appears kangaroohopping, and the beardless face of William Shakespeare appears in a hallway mirror to crow Iagogogo!

This is exactly why you shouldn’t drink absinthe too late in the evening. Of course, James Joyce might not agree. An anythingarian boozehound with a preference for Swiss wine from the Neuchâtel region, James Joyce insisted on never drinking before the sun went down.


Scott Navicky is the author of 3Essays on Imagereality (Montag Press, 2018) and Humboldt: Or, The Power of Positive Thinking (Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, 2014). He attended Denison University and the University of Auckland, where he was awarded an Honors Master’s Degree in art history with a focus on photography theory. He currently lives in Columbus, Ohio.