Books

Different sides of the same Jane

Not that we need 33 reasons to read Jane Austen, but this collection of essays lets authors and critics from this century and the last explore Austen’s enduring appeal.

“Austen’s novels provide not only the aesthetic pleasure of a good read but also the intellectual engagement of a good think,” editor Susannah Carson writes in her introduction to this engaging collection; her observation is the thread that unites most of the essays.

A good mix of the scholarly, the straightforward and the fun, the pieces’ authors include noted writers E.M. Forster and Virginia Woolf, contemporary authors Amy Bloom and Martin Amis, and even filmmaker Amy Heckerling, discussing the process of turning “Emma” into the movie “Clueless.”

The writers work in all sorts of interesting tidbits about Austen’s life, which will be new to those who have not read a biography of Austen. And the nice thing about a collection of short essays is that if there’s one you find yourself not really into, you can just skip to the next one.

This book is not just for Austen fans but for those who wonder what all the fuss is about, and no matter which category you fall into, it will make you want to

read — or reread — all of Austen’s novels.

Duke University

publishes Obama’s mother’s dissertation

S. Ann Dunham, a Wichita native and the mother of President Obama, received a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Hawaii in 1992.

Her dissertation was based on research she conducted while living in Indonesia, but she died before she was able to prepare it for publication.

At the request of her daughter, Dunham’s graduate adviser and a fellow student revised the manuscript, and the result, “Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia” has been released by Duke University Press (368 pages, $27.95).

The book, about village metalworkers in Java, is tightly focused on this narrow topic, as most dissertations are.

An afterword for this edition explores Dunham’s study in the broader anthropological context and notes that “contemporary and subsequent studies have confirmed Dunham’s findings; indeed, if

anything, the trends she observed proved greater than most of

us at the time ever imagined

possible.”

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