By now, the juxtaposition of sex with the supposedly decorous Jane Austen has lost much of its incongruity: We’ve all run across bodice-ripping Pride and Prejudice sequels, watched titillating film adaptations or read learned discussions about the symbolism of Lydia Bennet’s torn petticoat.
Similarly, the Jane Austen advice manual is a well-developed genre, with Austen’s plots, quotes or biography mined (not to say pillaged) for lessons about shaping a life, finding love, behaving properly or writing well.
As far as I’m aware, however, The Jane Austen Kama Sutra: A Playful Presentation of Sense & Sensuality, edited by Joelle Herr and available tomorrow, is the first book to meld the two genres: a Jane Austen sex manual.
I haven’t yet seen this new offering – no Kindle edition or electronic look-inside-the-book feature is available, presumably because of (ahem) the pictures -- and its Amazon listing is singularly vague: “Featuring the writer’s own words, Jane Austen Kamasutra [sic] teases readers and lovers into all sorts of twisted positions,” it promises.
Yes, apparently it’s all a joke – Amazon files the book under “Humor & Entertainment” and many of Herr’s earlier works seem to fall under the same rubric. My fingers are crossed that this effort will rise to the inspired heights of one of my favorite Austen parodies, 2001’s Pride and Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen.
Meanwhile, I am still chortling over the “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed” result generated by Amazon’s algorithm: The Prayers of Jane Austen.