Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

That’s the title of Laurie Viera Rigler’s new and fun book.  The basic premise is that a pouty L.A. girl "wakes up" in the body of a character in a Jane Austen novel; here is the book’s website.  She also finds herself courted by an ardent suitor, Edgeworth, who wants an answer to his marriage proposal and soon.  My wonderings were skewed as usual:

1. Would I, at first, have to act sick and crazy so as to cover up what are in fact more systematic lapses from accepted codes of social behavior?

2. If I am a rational Bayesian, what percentage of "transported people" should I expect to find in my new world?  (It is indicative that our heroine thinks she is very special and isn’t much concerned with this question.)  Would such people be natural allies or enemies?

3. If I met another transported person, could I figure this fact out?  How long would it take and what are the best hints to drop?  Should I just mention "the Boston Red Sox" and see what happens?

4. Living in such a world, how useful is it to know how the novel ends?  (This is a theme in the story.)  Could such knowledge compensate for not understanding the non-articulated rules of this world very well?  What rate of interest should I pay on borrowed money, given the presence of speculative opportunities?

5. Being a rational Bayesian, how should I revise upwards my estimates that the world is ruled by an evil Demi-Urge, and what does this imply for the optimal degree of ethical behavior?

It is a sad commentary on our educational system that Courtney, the heroine of the novel, never ponders such a question.

6. At what percentage of "transported people" would we expect to see an impact on real GDP, and would this impact be positive or negative?

Readers, what other questions should I be asking?


You seem to assume that the transported will be American.

Most of my friends would be just as confused as confused by the Red Sox remark as Darcy would be.

You'd have to be careful with being so sure how the novel ends. It might not even end up getting published:

Austen wouldn't if she wrote today.

Think of all of the technological innovations you could bring. You could pretty quickly amass great wealth if you wanted to. Perhaps time traveling "inventors" were the source of the industrial revolution...

My main thought experiment would be predominately introspective: assuming that my actions within the period covered by the plot of the book would be predetermined, could I detect any difference between my actions pre and post and end of the fictional narrative? Could I change anything within the narrative? What does success or failure tell me about free will generally?

Is there a true world outside the obvious setting of the book? Or is the scope of the book all there is?

If there is a larger world, might there may be more than one book/story being told in it? Are they related?

When the story ends, will you remain in the world, or somehow be transported back out?

Is there a way to transport yourself back out?

Will your actions and choices in this world affect you in the other?

BTW, this sort of scenario is addressed in Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Convenant books.

Just a plug for "Replay" by Ken Grimwood, which deals with some of these questions more directly

3. Good point that a phrase like "Red Sox" may be obscure even to near
contemporary transportees if they're not American, or possibly even to
some who are. I would think using a word whose semantic meaning has changed
a lot over the intervening years but still doesn't mark you as particularly
odd to the people of your new era. "Gay" might be a good word to use.
"I wonder if that fellow's gay?" you could say, and see how your interlocutor
responds. In reality though, most modern people would probably have great difficulty
speaking in convincing early 19th century English. Think how hard it would be
for many Americans just to pass convincingly as a modern Briton, then add an unfamiliar
spoken accent just a little different from any you've actually heard, the topical
references, the semantic shifts, the deep grounding in Bible stories, Greek myth and rural folklore that, chance are, you don't share, etc.
I think transportees would be pretty easy to spot, certainly by other transportees.

But be careful Patrick. If you play or hum the "ode to Joy" from
Beethoven's 9th people may just assume you're playing Haydn a little freely.

Heh, I wish I were musically literate (I know there's a word for that, I just don't know the word). On the plus side, a transportee would most likely have as much knowledge of Haydn as I do, and still identify the song as Beethoven. I just have to adjust the odds of being considered a musical genius downward.

Of course, I completely disregarded Tyler's question at the end of the post.
You should also be considering how much time you will spend in the Austen novel. Your actions depend greatly on whether you spend a day, a month, a year, 10 years, or the rest of your life in the book (there could bean epilogue with your character as an elderly man/woman and you have to live out the parts the book omits). And can you reliably say the odds of you being transported back in the next 24 hours don't change the longer you spend in the period? If you are transported into the novel somewhere in the middle, what's saying you won't be transported back out until the end?

Also, you know you're a recovering econ grad student when you hear "Edgeworth" and immediately design a simple exchange economy in your head.

Why do you assume the transports would be from contemporary times? Wouldn't it be just as likely to have transports from far in the future or past? Even aliens, or other characters from someone elses fiction?

The first concern would have to be to find a way of blending in to the family you find yourself with. I would suggest that saying you are from the future, and everyone else is merely fictional, would be a pretty good way of booking a ticket to the nearest asylum. Possibly a fall, followed by a complete loss of memory may be the safest way of explaining why you have no recollection of your name, your family members names, how to dress yourself, where things are in the house, etc. I know its a cliche, but it might not have been in Austen's time.

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