Jane Austen Letter Reveals the Author’s Guilty Pleasure — Yes, It’s a Kind of Book

Plus this decade’s Little Women squad is officially assembling

The Persuasion author, just killing time between Gothic melodramas.

It’s a gloomy, rainy day in New York City, which means we’ve searched the nooks and crannies of the internet to find all the best literary news. In today’s roundup, an auctioned Jane Austen letter reveals her guilty reading pleasure, telephone booths in Times Square share oral histories of the city’s immigrants, a lost Maurice Sendak picture book has been found, and a new Little Women adaptation will be coming to TV screens soon.

Jane Austen Was a Little More Goth Than Previously Suspected

According to a newly found letter, Jane Austen may have had a weakness for the Gothic novels her own work mercilessly mocked. Austen’s Northanger Abbey clearly pokes fun at the dramatic tendencies and themes of Gothic literature; yet, Austen may not have been as critical of the genre as the novel implies. A letter to her niece — written as a note to the author, Rachel Hunter, whose book the two had recently read — both parodies and praises the style and happenings of the story. The letter was clearly written with comic intent, but it also tells us that Austen was still reading these melodramatic, Gothic texts even a decade after publishing Northanger Abbey. The letter is being auctioned off by members of the British writer’s family on July 11th alongside two other correspondences between the two women — all selling for as much as £162,000. Like most of us, it seems Austen sometimes just couldn’t resist a good ol’ trashy novel.

[The Guardian/Danuta Kean]

Phone Booths in Times Square Now Sharing Immigrants’ Stories

To offer a respite from the maelstrom that is Times Square — with its blinding lights, aggressive costumed characters, and angry New Yorkers scurrying to get to work on time — a new art installation is prompting visitors and residents to duck into a phone booth and listen to some real New York stories. Three repurposed telephone booths have been placed in Duffy Square (between 45th and 47th streets) by Times Square Arts, a public program of the Times Square Alliance, allowing people to step in, close the doors, and simply listen. (And for those who like to read, each booth also includes a ‘phone book’ laying out the backstory of the city’s various immigrant communities.) Titled “Once Upon a Place,” the project documents 70 immigrant histories in the form of oral storytelling. Their placement within Times Square is explained by the iconic location’s inherently visible, international nature. The art installation’s creator, Aman Mojadidi, expressed the difficulty he had in collecting stories given the country’s current political climate, especially regarding immigration. Despite these troubles, eventually Mojadidi was able to successfully document the journeys of New Yorkers from a wide range of countries. The installation will be up until September 5th, urging people to stop and take a listen to the often unheard stories that make up New York City.

[New York Times/Tamara Best]

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Unpublished Maurice Sendak Picture Book Unearthed

Five years after Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak’s death, an unpublished picture book has been found in his archives. Titled Presto and Zesto in Limboland, the work was unearthed in Connecticut by Lynn Caponera, president of the Maurice Sendak Foundation, who promptly sent a copy to Sendak’s editor, Michael di Capua. The book appears to be a kind of inside joke between its co-authors, Sendak and his frequent collaborator, Arthur Yorkinks. The text references the pair’s nicknames for each other: Yorinks was Presto, and Sendak was Zesto. The illustrations were created in 1990 as additions to the London Symphony Orchestra’s performance of a composition that set Czech nursery rhymes to music. Although it was forgotten for many years while other projects were on the front-burner, Yorinks said that “the memory of writing it originally flooded back in a wonderful kind of way. We always had a lot of laughs for two really depressed guys.” Presto and Zesto in Limboland is now set to be published in fall 2018, a fitting homage to the late influential author and illustrator.

[The Guardian/Danuta Kean]

New Little Women Adaptation Coming to BBC and PBS

The BBC and PBS know what their fans want, especially when it comes to co-productions. Literary adaptations, cozy mysteries and more literary adaptations. It seems the networks are at it again, this time with the announcement of a new Little Women reboot. Based on the Louisa May Alcott classic, the three-part TV miniseries will be coming to BBC One and Masterpiece on PBS, written by the Academy-Award winning creator of Call the Midwife, Heidi Thomas. Emily Watson is set to play the family’s iconic matriarch, Marmee, while the March sisters will be played by four up-and-coming actresses: Maya Hawke as Jo, Willa Fitzgerald as Meg, Annes Elwy as Beth, and Kathryn Newton in the role of Amy. They have big shoes to fill. Past renditions have included luminaries and budding stars like Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn…You get the picture. Fortunately, this iteration’s women will have Angela Lansbury to guide them. Probably best to set your DVRs now, Alcott-heads.

[HuffPost/Claire Fallon]

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