Deborah Yaffe

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More Austen therapy

By Deborah Yaffe, Aug 17 2017 01:00PM

Lately, Audible, the audiobook company owned by Amazon, seems to be having a bit of a Jane Austen moment.


Earlier this month, as you’ll recall, a recording of Pride and Prejudice was included on the company’s list of audiobooks appropriate for calming anxious dogs during their owners’ extended absences. And now comes word of an Audible advertising campaign in Australia in which Austen herself puts in an appearance -- yet again in a therapeutic context.


In two thirty-second spots available on YouTube, authors and their less-than-diligent readers attend a couples’ counseling session presided over by an avuncular Aussie therapist. In the Austen spot, Our Author – unaccountably wearing her bonnet indoors, but never mind – mourns, “I just can’t keep his attention,” while her bearded reader listens apologetically.


“It’s not you, it’s me,” he explains, like a weasely contemporary avatar of Willoughby. “I’m busy, and -- to be honest, you can be a bit difficult.”


Can this marriage be saved? But of course -- the solution, apparently, is to listen to Austen on audiobook.


As a card-carrying Janeite, I take a bit of umbrage at the notion that Austen is difficult – of all the great writers you could choose, she is surely among the most accessible – but I suppose that’s an argument for another day. Obviously, Audible’s sudden Austen obsession isn’t really about Austen: she’s a placeholder, filling the generic Famous and Inoffensive Classic Writer slot.


Presumably, Anais Nin didn’t qualify. Though I’d rather like to eavesdrop on that counseling session.


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