Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Mar 30 2020 01:00PM

Plans are apparently progressing for Trip, a gay-themed Pride and Prejudice update set on the New York gay mecca of Fire Island and written by the American actor and comedian Joel Kim Booster. Quibi, a forthcoming video subscription service that will deliver ten-minute-long episodes (i.e., “QUIck BItes”) via phone app, has officially ordered up the series, which has been in the works since last fall.

Trip “centres around two best friends who set out to have a legendary week-long summer holiday,” explains the entertainment news site C21Media.

Although Quibi launches next Monday, just in time to help us all survive the boredom of near-quarantine, it’s not clear to me if Trip will be available from the get-go, or not until later on: QuiBi’s site features trailers for some of its projected fifty original shows, but not that one. Whenever Trip arrives, you’ll have to watch on your phone, which is not something my middle-aged eyes enjoy.

Still, it’s always fun to discover a fresh take on Austen’s stories – and worst-case scenario, it’s only a ten-minute commitment.

By Deborah Yaffe, Mar 5 2020 02:00PM

I was a teenage book nerd. Also a pre-teen one. And an adult one.

Basically, I’ve had my nose in a book (or, more recently, my eyes on a Kindle) since the age of five. I loved going to the public library on Saturdays, stacking my gleanings next to my bed, and watching the height of the pile drop precipitously over the course of the week. I loved school recess, because it meant I could curl up in a corner of the playground and read. My idea of heaven: a rainy weekend afternoon with a good book and nothing else to do. My idea of hell: stuck somewhere (doctor’s office, airplane ride, line at the post office) with nothing to read.

So I was touched by the story of Callum Manning, a thirteen-year-old from northeastern England who was reduced to tears when kids at his new school added him to their group chat and then availed themselves of the opportunity to mock his Instagram account, on which he reviews his reading (“Yo, it's me Cal and I LOVE books.”)

Middle schoolers are a feral lot. You couldn’t pay me enough to return to those days.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending: When Callum’s big sister tweeted the tale over the weekend, hoping to encourage a few of her friends to cheer him up by following him on Instagram, her tweet went viral. Soon, she had replies from Waterstones, a leading British bookseller; Shakespeare’s Globe theater in London, praising Callum for his love of Romeo and Juliet; numerous survivors of childhood bullying; and a slew of famous writers, including Neil Gaiman, who tweeted, “All the interesting people I know were once considered weird kids with books. Including me.”

Within two days of his sister’s tweet, the follower count for Callum’s Instagram account, on which he’s posted his reactions to books ranging from Crime and Punishment to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, stood at 245,000. Take that, bullies!

In case you were wondering, Callum seems to be reading Pride and Prejudice right now, and so far, so good. “I've started reading this cause I saw some good reviews,” he reports, with more enthusiasm than punctuation. “It's great I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it was but it's great for you guys who like romance/old English literature.”

Welcome to the book-nerd club, Callum. Some of us actually have annual meetings.

By Deborah Yaffe, Feb 27 2020 02:00PM

Apparently, I’m not the only Jane Austen completist out there.

Last week, as blog readers will recall, the New York auction house Swann Galleries auctioned off first editions of all Austen’s novels – three-volume sets of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma, and the combined four-volume edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

The sale result can be summed up in the headline on Swann’s press release: “Jane Austen Rules.” (Well, we knew that already, right?)

“Most any Jane Austen first edition appearance is noteworthy, but to have all six of her major novels, each one complete and in period binding, helped make this a wildly successful and memorable sale,” said John D. Larson, whose Swann title -- “literature specialist” -- pretty much sums up my dream job.

Larson’s claim of wild success was no doubt a reference to the bottom line. Each book sold for far more than its estimated high price, with Pride and Prejudice going for $100,000, more than three times the estimated high of $30,000.* Indeed, the total for all six novels came to a whopping $240,625, more than double the projected high of $106,000.

But what really makes this story thrilling – for me, at least – is the fact that a single buyer managed to snag all six.

Swann’s press release doesn’t identify this lucky, and well-heeled, collector/completist, except to say that they registered bids through “the Swann Galleries app” during “competitive bidding.”

Imagine being the kind of person who a) loads an auction house’s app on your phone; and b) has nearly a quarter of a million dollars to spend on books. Now that’s a completist after my own heart.

* Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey, as you might expect, drew the lowest prices. Apparently, even auction-house bidders love them less.

By Deborah Yaffe, Jan 30 2020 02:00PM

In September, we suspected. We hoped. We crossed our fingers. And now it’s confirmed. In perhaps the least likely household on Planet Earth, a nest of Jane Austen fans has apparently hatched.

Yes, it’s true. The Kardashians are Janeites.

Four months ago, blog readers will recall, Kourtney Kardashian, the eldest of the K-named tribe, posted an Instagram shot of herself draped across an empty bathtub reading a handsome hardback of Emma. Admittedly, it was all in the service of selling an essential-oil diffuser, but still.

Then, last week, Khloe Kardashian, third of that line, posted snapshots on Instagram of her daughter True’s bookshelves. And there, strewn oh-so-casually amid a set of pink-flowered teacups, were copies of Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice. No word on whether these are gifts from Aunt Kourtney, but there’s no essential-oil diffuser in sight, so perhaps not.

With little True Thompson apparently a newly minted member of the family book club, we now face the possibility of not one but two generations of Kardashian Janeites. Given that True won't celebrate her second birthday until April, however, we may have to wait awhile before we can be certain she shares her foremothers’ excellent taste in literature.

I realize that the more cynical among you may argue that the Kardashians’ conspicuous Austen-love is all for appearances’ sake, a calculated brand-management effort designed to convey Girly Yet Smart. You may be ungenerously tempted to bring up Miss Bingley’s efforts to read the second volume of Mr. Darcy’s book, or Mrs. Elton and her Italian endearments.

But no! I refuse! I prefer to think that the Kardashian women have developed an appetite for lucid prose and biting social satire, to go along with the bikinis and bling.

Really, though, the only thing that will settle this dispute is for Kim Kardashian West to add her vote. Perhaps an Instagram shot of her beach basket, with a copy of Mansfield Park nestled amid the high-thread-count towels and organic sunscreen? A selfie with a Sense and Sensibility paperback tucked into a plunging neckline? An arty photo of a pensive Kim, captioned “You pierce my soul”? The possibilities are endless.

By Deborah Yaffe, Jan 13 2020 02:00PM

Search engine optimization and web analytics are topics about which I know very little. (OK: nothing.) So when Google sends me its periodic report on the performance of my web site – yes, this very site – I mostly ignore it. (Go ahead. Tell me I should grit my teeth and learn this marketing stuff even though it bores me. I deserve the lecture.)

December’s Google report, however, included one tidbit hilarious enough to catch even my negligent eye. Apparently, the search query that most often brought viewers to my site that month was this: “you have bewitched me body and soul book page number.”

As blog readers know, I regularly fulfill my Janeite community service obligations by pointing out the Jane Austen movie quotes masquerading online as Jane Austen book quotes. Among their number is the line “You have bewitched me body and soul,” uttered by Matthew Macfadyen’s Darcy to Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth during the romantic climax of the 2005 movie of Pride and Prejudice.

In my opinion, this line is a cheesy cliché, but if you find it swooningly romantic, wallow away: I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours. Whatever its merits, however, it is inarguable that this line does not appear anywhere in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. You will search in vain for its page number. It's just not there. Wasn't written by Jane Austen. Sorry.

I have noted this fact from time to time, most recently in July, so presumably my site pops up when those with a thirst for accuracy – a quality that is becoming sadly rare in our era – try to nail down the provenance of the quote.

This is excellent news. Thanks, Google! But I still can't be bothered to learn about search engine optimization.

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