Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Feb 29 2016 02:00PM

I love Clueless. Doesn’t everyone? Last summer marked the twentieth anniversary of the film’s release, and the milestone inspired a slew of fond reminiscences (for instance, here and here). Amy Heckerling’s 1995 movie, which updates Emma to high school in Beverly Hills, is clever, funny and touching. What’s not to like?

So when I drew up the agenda for the Austen Catch-Up Project, wherein I spend 2016 bridging a few of the gaps in my Janeite knowledge, As If! The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling, the Cast, and the Crew was a natural addition to the list.

As If! is the brainchild of pop culture journalist Jen Chaney (or, as the back cover has it, “acclaimed pop culture journalist Jen Chaney.”) Loving Clueless as I do, I would like to report that the book matches its subject in wit and heart. Alas -- no. I hate to be way harsh, but the book is, if not quite a full-on Monet, then at the very least a big disappointment.

By Deborah Yaffe, Jan 28 2016 02:00PM

In 1913, Sybil G. Brinton, the thirty-eight-year-old daughter of a wealthy carpet manufacturer from Worcestershire, England, published Old Friends and New Fancies, the first Jane Austen sequel. Brinton’s book blithely mingles characters from all six Austen novels, imagining romantic sparks flying between Mr. Darcy’s shy little sister, Georgiana, and Fanny Price’s dashing naval brother, William. Pemberley, Mansfield, Longbourn – hey, it’s all Jane Austen!

A similar spirit animates the Austen-inspired TV/web series Austentatious, a viewing of which was my first self-imposed assignment in the Austen Catch-Up Project, wherein I spend 2016 plugging a few of the gaping holes in my Janeite education. Austentatious concerns the adventures of modern-day twenty-something Elinor Dashwood, her sister Marianne, and their friends Emma Woodhouse and Elizabeth Bennet, along with assorted male colleagues, pals and love interests.

For us edgier Janeites, Austentatious has an unpromising pedigree: it’s distributed by SunWorld Pictures, which calls itself “the studio for wholesome entertainment.” These are the folks who brought us the cringe-inducing, unintentionally hilarious Austen update Scents and Sensibility, whose credit list overlaps significantly with that of Austentatious.

Austentatious’ first season – ten episodes of twenty-two-minute each – was released on DVD last year and remains available online through the Dove Channel, a streaming service dedicated to “family-approved” and “faith-friendly” video offerings. (A second season may appear, depending on the success of Season One.)

By Deborah Yaffe, Jan 4 2016 02:00PM

The first days of the new year are a time for bracing confessions of inadequacy, so here’s (one of) mine: I’m a lazy Janeite.

Every month or two, I notice a glowing review of a newly released Austen-related book, and I think, “I should buy that.” Or a Janeite acquaintance mentions the insights she gleaned from a classic work of criticism, and I think, “I really should have read that.” Or my Google alert tosses up a link to an obscure Austen-themed game or puzzle or straight-to-video adaptation, and I think, “That sounds fun. I should check it out.”

And then life -- with its laundry and its work deadlines and its tempting romance novels -- intervenes, and I never get around to any of it.

But now it is 2016! The air is fresh! The slate is clean! I will do better! And to ensure that this time I really will, I’m putting my private resolutions into bloggily public form and announcing my year-long Austen Catch-Up Project.

Subject to change, it’s going to go something like this, with blogs to announce my results along the way:

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