Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Feb 11 2016 04:37PM

You remember 1995, right? The beginning of that halcyon eighteen-month stretch during which six Jane Austen film adaptations, ranging in quality from pretty good to totally classic, were released on big and small screens? Happy days.

Well, it’s beginning to look like happy days might be here again. As I reported previously, already this year we’ve seen the Sundance Film Festival premiere of Love and Friendship, Whit Stillman’s adaptation of Lady Susan; the Hallmark Channel screening of Unleashing Mr. Darcy, based on a fan fiction update of Pride and Prejudice; and, just last weekend, the release of the movie version of the best-selling 2009 mashup Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

And now comes word that a UK production company is getting ready to shoot a film based on Sanditon, the novel Austen left unfinished at her death. Charlotte Rampling, currently up for a Best Actress Oscar, will star as Lady Denham. This is great news: except for the extremely uneven web adaptation Welcome to Sanditon, the sophomore-slump effort of the folks who brought us the fabulous Lizzie Bennet Diaries, no one has ever tried to film Sanditon, whose seventy-five-ish pages tantalize with the promise of another great novel.

So far, it must be said, this current film boomlet hasn’t lived up to the high standard set by its1995-97 predecessor, which included the immortal Clueless, the iconic Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle Pride and Prejudice, and the sublime Emma Thompson/Ang Lee Sense and Sensibility. While Love and Friendship has earned excellent reviews, P&P&Z got a decidedly mixed reception and looks to be a financial failure. I haven’t seen either of those yet, but I can attest that Unleashing Mr. Darcy was execrable.

Still: Sanditon! Can’t wait. And as long as we’re mining lesser-known Jane Austen, do I have any takers for The Watsons? This seems like the time to do it.

By Deborah Yaffe, Aug 15 2013 01:00PM

"The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" was always going to be a hard act to follow.

Cleverly written and well-acted, LBD retold the story of Pride and Prejudice through the video diaries of a twenty-something communications grad student in contemporary California, supplemented with videos, Twitter messages and Tumblr posts ascribed to various secondary characters.

I was one of the insanely large number of fans – more than two hundred thousand YouTube subscribers! – who tuned in to LBD’s one hundred three-to-five-minute-long episodes, posted online between April 2012 and March 2013. I helped a Kickstarter campaign last spring raise nearly $460,000 – almost eight times the target amount – to pay for a DVD package. I refuse to admit how excited I was when an LBD panel was added to the program at next month’s conference of the Jane Austen Society of North America. (But – do you think Darcy’s going to be there?)

Against that backdrop, it’s been a tad dispiriting this summer to watch the LBD team’s follow-up Austen-based web series, "Welcome to Sanditon," fall flat.

By Deborah Yaffe, Aug 1 2013 01:00PM

I’ll be wrapping up my Sanditon Summer blog series – featuring discussion of completions, continuations, spinoffs and riffs inspired by Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon – later this month, after the airing of the final episode of "Welcome to Sanditon," the web series from the "Lizzie Bennet Diaries" team.

Meanwhile, I’m taking a break to pop a few champagne corks over the release on Tuesday of Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom, my non-fiction book about people who are crazy about Jane Austen.

Three years in the making, the book takes a look at a wide range of Austen fanatics, including yours truly. It’s reportage with a light sprinkling of memoir, and it’s been getting some enthusiastic early reactions from reviewers with Amazon’s Vine program. (Check out some other pre-publication mentions here.)

I’ll be guest blogging here and there throughout the month (you can find me on the Roof Beam Reader on Saturday), and I’m scheduled to appear on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show on Tuesday morning. You can listen live around 11:20 am (EDT) if you’re in the New York area, or find the show online.

And if you want to buy a copy of the book – or maybe two! -- pick your favorite source here.

By Deborah Yaffe, Jun 17 2013 01:00PM

The sky is blue, the sun is warm, and it seems only appropriate to spend the summer at the beach – which, for Janeites, means at Sanditon, the fictional seaside town where Jane Austen set the novel she left unfinished at her death.

Sanditon is on Janeite radar screens these days because the makers of the delightful “Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” a web series updating Pride and Prejudice as a video blog, are trying to work the same magic on Austen’s unfinished fragment, in a version called “Welcome to Sanditon.” (A month along, the results are. . .wobbly, but last Monday’s episode seemed like a return to form, so I remain hopeful.)

“Welcome to Sanditon” got me thinking about the other efforts made over the years to finish the manuscript that Austen left behind. She made a tantalizing beginning, as I wrote here earlier this year: in twelve chapters that fill about seventy printed pages, Austen assembles a promising cast of characters but gives few hints about what, exactly, will happen to them.

Unsurprisingly, this truncated MS has tempted more than one Janeite to try her (or sometimes his) hand at a conclusion. Although Sanditon spinoffs are relatively few – nothing like the groaning shelves of Pride and Prejudice sequels – they provide an interesting snapshot of the range of Austen fan fiction, and the range of attitudes toward Austen and her work.

By Deborah Yaffe, May 16 2013 01:00PM

“Welcome to Sanditon,” the new web series from the creators of “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” premiered its first video Monday (with another due today). Jane Austen wrote only about seventy-five pages of Sanditon before she became too ill to continue; she introduces the characters who seem likely to figure centrally in the plot, but the fragment breaks off before the direction of her story becomes clear.

The big news about “Welcome to Sanditon” seems likely to be its innovative use of social media to turn viewers into co-creators – even residents -- of the seaside town of Sanditon. But we Janeites will be more interested in whether this update manages to illuminate Austen’s original even while inevitably going beyond it.

Quill pen -- transparent BookTheWriter transparent facebook twitter