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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe


As far as I know, David Foster Wallace had nothing to say about Jane Austen. (Admittedly, I don’t know for sure, since I’ve never read a word by DFW, the acclaimed postmodern novelist and essayist. But consultations with a fan closely related to me by blood suggest that, indeed, DFW wasn’t into JA.)

So it came as a pleasant surprise to see Jane Austen making an uncredited cameo appearance in The End of the Tour, the (wonderful) new film about DFW’s 1996 road trip with Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky.

Visiting the gargantuan Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., DFW, Lipsky and two female friends gaze up at a movie theater’s listings board, mulling over which feature to see. They reject an Adam Sandler vehicle before settling on Broken Arrow, the 1996 action thriller starring John Travolta as a villainous Air Force pilot bent on selling nuclear weapons to terrorists.

But for Janeites, the real news is the listed movie that the group doesn’t even consider: Sense and Sensibility, the Ang Lee film of Emma Thompson’s screenplay. Apparently not even the ladies are interested. Although we get a silly clip of Travolta taking a missile to the stomach, the most we see of Lee’s beautiful adaptation is a blurry background shot of the familiar green-and-yellow two-girls-in-bonnets poster, which the group passes on its way out of the theater.

If I were so inclined, I could probably milk all this for a metaphor: the iconic (male) author of a new kind of novel casting aside the iconic (female) progenitor of the old kind! The quintessential consumer/observer/critic of pop culture spurning the quintessential exemplar of high culture! I sense a dissertation coming on.

Or maybe DFW just didn't like costume drama.

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