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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Nice or naff? You decide

“Fierce divisions have broken out among the Guardian books team as to whether this video, bringing a statue of Jane Austen to life, is delightful or naff,” the newspaper wrote last week. (The British slang word “naff” expresses roughly the same thought as the American “lame.”)

The video in question is a two-and-a-half-minute film made by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England, and posted on the Centre’s Facebook page. Strolling through Bath on what must be the most beautiful day of the English year, the magically awakened Austen statue drops in to a bookstore, tips a busker, buys an ice cream cone, cavorts in a meadow, and hops aboard a tour bus, all the while drawing apparently genuine stares from cell-phone-camera-toting passersby.

It’s all a bit precious for my taste, lacking in the Austenian wit that we Janeites love. (Imagine how entertaining it would have been to bring the magic Jane face-to-face with a shelf full of bawdy Pride and Prejudice sequels! But no: this Austen does nothing racier than jump off a swing.)

A similar video, developed as a promotion for the Jane Austen Society of North America’s 2012 annual meeting in Brooklyn, was funnier – I giggled pretty hard when that video’s time-traveling Jane Austen stood outside the Museum of Sex musing, “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”

So I’m afraid I’m in the “naff” camp when it comes to this new video. On the other hand, it’s a treat to see those beautiful Georgian buildings glowing in the sunshine.


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