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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Yet more on-screen Austen

I recognize that not everyone craves another Jane Austen-themed screen drama.

Some may have balked at the all! sex! all! the! time! hype surrounding Sanditon, the British TV series based on the novel Austen left unfinished at her death, which wraps up its eight-part UK run on Sunday night. Others may have reached saturation point earlier, with last year’s onslaught of terrible Austen-influenced Hallmark movies, or with the 2016 release of the appallingly bad Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. For still others, the aversion may go back decades – perhaps to the 1940 P&P adaptation that turned Lady Catherine de Bourgh into an old softie.

For the rest of us, however – those who will see anything, no matter how dubious, as long as a savvy marketer has slapped a Jane Austen label on it – I’ve got news of two planned Austen-ish projects.

--A contemporary update of Pride and Prejudice--wait, don’t fall asleep yet: I promise this is a little bit different—is coming to a cellphone near you.

The American actor and comedian Joel Kim Booster is writing the series -- Trip, set on the gay mecca of Fire Island, New York -- for the streaming platform Quibi, which serves up its dramas in ten-minute-long episodes (Quibi = quick bites) designed to be consumed via phone.

“The story centers around two best friends who set out to have a legendary week-long summer vacation with the help of cheap rosé and a cadre of eclectic friends,” explains the Hollywood news site Deadline. I guess we’ll have to wait for the show – no release date announced yet -- to find out if those besties are Jane and Elizabeth, or Darcy and Bingley.

As the LGBT+ site Pink News notes, this is not the first gay P&P: the 2017 movie Before the Fall, which I have yet to see, centered on a male-male romance. And that’s not even counting fanfic like Ann Herendeen's Pride/Prejudice, which gives both Darcy and Elizabeth same-sex interests.

I hate watching video on my phone – that’s one way you know I’m old – and I haven’t seen Booster’s earlier TV work. But he is the author of a sweet and wistful 2018 piece about the resonance of Austen’s work for gay readers. Plus, a savvy marketer has already slapped a Jane Austen label on Trip. So you know I’ll be watching.

--We Janeites do not owe our name to Rudyard Kipling’s 1924 short story “The Janeites”; the term was actually coined thirty years earlier by the Victorian literary critic George Saintsbury.

Still, Kipling’s oddly affecting tale of soldier-readers struggling to hold onto their sanity in the trenches of World War I marks a milestone in the popularization of the term. And so it’s intriguing to hear that a young Australian director is trying to raise money for a film based on Kipling’s story.

The project’s Indiegogo site doesn’t make clear whether the projected film would be a short or a feature, although given the sums involved, a short seems most likely. Director Toby Morris’s previous work seems to consist of music videos, commercial work, and shorts. And twelve days into the thirty-day campaign, fundraising is off to a slow start, with only $34 of a hoped-for $20,000 raised. (An earlier campaign raised $1,600, falling far short of its target; apparently Morris and producer Sean O'Reilly are trying again.)

I’m wishing them well this time around. As far as I know, "The Janeites" has never been filmed; this really would be an Austen screen drama we haven’t seen before.

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