Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, Jan 11 2018 02:00PM

Some years ago, I attended a picnic sponsored by my local branch of the Jane Austen Society of North America, to which a fellow JASNA member had brought her small dog. Like many Janeites, she had named him after one of her favorite Austen characters. As a result, halfway through the afternoon, we all heard the witness to a moment of canine discourtesy gasp out a truly unexpected sentence: “Mr. Knightley just peed in Deborah’s purse!”


(As indeed he had. Luckily, the purse was washable.)


I’m not a pet-owner myself, but I have long enjoyed hearing about pets with Austen-related names. So I was delighted to stumble upon (a few weeks late, but never mind), this “Pet of the Week” article in the Sunday Post, a Scottish weekly, seeking a home for a black guinea pig named. . . Mr. Darcy.


Guinea pigs leave me cold, as a rule, but this one looks about as appealing as it’s possible for a rodent to be, even if his resemblance to either Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen is notional.


Nevertheless, the animal seems to have taken his famous name very much to heart. According to the article, Mr. Darcy “can be a little scatty upon being picked up,” but “he soon settles and will happily sit on your lap and enjoys being the centre of attention,” even eating out of your hand “if the mood takes him.”


Basically, that’s the plot of Pride and Prejudice right there. Mr. Darcy: difficult at first, but soon eating out of your hand, and always the center of attention.


For potential adoptive owners, the Scottish branch of the SPCA sounded only one cautionary note: “Mr Darcy has previously had tiffs when living with another male guinea pig.”


No word on the name of that unfortunate erstwhile roommate, but my money is on Mr. Wickham.


By Deborah Yaffe, Nov 2 2017 01:00PM

Keeping track of the many Jane Austen celebrations, conferences, festivals, and exhibits taking place around the world – especially during this bicentennial year – has been a full-time job. (Or would have been, had I been making any attempt at completeness.)


But imagine if we Janeites were actually trying to attend all these events, like rock fans following the band in hopes of racking up maximum concert coverage. (We could call ourselves Janeheads! Or Austen Nation! Or. . . prizes given for better suggestions. . .)


If such a Janeite pastime existed, this weekend we’d all be heading for Seattle, where the University of Washington is hosting what sounds like a totally fun one-day JaneFest, featuring booths, workshops and presentations on such topics as Regency dress, food, dance and letter-writing, along with discussions of Austen’s work. The day concludes with a Regency ball, which was, predictably, sold out a very, very long time ago.


This week, the university was also planning three lead-up events: an Austen game night last Thursday, a Regency dance workshop yesterday, and tonight a Regency clothing workshop (also sold out) led by fashion historian and JASNA Regional Coordinator Agnes Gawne, who graciously hosted me two years ago, when I spoke to JASNA’s Puget Sound chapter.


Sadly, I won’t make it to Seattle this weekend, and heaven only knows what’s coming up the rest of the year. (I don’t, because, like I said, I haven’t really tried to keep up.) What a long strange trip it’s been. . .


By Deborah Yaffe, Jun 11 2015 01:00PM

If you plan to be in northern New Jersey this coming Sunday, please stop by the Franklin Lakes Public Library, where I’ll be speaking about Jane Austen fandom and Among the Janeites.


The event will run from 2 to 3 pm in the meeting room of the library, 470 DeKorte Drive in Franklin Lakes. I’ll be signing books, as well. (All the details are on my Events page.)


I always love to meet fellow Janeites, so please join me this weekend!


By Deborah Yaffe, Aug 28 2014 01:00PM

Like so many of us, I retain fond, rose-colored memories of my college years, when I had nothing to do but read great books and discuss The Meaning of Life over bad coffee. (It may have been more complicated than that – I have dim memories of stressful exam periods and heartbreaking romantic disappointments – but I’ll stick to the rosy glow.)


In any case, imagine my glee at discovering that two enterprising juniors at my alma mater have founded Yale’s first Undergraduate Jane Austen Society. Google reveals that, last October, the group screened a film of Pride and Prejudice – no word on which one, although my money is on the 2005 Keira Knightley version – but I can’t find evidence of other events so far.


No matter: we all have to start small. No doubt if the founders pour themselves some bad coffee and sit down to talk, the ideas will soon materialize. Perhaps they’d like to invite me back for a speaking gig amid the rose-colored, ivy-encrusted halls. Yes, that was a hint.


By Deborah Yaffe, Nov 15 2013 04:42PM

Those wacky Jane Austen fans were the subject of a segment of ABC's "Nightline," which aired last night (early this morning, actually) and included a couple of excerpts from an interview with me, conducted during this year's Jane Austen Society of North America conference in Minneapolis.


Not sure what non-Janeites are going to make of all the references to Trekkies and Mr. Darcy obsessions, but hey -- at least they spelled my name right. . .


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