Jen Chaney’s oral history about Clueless, the aptly titled As If!, feels like one of those case study books of classic literature that you can find in any college library–but if the case study was awesome pop culture. This book not only shares memories and viewpoints from cast and crew, but also includes analysis from academics who have taught entire courses on Clueless (many of them asserting that this is by far the best interpretation of Jane Austen’s Emma.)
In the spirit of the film, the book manages to be both easy and insightful as it catalogues the behind-the-scenes action from inception to production and beyond. (By the way, I’m totally buggin’ that this move is twenty years old.) Included amongst the stories of casting the perfect ensemble and dealing with cold, uncharacteristically wet California weather are references to films that influenced Clueless and a refresher glossary of all the film’s most important slang.
The book’s author thoughtfully intersperses narration amongst direct quotes in order to clarify, enhance the dialogue, or to provide context. Having read an oral history book before that provided no narration, I found it very easy to get lost or confused. This was simply not the case with As If! It truly felt easy to follow (especially because each person’s name is always followed by title, i.e. “Elisa Donovan, Amber”or “Dean Wilson, prop master.”)
Yet the book’s narrative voice does more than just make it easy to read, it also feels like a fellow fan who is reading right along with you and sharing cool details at all of the perfect moments. You can really tell how much Jen Chaney loves her subject matter, and I appreciate that because I love it too.
As If! is available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released on July 7th.