Friday, July 17, 2009

Sacrilege! A Book Profaned!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" That distressing sound you hear is the late, great author Jane Austen, turning restlessly in her grave.

Jane is not going to dig her way out and become a flesh-eating zombie. Alas, her seminal work, Pride and Prejudice, has undergone that horrid fate.

I have heard from several sources, including this one, about the new bestseller, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Lizzie and Darcy and Zombies. Oh my.

Maybe it's because I've read Pride and Prejudice (sans zombies) five times that I feel this witty and touching book should be beyond a visit from the brain-sucking undead.

Fact is, I'm really sorry to see this work subjected to parody. I won't fight to get P&P&Z banned from libraries, but my fear is that people will read it instead of giving the real thing a ride. And that would be a shame.

In the original book, no one dies during the course of the narrative. P&P is a novel of social relevance to its time, done with good plotting and more than a touch of dudgeon. And while people aren't asked to marry their first cousins anymore in order to save an estate, they still fall prey to conniving parents, shyness, bad first impressions, and snobbery when choosing a lifetime love. For that reason, this hard-to-read, pre-Civil War British tome has stood the test of time.

Who doesn't have a bad sister who brings disgrace on the whole family by running around?

Oh, maybe that was the wrong example to use. My family is deficient in this respect.

All right, who wouldn't be partly seduced by the prospect of living in a big-ass mansion full of sculptures, while raking in an annual income that would make Donald Trump look like a wannabe? Especially if the owner of said mansion is eye candy and well-behaved.

That one works for me.

I think P&P will survive this modern parody. My hope is that infusing a classic tale with skeletal predators will not become a trend. Nothing is sacred in this world when there's an almighty dollar to be earned. I wouldn't be surprised to see Walden: A Life in the Woods Dodging Zombies, or Brideshead Revisited by Zombies, or The Sun Also Rises on Zombies.

Those of us addicted to the Austen/Bronte canon can at least take solace in the fact that Wuthering Heights is zombie-proof because it already more or less has a zombie. And Jane Eyre doesn't lend itself to zombies, because they aren't as scary as the antagonist already inserted into the proceedings.

If you are thinking about taking a great literary classic and turning it into a gore-fest, I strongly recommend spending the rest of the summer immersed in H.P. Lovecraft's stories. They will cure your tendencies to set zombies loose on Daisy and Gatsby.

Elizabeth. Darcy. I'm in your corner. If I meet the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I'm gonna shove his writing hand into a Slap-Chop, dice it to smithereens, and use it for crab bait. Word.


Evn said...

Um, speaking of Lovecraft, there's already a sequel: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

Anne Johnson said...

Is there no end to this infernal freedom of expression?

Nettle said...

It was fun for the first few chapters, but the joke wore thin about halfway through and it went back to the library unfinished. I thought the concept really had potential - I especially liked that as Charlotte Lucas became slowly zombiefied, nobody except Elizabeth noticed that bits and pieces of her were falling off. I think it could have been pointedly hilarious if it had been done with some feminist/social analysis in mind (and how often does one get to say that...)

I also felt like the author really failed at maintaining Austen's tone - it should have been seamless and there should have been at least a few times where I thought, "wait, is that in the original?" It was too choppy and way too precious. I thought it was a neat idea not done all that well.

Now, let me go back to making Mr. Rochester into a vampire...

Erik said...

As an aging lit major and a minor fan of Jane Austen, I have to say that I read P&P&Z, and... well... overall, it was pretty damn funny. The "co-author" (who is reportedly hard at work on Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter) actually managed to capture Austen's authorial voice quite well most of the time, to the point that many of the references to the "unmentionables" actually flowed quite naturally. There were some minor infelicities, and his version of the period is *slightly* more sexually liberated than Austen's, but overall the project worked surprisingly well.

That said, I'm not sure that the joke will stretch to a second volume.

Nettle said...

And, now that you mention it, I think Daisy and Gatsby would be prime candidates for a visit from Cthulu.

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past... while far beneath, some peril from beyond the ken of human imagination moved slowly in the depths. In the distance, we heard shrieks of men and things that were not men. Bereft of speech, we stared in blank horror at the rising tentacles."

Now, that would be fun...

Erik said...

We disagree again! Will wonders never cease... ;)

It did falter a bit in the middle, but the final battle between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine is epic, in a goofy sort of way... not to mention my personal favorite bit, the zombie traps baited with heads of cauliflower.

Anne Johnson said...

I happen to think that P&P is very funny in its own right. There's almost this "You Can't Take It With You" feel of one sane person in a household of loonies, surrounded by more loonies in her sphere of influence. Mr. Collins cracks me up. The mother is hysterical, both literally and figuratively, and Lady Catherine is the kind of person you want to kick across the calendar from February to July.

Em said...

So, I'm normally a lurker (hi! totally not a stalker, i just love a good blog) but I felt the need to mention that I have--mostly--read P&P&Z. It wasn't my favorite, but as a lover of Austen and hater of zombies, it was not a terrible little book. I skimmed some of it, and read some on narcotis, but mostly, it was enjoyable. I think it makes the book more enjoyable if it's read in the spirit it seems to be written in, as a goofy, light-hearted (relatively) take on the story. If nothing else, it made what a lot of people view as an intimidating, boring work of fiction, a little more approachable. Some folks might even be inclined to read the real version. And speaking of which, much as I love Keira Knitghly, the BBC version is much better, and worth the hours to watch.

mrsb said...

As a person who's never read any Jane Austen (please, don't hit me with the book!!) PPZ actually made me interested in trying out the "real" book.

So, take heart, even though it's not your cup of tea, it has brought a reader or two around to trying the original!

Erik said...

Oh, it is! We've been busily introducing our not-quite-9 yo daughter to Jane via the magic of video... later on she'll read the books, but she already loves the stories.


the only book of jane austin i read was jane eyre..I never could get into them..I read the little women books when i was a kid, but by the time i was 9 i was reading h. allan smith..and robert zombies might make it interesting for me.ha..
sending you and the girls a little something something..

THE Michael said...

OMG's Anne, you re-animated the entire blogger commenter world! So, what we have here, is "The Gods are Bored by Zombies"!

Shame on you!

JaAnBe said...

When this book first crossed the desk at the library where I work I caught the cover picture out of the corner of my eye and thought one of our more charming patrons had defaced another book.