Sunday, June 5, 2011
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Oh my, where to begin?
For those Gentle Readers who were unaware, there exists such a thing as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which is Exactly What it Says on the Tin. It is literally the text of Pride and Prejudice with new scenes of zombies. Granted, it also includes new scenes of Lady Catherine being a ninja, and the Bennet sisters being well-versed in the martial arts, but after the initial snorts of laughter over the jarring absurity of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet discussing the best method of killing zombie, the real laughs come from Austen's text, not the gruesome, Gothic additions. A lot of the literary devices, which Austen employed with such deftness and elegance, are either forgotten or changed so as not to make much sense.
One could make the arguement that it is very much in the Austen spirit, as it enacts the literary critic Bakhtin's idea of heteroglossia, where the dominant discourse is mocked or subverted, and different types of speech coexist. Here we have the discourse of subtle social commentary and the discourse of B-movie horror films. Amusing, yes, but perhaps not used in the manner that the Marxist Bakhtin would have imagined.
For those who are not Austen purists, it is amusing travel reading, for those who are, it is an abomination. For those who, like the Amateur Historian, like to maintain a critical distance from their reading material, it is not good. The inserted paragraphs are jarring and the characterizations that Austen gives and the new authors give are entirely at odds with each other. The authors seem to recognize this, as at the end of the book, they ask the question if one sees two halves to Elizabeth Bennet's personality, or if it is just sloppy writing. The Amateur Historian is inclined to believe the latter.
Granted, this was the first book the two authors wrote, so it could just be the ordinary faults of a first novel. It is a very creative idea, and a satiric look at the Western literary canon, but one that was somewhat clumsily executed. Though the Amateur Historian really has no intention (or desire) to read Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters it is most likely better put-together.
Is there literary merit to these re-writes? The Amateur Historian thinks not.
Are they fun to read? ... sort of? It depends on what one is looking for, and one's stance on Austen and the sanctity, or not, of the Western canon. It is certainly a clever idea, but Austen's elegant cynicism and her subtle social commentary are quite absent, leaving a sort of illiterate Frankenstein's monster in a bonnet stumbling around a cardboard Hollywood set.