Thursday, June 18, 2009

Seth Grahame-Smith (and Jane Austen): Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Jane Austen is one of the absolutely best writers ever. Really. I know this must be true, because even Harold Bloom has said so (lolz). Of all the reading experiences I've had, this has therefore got to be one of the most dire. It is with pain that I realise that this entry is actually my first Jane Austen entry. And I say this while directing a mental apology to my dear sister who lent me the book. She has actually payed money for it, thinking it to be quite a fun idea to add the scourge of the undead to the comedy of manners that is an Austen novel. I remember her saying that it wasn't completely consistent and that there are illogical bits in it that annoy her a little (such as the English housekeeper in Mr Darcy's Japanese-influenced household hobbling to meet the guests on bound feet), but that she found it quite humorous. My sister, clearly, is a more forgiving and generous soul than myself. I want to drag Grahame-Smith naked through thistles and then make him listen to a Glaswegian slowly read a combination of Little Nell and American Psycho. While I rub his scratches with salt. No, on second thoughts, I'll make him rub the salt into his wounds all by himself. That'll larn him.

The idea would have worked in a comedy sketch show on TV. It would have been quite funny. Every week a new scene from the zombie version of Pride and Prejudice - I can see that working. But as a novel it's awful. You end up skimming it to get to the bits that have been changed just to see how they've been changed. Possibly it might be feasible that someone who has only seen the film or TV series could stand to read it and appreciate the humour. Personally I think that the author would be better off spending time and energy on saving the whales or some similar laudable effort.

It is possible to use well-known characters that have passed out of the realm of copy-right with good results. Jasper Fforde is an example of a writer who does this. What he doesn't do is copy somebody elses novel and stick his own bits in it. He creates something new. There is only one instance in P&P&Z where there is a hint of "more", and that is when Lizzie Bennet refrains from killing a zombie mother and infant-in-arms, out of some sort of feeling of mercy, perhaps. It is entirely out of place with the rest of the book really, which in no way ever delves deeper into how it must really be to live in a zombie-invested Georgian England. Of course, the moment ends there. The only deeper emotions and feelings and true dilemmas in the novel, not to mention storyline, is Austen's. So read Austen, people. Please. Let this one die.

The book cover is fabulous though. Props for that. I'm not churlish.


bani's li'l sis said...

I TOLD you it wasn't very good =P I could enjoy it a little more than you I guess, 'cos I am childish enough to find the silly sexual innuendo giggle-worthy. Thistles I think is a bit much. Perhaps gently flaying him with shoelaces, leaving off the salt.

I agree about the baby bit; very inconsistent with the rest of the book. I remember thinking, "Maybe it'll get better now!" And oh how it disappointed me.

Oh well. I might have given it away or bookcrossed it if I didn't like the cover so much =)

bani said...

I am suitably chastised, you're right, you didn't like it THAT much, no. But the cover is indeed teh awesomnezz.