As some people know, I am an unabashed Janeite. For the uninitiated, that means I adore Jane Austen’s writing. She was brilliant, witty, comical, insightful, a master of the language and vastly underappreciated by modern readers.
So when I saw Pride and Prejudice and Zombies at an online bookseller’s site, I had to see what this was all about. I’d heard mention of it previously and thought it was a joke until I saw the book listed for sale. And I admit I was predisposed to dislike it. I have not had the chance to actually read this thing, but was so (how can I put it? annoyed? offended? disgusted?) by this line in the synopsis I wouldn’t accept a free copy:
Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read.
Because god knows I wouldn’t want to actually read a masterpiece of world literature as it stands. I don’t believe I will waste my precious reading time on this dreck. Frankly the whole sentence is a contradiction of itself: If it’s a masterpiece of world literature, why would you not want to read it, without turning it into a gore-fest? I get that this is supposed to be humor, but I can only imagine Jane spinning in her grave like a turbine. The reviews are mixed: Those who love zombies will read anything with the word “zombie” in it. Others who appreciate the original seem to hate it. If Pride and Prejudice wasn’t out of copyright I doubt Austen would have given her blessing to this.
I realize people like to do their own takes on classics, and Jane Austen’s works seem to inspire a lot of it. By contrast there is Lost in Austen, a television miniseries in which a fan of the book is transported into the pages of her favorite novel. It’s out on DVD now. (There is also a movie by the same name apparently slated for a 2011 release but I have no other information on that.) It sounds similar to Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler. This I can handle. But Lizzie Bennet as a ninja, cannibalizing the neighbors? You’ve completely lost the spirit of the book, and lost me.
Perhaps Emerson was right:
People do not deserve to have good writing, they are so pleased with bad.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson