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Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

With North Korea threatening nuclear testing, Somalia pirates threatening sailors, Taliban tribes in Afghanistan and Pakistan threatening women, and Rush Limbaugh threatening my fragile equilibrium, I’m ready for a new kind of threat: the updating of perfectly decent pieces of literature.

Actually, it’s a new and, in this case, ghoulish twist on the idea that someone can always improve on a classic that caught my eye: an article in the New York Times concerning a book soaring up Amazon.com’s best seller list about zombies run amok in the rarefied world of Jane Austen heroines. Okay, to be honest, I don’t know whether to be appalled or jealous. I mean, Amazon’s Top Ten! zombies-pride-431-212x300

The book in question is called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and if you don’t think someone’s tongue is planted firmly in his cheek, let me share with you the book’s author biographies: “Jane Austen is the author of Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park and other masterpieces of English Literature. Seth Grahame-Smith once took a class in English literature. He lives in Los Angeles.” Of course he does.

The book’s opening paragraph is as compelling as any Austen novel you might read: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” One online purveyor describes it as “…an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem.” And the price has just been reduced!

The mind boggles – well, mine does, since it hasn’t yet been chewed by zombies, at least to my knowledge (but then again, would I know?) Literary mashups, unlike writer-for-hire sequels, have a host of modern-day options or obsessions from which to choose in order to spice up the original. Sure,  there’s been some adjusting to the P & P plot-line but at least this author appears to be relatively true to Austen’s writing style. That’s something, isn’t it?

Producers, directors and writers have been having good, mostly clean fun taking license with the classics for some time now. Marie Antoinette was reimagined in the person of Kirsten Dunst as a bored party girl. Henry VIII on the HBO series “The Tudors” is young and studly and entirely worth losing one’s head over. I don’t know whether classic authors would be appalled or amused by this turn of events but I suspect this kind of silliness is here to stay.

My mind (or what’s left of it) has begun to wander with the wonder of this new cultural phenomena. There are so many classics that might benefit from an extreme makeover. What about Dr Zhivago Meets Doctor Phil or Moby Dick Cheney? Don’t tell me you wouldn’t rush out to buy Survivor: Treasure Island or Monsters Versus Strangers in a Strange Land? And shouldn’t your book list include The Inconvenient Truth About Dante’s Inferno?

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The primaries are upon us (on top of us really) and the pundits are getting whiplash trying to follow the bouncing polls. Maybe they deserve twenty lashes for bouncing the pols from frontrunner to has-been and back again. Somehow these early primaries and the hooplah that surrounds them seem as divorced from reality as possible. We have commentators asking candidates to raise their hands if they believe in evolution or agree that global warming is a threat. I mean, come on, is this a kindergarten class or a debate? The Democrats’ race is tight and bringing out the trump card gets more challenging. I figured being married to a former President beat all but now comes the power of O, which could really change the landscape. Who would have predicted Mike Huckabee as the front runner, that the sly, maybe-not-so-nice Southern preacher with the simple (some might say simplistic) world view. Actually, we don’t know much about his view of the world except that evolution has nothing to do with it. For simple visions, there’s Obama’s expectation that he can bring even greedy pharmaceutical executives and self-destructive dictators to the table and Rudy’s conviction that the world is divided into them and us and “them” probably deserves to be bombed into oblivion.

One event that struck me as strange and prompted this post was the endorsement of Republican John McCain by former Democrat and now Independent Joe Lieberman. Then again, maybe it’s not so strange. Ignoring a history of differences over a range of issues, they’ve bonded over their shared belief that we can and must stay the course in Iraq. Their conviction that the present policies work may well place them uniquely within their own alternate reality.  Still, I couldn’t help but shake my head in amazement. Lieberman Endorses McCain. Wow, you can’t make this stuff up.

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