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Posts Tagged ‘literature’

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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