A Feast of Austen and Zombies

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single reader in possession of a good Austen zombie romance, must be in want of more. It is only a matter of time before we are imposed upon by Northanger Abbey and Vampires. Mansfield Park and Werewolves. Emma and the Exorcist.

Yes, I have succumbed to that plague sweeping the land: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which has infested so many that the book, by Jane Austen with a bit of help from screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, is on the New York Times bestseller list.

Zombies and ninjas infest the lastest spin on Jane Austen's <em>Pride and Prejudice.</em>

Zombies and ninjas infest the latest spin on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

The genius of this novel (and I use the term loosely) is that 85 percent of it is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, word for word. The remaining 15 percent is zombies (or unmentionables, as the residents of Regency England prefer to call them) and ninjas. (Ninjas? Yes, really. But then again, who could do a better job of warding off the undead?) Elizabeth catches Darcy’s fancy for the liveliness of her wit and her superior fighting skills. Darcy’s pretty good at beheading zombies himself, though not quite as much a fighting legend as his fearsome aunt, Lady Catherine.

Published this spring and billed as a book that “transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read,” Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is also illustrated with disgusting drawings of zombies and ninjas doing, well, what zombies and ninjas do.

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Pride and Prejudice in the Twitterverse

What if Mr. Darcy had a Twitter profile?

Pride in the Twitterverse: What if Mr. Darcy had a Twitter profile?

How would Austen’s most famous novel read if Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy forged their relationship on Twitter? Under the Mad Hat has answered that question with a clever retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as a series of tweets. As a fellow writer, I appreciate the skill involved, and think it’s one of the funniest things I’ve read in ages.

I have to wonder—could this be where fan fiction is headed? Who has time to write 60-chapter adaptations of one’s favorite work, when one could simply tweet the whole thing?

Please note: The above Twitter profile for Mr. Darcy exists only in my fevered imagination and the file I created in Photoshop. There is a user called Darcy on Twitter, but I haven’t the foggiest idea who he/she is, except that it’s almost certainly not Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley.

Mr. Darcy as Prince Charming? Not Exactly

There’s this notion floating around that Fitzwilliam Darcy is a fantasy, a real Prince Charming. I find that interesting.

Like many a woman, I love Mr. Darcy dearly. He is one of my all-time favorite fictional guys, and I don’t blame Lizzy for falling for him. He’s intelligent, honorable, loyal and has a sense of humor, even if he often hides it. And he loves Elizabeth Bennet with every ounce of his being.

Mr. Darcy, as channeled by Colin Firth

Mr. Darcy, as channeled by Colin Firth

But much of Mr. Darcy’s appeal for me lies largely in the fact that he is not a fantasy. Yes, he’s tall, handsome and worth a fortune, but that is not why Lizzy falls in love with him. In demeanor, personality and social skills (or more accurately, lack of social skills), he’s a very real guy with plenty of flaws. You just know that Jane Austen knew more than a couple of men like that. We all know guys like that: good, loyal men who bottle up their emotions and who couldn’t make small talk if their lives depended on it.

Mr. Darcy is aloof, arrogant and exceptionally rude the first time Elizabeth meets him. He represses his emotions to the point that Lizzy is shocked to hear that he is in love with her. His idea of a marriage proposal is to belittle his would-be fiancee’s family, explain just how low he’s stooping in marrying her, and then act surprised that she feels insulted by his honesty. Way to go, Darcy.

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Pride Gone with the Wind

The budget was tight (there was  a war on, after all) and many of the costumes were borrowed from the previous year’s “Gone with the Wind.” The studio favored Clark Gable for the male lead, and Vivien Leigh was in the running, at least briefly, to play Elizabeth Bennet, though Greer Garson got the role.

Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier in "Pride and Prejudice."

Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier in "Pride and Prejudice."

Yes, it’s Longbourn meets Tara, better known as the 1940 version of “Pride and Prejudice.” Fortunately, Rhett Butler does not re-materialize as Mr. Darcy—the role went to Laurence Olivier—though Vivien “Miz Scarlett!” Leigh might well have made quite a feisty and lively Lizzy.

Somehow I had escaped seeing the 1940 movie of Jane Austen’s most beloved novel until recently. My first inclination was to laugh at the costumes. At any moment, I expected Lizzy Bennet to tear down the draperies to make a dress. My second inclination was to cringe at what MGM had done to Austen’s marvelous love story. While they kept much of her dialogue, they threw out some of the best lines, and dulled her sharp, sometimes caustic wit with a typically syrupy Hollywood story.

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