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Pride_and_Prejudice_and_ZombiesA friend of mine at work is being forced to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by one Seth Graham-Smith for her book club.  For those of you who haven’t heard of this, it’s exactly what it sounds like:  Graham-Smith has taken the original text of P&P and interlaced it with a zombie invasion story.

Much to my friend’s credit, she is not enjoying her task.   And from the passages she’s read out to me, I can understand why.  There might be something harmlessly silly in the concept, but it’s a joke that wears mighty thin, mighty fast – rayther like doing Shakespeare in clown paint and mime or Mozart with an all-kazoo ensemble.   Meh.

The mere existence of this book reminds me of a broader question on which I have sometimes pondered:  Why on Earth is Jane Austen so popular these days?

You might reply that she is because she wrote so well, she had such a sharp wit and a piercing insight, and so on and so forth.  Well, of course.  But while this is certainly true, I don’t believe it explains things because I’ve long held the sneaking suspicion that many people who read Austen don’t actually understand Austen.   They skim along the surface, seeing her novels simply as stories of a kind of early 19th Century Lake Wobegon, with strong women and good looking men.  Or they mistake her for a fourth Bronte sister, rooting about in the psyches of the characters looking for Romantic counter-culture undercurrents or proto-feminist code, which is all quite wrong.  

The other thing that I find puzzling is the fact that many people who profess to adore Austen are exactly the sort who would arouse all the waspishness in her – vain, foolish, grasping, silly, sentimental and shallow.  Do they enjoy her because they are blind to what she’s about?  Or do they not see the reflection of themselves in her characters?


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May 2009