Posts Tagged ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’

pride-prej-zombiesInquiring readers, ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,’ the movie, has finally arrived. Almost seven years ago I had a blast reviewing Seth Grahame-Smith’s audacious novel, ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’, and suggested a few satirical book plots of my own. Click here to read JAW’s review of Seth’s tome, which retained 15% of Jane Austen’s words and embellished Jane’s plot a wee bit by adding hordes of ravenous zombies that had overrun Regency England. For those who are eager to see the cinematic version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ melded with Shaun of the Dead, may we suggest that you read the parody book before viewing the movie?

Quirk Books has asked me to recall some of my favorite scenes from the book.  I invited my good friend, Hillary Major, to trip down memory lane with me. She had read Seth’s book front to back in 2007 and recently reacquainted herself with the plot by way of a fabulous graphic novel based on the book.

When I first read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I was struck by the wit – the humorous juxtaposition of Austen’s words with Graham-Smith’s pulpy additions, as when Miss Bingley asserts that an accomplished woman “must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, dancing and the modern languages” as well as being “well trained in the fighting styles of the Kyoto masters and the tactics and weaponry of modern Europe.” As I re-familiarized myself by reading the graphic novel version of the book, I found much of the wit retained through the dialogue and (infrequent) captions. The graphic novel, of course, fleshes out the combat scenes and does a particularly good job of capturing the sorry stricken – from the former residents of Mrs. Beecham’s Home for Orphans to lamp oil salesgirl Penny McGregor to an undead Madonna and a certain longsuffering bride. The graphic novel pulls out the fun and the horror in the action sequences but also raises my curiosity about how the movie will put these scenes into motion.

But really, how interesting are zombies as villains? What’s their motivation? Yes, yes, I know, it’s a truth universally acknowledged: brains and more brains. Still, there’s a certain sameness and routine to a zombie enemy. Zombies are really only dangerous in numbers – unless you happen to be an unfortunate messenger or a cook, which Lizzie Bennet most emphatically is not. My favorite parts of the book (and graphic novel) jump out not because of how they deal with the scourge of unmentionables but because of the way they showcase Lizzie as a total badass, armed not just with rapier wit but with actual dagger and katana.

Lizzie’s competence, strategy, and skill in the deadly arts are singular from the beginning; we first see her “carving the Bennet crest in the handle of a new sword.” When Lizzie and her sisters first jump into action at the Lucas’ ball – responding to Mr. Bennett’s shouted command, “Pentagram of Death!” – it’s a stirring moment. (Darcy takes notice.)

But Elizabeth Bennet is a warrior worthy of an enemy greater than brainless zombies – thus, we meet Lady Catherine, commander of ninjas. Lady Catherine de Bourgh has always put the cat in catfight, and this comes to literal life in her final confrontation with Lizzie. Who hasn’t applauded Lizzie’s refusal to promise never to become betrothed to Darcy and wished the statement were punctuated by a punch in the Lady’s face? Here, the verbal showdown is prequel to a martial arts battle, one that takes place in the Bennets’ own dojo. Lady Catherine gets in a few good blows early on, but Lizzie comes back with a dagger thrust, and soon Lady Catherine is flying through the air, breaking rafters. In the midst of all the “flying about” in a leaping, kicking, katana-wielding martial arts fantasy of a fight, Lizzie descends (from an unbroken rafter) at a key moment and batters away her adversary’s sword, leaving Lady Catherine at her mercy. Lizzie lets her live, knowing she has been “bested by a girl for whom [she has] no regard,” showing more mercy than Catherine would have offered her (or than Lizzie shows the ninja retainers). It’s this throwdown and victory over Lady Catherine that truly sets up the ending of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, of Lizzie and Darcy fighting side by side.


For my part, gentle readers, I shall never forget how Charlotte Collins, nee Lucas, slowly turned into a zombie after being bitten by a ghoul. Lizzie promised to remain true to her friend, but as the poor woman’s physical condition deteriorated, it was hard for visitors not to notice her unfortunate appearance or the fact that she was wont to nibble on her hand. One really has to laugh at some of the more ridiculous scenes and one can’t help but wonder how the exuberant young Jane Austen, who wrote the ‘Juvenilia,’ would have reacted to this mashup of her most famous novel.

lena heady lady catherineThe powers that be in Hollywood took seven years to find a Lizzie (Lily James) and Darcy (Sam Riley) worthy of becoming skilled zombie fighters trained by the finest masters in the martial arts. To my way of thinking, Lena Heady’s turn in playing Lady Catherine de Bourgh with an eye patch is worth the price of admission alone.

While I understand that many Jane Austen fans will refuse to see the film, some of us in our Janeite group can’t wait to see it. Love or hate the idea, feel free to let us know your thoughts. 


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janeaustenhandbookInquiring readers, In honor of Pride and Prejudice’s 200 year anniversary, Quirk Books is offering 3 free copies of their books: a copy of The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan and two copies of the deluxe edition of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame Smith.

Coincidentally, my blog’s counter turned over 6 million visits this weekend. That’s right! Six million! A true cause for celebration and handing out books. If you are interested in reading about the books, click on the links below to read the reviews.

pride_prejudice_zombies1wClick here to read Tony Grant’s review of The Jane Austen Handbook, which is the forerunner of many similar books that have been published in recent years; and click here to read my review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which began the Jane Austen mash-up craze several years back.

To Enter the Contest (open to those who live in the US, Canada, and UK), tell us how you are celebrating Pride and Prejudice’s 200th anniversary during this year! Contest is open until April 1st. This blog is holding another contest! A giveaway of Maggie Lane’s Jane Austen’s World, which is a reissue of the 1993 edition. Click on the link to enter his contest, open to those who live in the U.S. and open until April 3rd. Giveaway Closed! Congratulations Brenda, Rosalie and Monica Z.

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Gentle Readers, You may have noticed my previous rant about Mitzi Szereto’s blog post on Huffington Post. I had struck an attitude of silence and indifference to her sexy parody of Pride and Prejudice (Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts) until I read her fighting words. Then I realized, why not debate each other and find out what we really think? Mitzi has graciously agreed to a discussion about her book and sequels in general.

Vic: Hi Mitzi, it took a while to find my pitchfork and untwist my knickers. Now that the elderberry wine has calmed down my poor nerves and heart palpitations, I can ask you this question: What on earth were you thinking writing that Huffington Post ramble? Only a few vocal Jane fans objected to your book, as most of us were too busy swooning over Colin’s wet shirt to notice the brouhaha until you pointed it out.

Mitzi: Glad the elderberry wine helped. I’ve never tried it; please send a bottle over! I should say that Colin’s little swim left an indelible impression on me as well and accounted for Pride and Prejudice becoming a major favorite of mine. As for my piece in the Huffington Post, I found that all the pitchforks being aimed at me were getting to be a bit silly, particularly when the overwhelming majority of their wielders had not even read my book, let alone anything I’ve written! I have no issue if someone simply does not like the book; everyone has their own taste in reading material. But I figured that since everyone seemed to have so much to say about Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts (and me as its author), I too, had a right to speak and point out the absurdity of these arguments. Many of the comments were being directed at me in a quite personal way, not to mention insulting. Not very polite for people who claim to be defending the honor of our beloved Jane Austen! The LA Times and the Guardian were the first instigators of this whole thing. I actually didn’t think anyone’s hackles would be raised by the publication of my book, especially when it was meant to be a historical parody in the same spirit of the highly popular Zombies versions. I still don’t see what the big deal is, unless it actually is the sexual element in the book that’s upsetting people the most, because the tons of romance and chicklit versions don’t appear to be inspiring upset. If literary purists have an issue with re-imaginings of classic works or writers taking inspiration from them or borrowing from them, they should do a bit of literary investigation into the very long history of this practice and aim their pitchforks at others as well. After all, fair is fair!

Vic: Actually, the Zombies were not well received in some quarters either, but Quirk Books won me over by their cheerful willingness to forego pride and forge into new marketing territories, like toy stores, hardware stores (I kid you not), and gag stores . As an established author you must know from the outset that you can’t please everyone and that you would raise a few hackles with your rapier pen. I am thinking of statements like: “I wonder if these hecklers from the peanut gallery have even read the original Pride and Prejudice…” At this point, my teeth gnashed involuntarily for I sensed an INSULT. (Although I must admit to having met many a rabid Darcy fan who has only seen the movie.)

Mitzi: I don’t expect to please everyone, nor do I wish to! As for insults, I don’t see that it’s an insult to point out that things were not all pristine and squeaky clean in the original novel, and those who claim to have read it might be wise to do so again. Let’s get real: Jane Austen was giving us some very strong hints of the kind of impolitic behavior that was taking place between some of her characters (particularly Lydia Bennet and Mr. Wickham). Of course you’re going to get people saying we don’t need the lurid details, but you must remember that Jane Austen lived in a time when women authors were not taken seriously and were generally relegated to the category of “hack.” If she wanted to be taken seriously and keep her respectability as an author (which she clearly did), she had to be very cautious regarding how far she could go and just how much she could say. Had she been a man writing, things would have been different. But she wasn’t. So when my critics start getting all hot and bothered by my comment, they should wake up to the fact that Jane was a female writer who did not enjoy the kind of literary freedom female writers enjoy today.

Vic: OK, I see your point, but methinks I smelled a publicity stunt in that article. If so, kudos to you, for the controversy forced us to think about why we cling to our preferences AND notice your book.

Mitzi: On the contrary. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t start the brouhaha; the Los Angeles Times did, followed by the Guardian. Hey, I’m more than happy to get publicity and maybe sell a few books to help put some food on the table. But in all honesty, I wrote a book that was intended to be a fun and entertaining historical parody/sex farce. So yeah, I do think some people definitely need to get a sense of humor! If they’re that upset, then go after the various mash-up authors and the Jane Austen romance authors as well. And let’s add to this all the Jane Austen chicklit authors. Go on, have a field day and get those bonfires burning! It worked for Salman Rushdie (though I’m not sure the fatwa on him has been lifted yet).

Vic: I finally wound up reading the Jane Austen/Zombie mash ups and they were FUN. I realize that your book is written along the line of parody and harmless entertainment, but think about the readers’ perspective. While you wrote only one Austen sequel and regard this as a noble literary tradition, we are inundated with them. Literally.

Mitzi: Oh, I agree with you. It has gone a bit haywire of late. I guess when something hits big, you’re bound to get a whole lot more of it. That’s why I wanted my book to be very much its own kind of thing, rather than just another straightforward romance or fan-fiction-ish version. This is the first time I took a classic novel and remade it, though technically I did a similar kind of thing with my book In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales. In my research I discovered that these tales went back a very long way, some even into antiquity. Perhaps Jane Austen’s works have become the new fairy tales, and will continue to be adapted and remade and re-imagined well into the future.

Mitzi Szereto in London

Vic: I cannot tell you the number of email requests I receive from authors and publishers who want me to review yet another Austen sequel, prequel, or parody. They range the gamut from truly well written pieces to stuff not fit for the shredder. Right now my mind is in a whirl. Precisely what time do Darcy’s fangs come out? Why did he disapprove of Lizzie for bearing him five daughters and one mewly son? When Wickham soiled his diapers, who changed them? Is Mary Bennet really more beautiful than Jane, who has turned into a brood sow? At this point I am in danger of forgetting what is what, and so my reaction to your book was one of indifference. I am done reviewing most of the sequels, except for a very few.

In addition, many authors are not fan fiction fans. Diana Gabaldon, author of the incredible Outlander books, dislikes fan fiction and has publicly said so, and yet you make a good point: Many authors, playwrights, and film makers have had their works reinterpreted or have reinterpreted the works of others.

Mitzi: Absolutely. Because so many of the Jane Austen authors have made the original work all but unrecognizable, the story and its characters can get lost, as you say. That’s why I used Austen’s story as the framework; it’s essentially the same story in my book, but I’ve taken it on a major tangent. My version is not fan fiction at all, nor is it a sequel. Those are again more erroneous assumptions being bandied about by people who’ve not read my book. I wonder if these same people would accuse Dean Koontz of writing fan fiction with his Frankenstein series or want to burn him at the stake for taking a literary classic and remaking it into something else, just as I have done with Pride and Prejudice. I can mention a slew of other authors who’ve done likewise, but we’d be here all day!

Vic: Good point. Now, let’s cut to the chase. Is there anything you would like to say about your book to my readers?

Mitzi: Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts is intended to be pure entertainment and fun. I wanted to write a book that read exactly as if Jane Austen wrote every single word of it. Whether you love or hate my book, I know that I’ve been successful in achieving the Jane Austen illusion and remaining true to the essence of her characters. My book is raunchy, rude, outrageous and outlandish. It’s also extremely funny. If that sort of thing appeals to you, by all means go out and buy my book. If it doesn’t, then by all means choose something more to your liking. Thanks very much for inviting me to chat with you, Vic!

Vic: My pleasure. I wish you much success with your book, Mitzi, and thank you for visiting my humble blog.
Find Mitzi’s books and information at these links:

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Inquiring reader, Jane Austen’s World has joined many other blogs in promoting Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith, the prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  Quirk Books is offering the chance for you to win one of 50 Quirk Classics prize packs. To be eligible, each you must list where you read the review and post it to the Quirk Books site at this link. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls (Quirk Books; March 23, 2010; $12.95), by Steve Hockensmith, is an all-new work of fiction inspired by Jane Austen’s characters. My friend, Hillary Major, who reads more books than anyone I know, has graciously condescended to read and review the book.

A Dreadful Prequel, by Hillary Major

Before there was the Alamo, there was Netherfield Hall.

And who would you want by your side in a last stand of the living against the living dead but the sisters Bennet?

Set four years before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dawn of the Dreadfuls finds the Bennet siblings four years younger though already set in their ways: Jane is naively willing to see the best in everyone, Mary is sententious, Kitty a tagalong, and Lydia more lustily flirtatious than any eleven-year-old has a right to be. Elizabeth, however, finds herself at a crossroads when the long dormant undead choose to rise again only weeks before her coming out. Should she trade in her katana for an invitation to Mrs. Goswick’s ball? Should she content herself as the disciple of the handsome Master Hawksworth, her instructor in the deadly arts? Should she exercise her intellect by joining the Dr. Keckilpenny on his quest to re-educate the undead?

The Austen fan will be able to guess Lizzie’s decision long before the gathering zombies (that is to say, the unfortunate encroachments of certain unmentionables) make its outcome a matter of life and death.

Though Steve Hockensmith’s novel boasts only a dozen illustrations (illuminating such heartwarming scenes as an unmentionable “hump[ing] its way toward Mary like a massive, rabid inchworm”), the book is in many ways a cartoon. There’s a bumbling villain in the person of the portly and lascivious Lord Lumpley, who owns Netherfield Hall and fancies himself Hertfordshire’s version of the Prince Regent. (He also fancies Jane Bennet.) There’s a plenitude of martial arts as Mr. Bennet shares his past as a student of Shaolin and reveals that Mrs. Bennet’s flower shed was always intended to be the family dojo. Perhaps the most amusing twist of all comes when Mrs. Bennet’s lost love comes back into her life. Unfortunately, Captain Cannon finds himself rather diminished from his former glory…

Dawn of the Dreadfuls isn’t a thriller. We know the Bennet siblings will survive and go on to meet their Darcys, Binghams, and Wickhams. What, then, kept me turning the pages of this Quirk Classic? Could it be that (like Elizabeth, who defiantly uses the “z-word” even in company), I was simply fascinated by Hockensmith’s embrace of the vulgar, drawn in to walk the fine the line between the absurd and obscene?

Steve Hockensmith as a Dreadful

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, the third Quirk Classic, comes with illustrations from artist Patrick Arrasmith.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls will be available for purchase on March 23, 2010
Published by Quirk Books
Paperback, $12.95, 288 pages
ISBN: 978-1-59474-454-9

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completeworksJane Austen wrote six novels. You can almost count them on one hand. Those books, and a smattering of Juvenilia, a few uncompleted manuscripts, and a number of letters – some fragmented, most missing blocks of years – are all that we have of Jane Austen’s legacy in writing. Yet these little bits of ivory contain such a vastness of riches that one can spend a lifetime exploring them.

Not only did Jane inspire some of the best minds of her generation, but 192 years after her death her legacy still lives on, spawning imitators and sequel makers and inspiring an entire genre in literature. Her topics were circumscribed and narrow, which is the key to her timelessness. By focusing on the essential and not that which was fashionable, her writings remain fresh, relevant, and current. Jane Austen’s works are popular the world over and, observing from the number of websites, blogs, and discussion forums devoted to her on the World Wide Web, interest in her is still increasing and cuts across cultures and generations.

iheartdarcylgpride_and_prejudice_cb2(1)You haven’t truly arrived until you’ve been imitated. Like Shakepeare, Jane’s works invite hordes of copyists, with new books, movies, games, and comics based on her work and life cropping up monthly. Satirists are having as much fun with our Jane as with Shakespeare. Action figures and finger puppets abound, and famous lines are quoted with a modern twist every day. With Shakespeare it might be, “To eat, or not to eat, that is the question,” while Jane’s famous opening line morphs into, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a writer in need of a plot must steal from Jane Austen.” We quoth our Jane evermore, but, lacking her biting wit and brilliant insights, we fall short every time.

sense and sensibility and sea monstersAnd now it seems that the Jane Austen industry has descended into monster sequel and adaptation madness, regurgitating these popular culture books at an unholy rate. The new crop of Jane Austen adaptations include Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Mr. Darcy, Vampyre Slayer, Pride and Predator, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. What’s next? Emma and the Loch Ness Monster? King Kong Conquers Northanger Abbey? Mr. Bingley, Werewolf?

At least Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was sensible enough to retain 80% of Jane’s words. Currently, I am barely slogging through Mr.Darcy, Vampyre. The book purports to be about Jane Austen-named characters, but their actions, speech, and motivation have nothing to do with Pride and Prejudice. Neither can Amanda Grange’s writing hold a candle to either Jane’s spare, witty style or Anne Rice’s evocative and decadent language in her masterful first novel, Interview With the Vampire. One suspects that Source Books has rushed this vanity novel out to take advantage of the Monster and Jane Craze. And now Quirk Books has announced the publication of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Have you seen the trailer? Uggh. The book has retained only 60% of Jane’s words, which means it will be even more action oriented than P&P and Zombies. While thirteen year old boys are whooping for joy in anticipation of this book, we lovers of literature are scratching our heads, knowing that its publisher and author will be happily scooping up dollars at the bank. Meanwhile a more talented and original writer, unable to get a foot through that publisher’s door, will have to work at Burger King to pay the rent.
Mr Darcy, Vampyre cover
And then there are the Jane Austen and sex sequels. Last year, a sequel had Darcy and his Elizabeth making love at least 19 times in the first half of the book. I am currently awaiting two sexy sequels with a bit of trepidation, but I will be frank with you, if these two books are merely about titillation, I won’t be giving them a kind review. There’s a popular cultural reason why the American ending of Pride and Prejudice 2005 contains this scene, which our British cousins didn’t have to see. “Nuff said.

Not for me these wannabe imitators, these pale, faceless shadows of a literary genius whose sun shines so brightly that I reread her words regularly without tiring of her. Enough, I say, of this monstrous Jane Austen sequel trend.  Fun is fun, but desecration is another thing. I know many people feel that this is an innovative way to introduce young people to Jane Austen’s splendid novels. I say, let’s stop the monster madness now and introduce Jane to new readers in a more proper way.

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  • Making light: Incorporate Electrolyte : This blogger wrote tongue in cheek about a possible sequel entitled Mary Bennet, Vampyre Slayer way back in 2007. Her plot outline is funnier than any of the current crop of books

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