Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"The horror, the horror...":
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

[Editor’s Note (JS):
Welcome to He Read/She Read.

The premise here is – a man and a woman read a book and write their reactions to that book.

I am particularly excited about today's reviews - because one of my personal blogging heroes, Captain Dumbass from Us and Them, and my personal wifey heroine, the Middle-Aged Woman from Unmitigated, have joined forces today in a special Halloween Horror presentation. Sensing that I could not sustain the blistering of pace of posting here on three consecutive weeks without some help from (semi-)professionals, these Juggernauts of the Blogsphere are on-hand to take this thing up to a whole new level - with their reviews of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (the Jane Austen classic - with some good, old-fashioned zombification added by Seth Grahame-Smith). I promised that today's post would include (little or) no Jim Styro content - so without any further ado, let’s see what…]

He Read:

A few months back Middle Aged Woman from Unmitigated asked if I would like to do a book review with her for Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. I immediately jumped at the chance since I had been waiting for the book to come out and it gave me an excuse to go out and buy it. After setting aside everything else I was reading and quickly working through the book, I immediately ground to a halt. A book review? When was the last time I'd done a book review? Junior high? Elementary school? Panic set in, but it was quickly replaced by the relaxed absence of any thought at all. My mind is quite adept at making uncomfortable situations disappear. Tra-la-la-la-la. But then MAW kept emailing and Twittering and leaving troll-like comments on my blog. What the hell, woman? You're making it very difficult for me to ignore you. Sigh. So what can I say about this book? I think this one passage can best sum up Pride & Prejudice & Zombies for me:

She remembered the lead ammunition in her pocket and offered it to him. "Your balls, Mr. Darcy?" He reached out and closed her hand around them, and offered, "They belong to you, Miss Bennett."
Early 19th century angsty love, the crossing of social boundaries, sexual innuendo and the walking dead, what more could you ask for? I'm sure it's a close rendition of what Jane Austen would have written if not tied down by the rigid boundaries of society in the early 1800's. If you've never read an Austen book or seen one of the multitude of movie adaptations but felt that you should, this is a good place to start. Seriously. Author Seth Grahame-Smith has done a fantastic job of adapting the original book into something very entertaining and easily read. Aside from the additions of a zombie plague, Grahame-Smith kept to most of original text but cleaned it up in a way to make it friendlier to readers in the here and now. Not that the minutia of two hundred year old pre-Victorian romance isn't riveting, but this adaptation makes things a little more understandable and humorous for readers who would never have thought of picking up a Jane Austen novel. The thing I admire most about this work is the simplicity and adaptability of the idea. You could do this to literally ANY story. Granted, rewriting an entire book is a serious amount of work, still, at the same time it sings to the laziness inside me. For example, The Odyssey by Homer

"Sing to me of the zombie, Muse, the zombie of twists and turns driven time and again by hunger, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy. Many cities of men he ate and tasted of their minds, many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea, starving once his comrades were but bone."
War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy:

"Well, Prince, Genoa and Lucca are now no more than hellish estates of the un-dead. No, I warn you, that if you do not tell me we are at war, if you again allow yourself to palliate all the infamies and atrocities of this Apocalypse (upon my word, I believe it is), I don't know you in future, you are no longer my friend, no longer my faithful slave, as you say for you will join them. There, how do you do, how do you do? I see I'm scaring you, do sit down and talk to me."
And, from the New York
Fate of White House Counsel Is in Doubt After Bruising Fights
By PETER BAKER Published: October 21, 2009

"WASHINGTON — Every morning, Gregory B. Craig, the White House counsel, sits at the conference table of the Roosevelt Room with the president’s depleted senior staff. The one issue that does not come up? Mr. Craig himself. As President Obama’s top lawyer, Mr. Craig has been at the center of thorny decisions on halting the transfer of zombie plague victims (ZP's) to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, revising interrogation and detention policies and simply executing them, problems that have bedeviled the new administration and generated fierce battles inside and outside the White House. And for months now, he has endured a spate of speculation in print and around the White House about whether he himself has been infected by the plague."
Song lyrics, commercials, children's books... once you start, it's hard to stop. I don't think I'm going out on a limb here when I say that as a book review, this would probably be handed back by the teacher with an awful lot of red ink and the sixth letter of the alphabet in prominent display, but you know what? That teacher can suck it. Bottom line, Seth Grahame-Smith has attached his name to a literary classic just by adding some zombie horror to it. I sincerely hope he's making a boat load of money off this.

She Read:

If you have long loved Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, you may rest assured that Elizabeth Bennet is still a thoughtful, strong heroine, mortified by her mother, Mr. Darcy is still brooding and proud, and Mr. Collins is still an ass.

Seth Grahame-Smith's transformation of the Jane Austin classic is absolutely seamless. It's as if the novel was written this way in the first place by a precognicient Austen to appeal to the early 21st century fascination with the undead.

What's up with that, by the way? When did reanimated corpses in search of brains become hilarious? You can find knitted zombies on Etsy now, for pete's sake.

My reviewing partner, Captain Dumbass once featured these on his blog.

Zombies used to be scary. Now they are the butt of our jokes. This one is by Dennis Culver.

Back to the review. Austen's tale is about the Bennets, a family in 19th century England who, because they have five daughters and no sons, will lose their estate and income, upon the death of their father. Mr. Bennet is a bit of an absentee father, as he is a very sensible man who has found it easier to withdraw to his study than to argue with his very insensible wife. Mrs. Bennet is very eager to see the girls married well (and by that she means to someone wealthy). Pride and Prejudice is the tale mostly of Elizabeth, or Lizzie, the strong-willed second daughter, who is sensible like her father, and her relationship with the cold, proud Mr. Darcy. Of course they start off disliking each other very much, and end up in love against their will, paving the way for the plot of every Harlequin romance ever written.

In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, 19th century England is overrun with "unmentionables" whom Lizzie and her sisters have been trained to dispatch by Shaolin monks, at the insistence of the very sensible Mr. Bennet. In this version, the haughty Lady Catherine is admired, not for her connections at court, but for her martial abilities. The dreadfully absurd Mr. Collins refers to her this way as he proposes to Lizzie:

"...I do not reckon the notice and kindness of Lady Catherine De Bourgh as among the least of the advantages in my power to offer. You will find her powers of combat beyond anything I can describe; and your own talents in slaying the stricken, I think, must be acceptable to her, though naturally, I will require you to retire them as part of your marital submission."

There are occasional vignettes that are entirely added by Grahame-Smith. When the Bennet girls and Mr. Collins undertake the walk to Meryton where they will meet the villain Mr. Wickham, along the way they find trouble. The carriage of a young girl they know has been overturned in a gulley and set upon by zombies. To prevent the spread of the scourge, Elizabeth snatches the pipe from the mouth of Mr. Collins, "a gift from her ladyship," and tosses it down into the gulley, fire being one of the ways in which unmentionables are dispatched.

In a turn I found particularly satisfying, Lizzie's best friend Charlotte, who marries the insufferable Mr. Collins, is stricken, as she calls it, after having been grabbed and bitten on the ankle by a zombie trapped under the coach. Her words to Elizabeth, "I don't have long, Elizabeth. I only hope that my final months will be happy ones, and that I be permitted a husband who will see to my proper Christian beheading and burial."

What every girl dreams of.

With the successful transformation of Pride and Prejudice, one can only imagine the possibilities for other famous works in the public domain.
Dickens, anyone?

[Hope you were terrified by this special Halloween Horror edition of He Read/She Read. Please leave us a comment with your feedback including any suggestions or constructive criticism.

Special thanks to Captain Dumbass (from Us and Them) and the Middle-Aged Woman (from Unmitigated) for bailing me out sharing their thoughts on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. A little bird told me there are several other books which trash the classics spice up these musty old tomes by adding assorted monsters and mayhem - perhaps we can convince these two to join forces again some time soon. Please take a minute to visit their blogs and share some comment love. I hear that the Middle-Aged Woman is even giving away a prize to some lucky winner at Unmitigated!!

Please keep in mind that your participation is what helps make He Read/She Read a special place. If you:

- Have a book you would like to see reviewed on He Read/She Read
– Are interested in being a guest writer for one of our featured reviews
– Would like to do your own mini-review (100 words or less?) of a book previously reviewed here (I would love to offer a summary of feedback from readers as a complement to the featured reviews)

Then: Please use your comment to share that info or send me an email using the link somewhere above.

DON'T FORGET: Next week, Jim Styro returns - aided and abetted by

the lovely Pamela from the dayton time - to review
Yan Martel's Life of Pi

Spread the word.
Tell your friends. Tell your enemies.
Tell complete strangers.

Remember: Keep Reading – it’s good for you. And the more pages you turn, the more calories you burn.]


Gaston Studio said...

Not a book I'd read, but... I'm sure Seth Grahame-Smith is laughing all the way to the bank!

Laggin said...

Funny, funny stuff, Captain. I think you should give up on book reviews and rewrite all news content zombie style. You'd have a hit for a website!

just making my way said...

Great reviews on a book I have been meaning to read for some time. I'm new to this site, but will return - Life of Pi is a favorite book of mine!

Sprite's Keeper said...

I want this book! Sounds like it's just up my alley!

kj said...

oh! my! i am breathless from all this clever wordsmithing!


you guys are great together. are you this much fun at the kitchen table?

so anyway, my selection for zombie remake: the secret life of bees

(oh, was i supposed to choose a classic? i never follow directions correctly. it's a life long problem)


Middle Aged Woman said...

Gaston Studio - And it's been optioned for a film, as well!

Laggin - That's actually a pretty damn good idea.

Just making my way - Welcome! Life of Pi is next week, and I am interested in that one, too.

Sprite's Keeper - just think, you could win an autographed copy!

kj - this one was a lot of fun just based on the material. I was thinking of getting two copies of your book, so Styro and I could review it here. Cap'n's dinner table is near Vancouver. Mine's near Detroit. If I could bribe him to travel here, we'd be hilarious!

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

Yeah, this one has been on my radar too and I've just never taken it one step further to pick it up. I wonder if it's available on Kindle....hmmmmmm.

Trooper Thorn said...

Okay, I'll read it, but only to better prepare for the coming zombie onslaught in 2012.

Captain Dumbass said...

Just send me some airfare and I'll come to dinner.

otin said...

Did you really read it or did you just read the back cover like I did when I was in school?? LOL!

A Mom on Spin said...

Loved the reviews. . . but I'm not sure I like anyone tampering with my Lizzie!

Jim Styro said...

Many thanks to the Cap'n & the MAW. You both did wonderfully well. Next time, I'll double your fee.

So, about next time...

Anonymous said...

Life of Pi is a good one! I really liked that book. This book looks enjoyable, and I love the pictures!

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who is a complete Jane Austen fanboy and she has been chastising me for many moons about not having read any of "the classics" I think this book would be an admirable start, what say you?

(Also, for comparison's sake, I just have requested both Jane's and Seth's (in the likely event that I do not win) versions of the book from the library. But I'd rather win one of them; I hate due dates.)

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, classics to zombify... I did mention that I was not exactly up to date in that field, yes? Well then, how about...


I'm discovering that many of the things I have read that are considered classics are already nearly zombified anyway, or at least wouldn't be greatly altered by the addition of such. Tolkien, Poe, Shelley, Stoker... See a theme here? So we'll say...

Treasure Island? Ooh, no. The Swiss Family Robinson, that should be interesting.

Pamela said...

I'd comment, but I have to go write something terribly exciting for next week.

Pamela said...

I would like to see The Velveteen Rabbit turned into a zombie novel.

Jim Styro said...

I do not wish to be formally considered for the prize (I think family members are normally disqualified, in any case) but Pamela's choice inspired me; I think The House at Pooh Corner would be FANTASTIC with zombies in it!

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

The fact that I have always found Austin's books a bit dense to get through has been a source of humility for me as an English teacher. This one sounds like something I could have fun with.

Jess said...

OK, I am here and in my grand style I enter that there contest thing you speak of on MAW's page by entering a comment here.

First of all, I must applause both reviews...they beat the shit out of Cliff's Notes that I used to cheat off of in high school. Totally got busted using those once for Hamlet. Damn if our English teacher wasn't a genius and read the Cliff's Notes AND the book, compared the two and then asked questions that were NOT in the Cliff's Notes...whew, sorry for that there ramble...

ANYWAY...loved! I am looking forward to more book reviews and this has inspired me to go buy books tonight. I am going right after work to pick me up some more Christopher Moore books.

Jess said...

If I enter another comment do I get my name put in twice?

Jess said...

How about if I do it three times?

Jess said...

And I meant to say applaud not applause in my first comment.

tera said...

I was so glad you were reviewing this book; I just purchased it last week and I am several chapters into it now. Love it! I had to drag myself kicking and screaming through the original, but am having a fine time in the countryside with this one!
Your review was great fun as well.
Looking forward to "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters"!

(On my way to check out your zombie site, I love me some zombies!)

surprised mom said...

I am a Jane Austen addict. When I first read about this book, I was like, Nah, don't think so. After this review, clever and hysterical by the way, I'm now thinkin', Yeah, believe so. Can't wait to read how Lizze and Mr. Darcy deal with the zombies . . .