If you are a fan of Jane Austen, check out the lostgenerationreader blog here. She is hosting an Austen in August event.
In vain I have struggled to hold back my thoughts, but it will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love Jane Austen.
Because of my sincere appreciation of Austen’s superior mind and character, I was intrigued a number of years ago when I noticed the rapidly growing number of Jane Austen’s spawn infiltrating the marketplace Her growing brood of knock-offs included not only faithful movie and play adaptations, but also re-imaginings of her works with an endless variety of twists and turns.
Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary was one of the first Austen re-writes I read. I found this re-writing of Pride and Prejudice from a 30-something English Everywoman’s perspective refreshing and hilarious. As an added bonus, I learned the term “fuckwit” from this novel, a term I have found to be quite useful for describing a number of people I have since come across.
Even more diverting than the book version of Bridget Jones’s Diary was the movie version of it, starring competing dream boats Colin Firth and Hugh Grant (who are apparently the only two male actors in England). How could anyone resist Renee Zellweger lounging alone at home in her jammies, singing “All By Myself” before falling into a drunken stupor? How could anyone not find it satisfying that the snobbish female stick-insects of the movie ended up without either Colin Firth or Hugh Grant?
Colin Firth played the Darcy character in Bridget Jones’s Diary. Not coincidentally, he also starred as Darcy in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, and I believe he plays a not inconsiderable role in Jane Austen’s recent popularity. (Not that I would know anything about that.)
So at first, I was proud of Jane Austen for her continuing popularity, and I wanted to learn more. I thought it would be fun to research all of the Austen knock-offs from the past few decades. But alas, my pride in Austen quickly turned to prejudice against the Austen industry. I realized it was futile to try to compile a comprehensive list; her spawn was multiplying far too rapidly for a mere mortal like me to get control over it.
As I noted above, at first I found the knock-offs charming. But then my attitude changed. As the little Austens began to reproduce more rapidly, I started to become frightened. For example, the Bollywood version of “Pride and Prejudice,” called Bride and Prejudice, was initially intriguing. But when the entire cast came out in matching outfits and started singing and dancing together, I cried in horror. I wanted to do a Mr. Bennett and go hide in my library until they were done.
But the real trauma began with a novel and author whose names I fortunately do not remember. This novel described Elizabeth and Darcy’s early married life in intimate detail. And I mean intimate. I’m not a prude, but when I read the description of Elizabeth and Darcy banging away on the dining room table, I blanched. Not long after that enlightening scene came another scene of ardent embraces that took place under a tree in the yard. Unfortunately, Elizabeth had just recently given birth and was not ready for such “activities,” so she started bleeding and, if I recall correctly, some of her placenta came out as well (?). (I’m not making this stuff up. I am not capable of making this stuff up.) That was the end of that novel for me.
Years later, after the traumatic memory of the previous book had been safely buried, I started perusing a few more knock-offs, with titles such as The Jane Austen Book Club, Lost in Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, and, God help us all, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Every time I walk into a book store, I see at least one, usually more, re-interpretations of an Austen novel. To be honest, they all blur together in my head; I can no longer distinguish one baby Austen from the other. There are so many of them at this point, it is almost like trying to distinguish one brand of cereal from another.
You’d think a zombie knock-off would be memorable, but it’s not. For the most part, Seth Grahame-Smith copied Pride and Prejudice word for word. My people call this plagiarism. I guess Grahame-Smith gets away with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies because in every chapter or so he adds a paragraph or two in which zombies enter the scene and Elizabeth Bennett skillfully fights them off with her advanced zombie-killing skills. Yawn. Where’s the “value-added” as my friends in the business world like to ask?
I don’t know about you, dear readers, but I have had enough. Twenty or thirty Austen knock-offs are enough. We do not need several hundred of them. LET’S STOP THE MADNESS! Let’s put an end to the endless Austen wannabes. Let us regain some sanity and JUST SAY NO.***
Let’s let Austen rest peacefully in her grave.
If authors feel they must write a knock-off of an amazing classic woman author, how about George Eliot or the Bronte sisters? Maybe some Emily Dickinson? Virginia Woolf? Let’s spread the love around, shall we?
***Unless Colin Firth or Hugh Grant is involved. We can never get enough of those two, especially together in the same film. ***