Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Jane is so cool...

Eyre? Tarzan? Bennet? That last one came close. Ladies and gents, presenting Miss Jane Austen... again:

Michael Thomas Ford’s forthcoming novel about an undead Jane Austen who, after 200 years of writer’s block, takes revenge on everyone making money off of her? More proof of the inherently vampiric nature of the literary heritage industry? Or the strongest argument yet for retroactive tightening of copyright restrictions?

That's from the NY Times' Paper Cuts blog. I had to laugh at loud seeing that. The post is quite hilarious. I recommend you read it (and the subsequent comments). But other than the pretty great mental image of a zombie Mr. Darcy, I got to thinking about superstar Jane. Most 19th century writers have to battle ageism against them. Jane Austen is somehow exempt from this rule. There's something so clear and obvious to loving Jane Austen. "Pride and Prejudice" is a pretty nice book (lovely romantic plot, nice length...) and much as the obsession with it is fun, it isn't particularly enlightening. How many different versions can you make of the same plot?

I don't have much of an opinion on the copyright issue, but I definitely feel that the P&P craze is another one of those fads that takes away from the original quality. Often, bad books are overly hyped, thus resulting in tons of people reading a pretty crappy book. In this case, the opposite is happening. A reasonably good book is blown entirely out of proportion to the point where people will pretty soon get sick of it. It'll take a while: generations of young women have fallen in love with the romance of the novel (even guys think Mr. Darcy is perfect). It's hard not to. That's part of the reason why P&P is so popular in the first place. Who doesn't want to read a book that makes their stomach flutter and gives them classic points at the same time?

Google "Pride and Prejudice". 3,850,000 hits. That's about 1.5 million more than "Crime and Punishment" and 85 million less than "Harry Potter". It sweeps Burney's "Evelina", "Camilla" and "Cecilia" off the board (by 3,500,000 of all three combined!). It even beats "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights", two other romantic romance novels grandly over-hyped. It's crazy. Yes, we all love P&P because it's a good book but does nobody else think maybe we need to relax for a moment? Other excellent period novels are overlooked simply because they aren't stamped with Jane Austen on their covers. How many sequels have been published for P&P? People love Jane Austen: movies, miniseries (the BBC rocks), books, er, other media things...

So what's the deal? A 200-year fad or simply understanding quality? I'll pull for a combo. "Pride and Prejudice" is a really good book, but there's something overly hyped to it. Either way, it'd be nice if it stopped... And, of course, a delayed reaction:

What in the world? Jane Austen and zombies?

1 comment:

  1. I did a blog post about Darcyiana because I was so astonished about the number of books (sequels or retellings of P&P). There seems to be a huge market for it. I have one in my TBR pile, but somehow couldn't bring myself to reading it yet.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and your comment. I agree about the color organization, looks awesome, but is not efficient at all.


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