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Please Leave Jane Austen’s Work Alone: A Desperate and Non-influential Plea

December 11, 2009

I am a fervent Jane Austen fan. I love her eloquent prose, her portrayal of social conventions during Victorian England, and her penchant for subtle criticism. And I think people need to leave her work well-enough alone!

As you may or may not know, because her work has been in the public sphere for more than a century, it is no longer covered by copyright. So, people can do what they will with it. And ohhhh have they.

In early 2009, Seth Grahame-Smith wrote a mash-up of the iconic and lovely Pride and Prejudice by infusing it with zombies. His novel, uncreatively titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies consists of the original Austen manuscript, just infused with zombies and random woodland creatures. Even more, it has spurred other authors to try their hand at this style, with the release of Ben H. Winters’ Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. At least Winters attempted to alliterate the title.

Despite my distaste for these novels, there are plenty of people who love them. And now, a movie is being made of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Natalie Portman will star and it will be produced by Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly, which means that it will probably be a decent movie. *sigh*

Although I must admit that the idea is hilarious, it still crushes my soul a tiny bit. Pride and Prejudice was the first novel I stayed up all-night to finish because I couldn’t bear to put it down. I was 12. Every time I tried to place my bookmark, turn off the light, and go to sleep, I just couldn’t do it. I had to know what happened next.I devoured that book and the rest of the Austen oeuvre and they hold a very special place in my life. So to see someone rip apart the novels that I hold so dear is a hard pill to swallow.

However, these novels are written in a way that if you are unfamiliar with the original Austen novels, they are hard to follow and the irony of it all is lost. So, if these strange creations are leading new readers to the original Austen novels as well as the modern day versions, I guess I can deal with that. But, I’m still going to be indignantly annoyed by them.

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