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Needs more zombie?

June 21, 2009

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains…

So begins Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a parody cum tribute to Jane Austen’s original. Officially this is a mash-up, taking two seemingly incompatible materials, and merging them into a new and original artwork.

Musical mash-ups require talent – having an ear for what might work, then mixing them together seamlessly, a triumph of technical prowess and musical imagination. The literary equivalent is played for laughs, but does it require much in the way of talent and originality?

I am currently reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I’m enjoying it. I enjoy Austen, Pride and Prejudice is my favourite of her books, and if you know me then you’ll know that zombies appeal to me – this book ought to be a winner with me.

And so it is, on its own. Much of the original Austen text is untouched, and all the classic elements of zombie stories are included. There is a measure of talent in knowing what of Austen could be cut out so that the inclusion of the zombie elements did not confuse, or overburden the book by doubling its length. The zombie plague now feels like an essential setting for the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, rather than an awkward bolt-on.

But that’s only a small measure of talent and originality. This is very much a book of the moment, and somewhat divisive. You will either love it, or consider it a literary travesty. I fear that as time passes, the willingness to read this will wane, and I dread to think that this might be the vanguard of a new literary genre, [Classic Novel] + [Monster of the Week] = Bestseller, because I think people will quickly grow weary of it.

Already, Pride and Prejudice and Zomebies 2 is available for pre-order (although since Austen never wrote a sequel this may be a more original piece of work). The movie is slated for release in 2011, by which point I think the concept will have jumped the shark – not that this will necessarily stop the “flog a dead horse brigade” in Hollywood, who are rumoured to already have Pride and Predator in the works.

I hope that this will be all we get of the monster-lit mashup market, before it seems less like a quirky and funny idea, and more like a juvenile prank that becomes more tiresome with repetition. The concept of fusing classic drama with sci-fi and horror is hardly new, having been done twice in my memory on British television – the sketch show Dead Ringers had Jane Austen meets The Terminator, and in the mid-nineties comedian Harry Enfield speculated on what a Terminator film from Merchant Ivory would look like.

Still, if any zombies want to invade the interminably boring Wessex of Thomas Hardy’s novels, then I would be delighted to see that happen…

Paul would like to compliment Mrs Bennett on hosting tonight’s ball. The dancing was superb, the food was divine, especially the sweet delicious brrrraaaaaaiiiiinnnssssssss……
  1. June 21, 2009 4:44 am

    Oh dear – thats priceless!! a definite series of books I need to look at getting.I would have to add that any life – even the animated lurching of a zombie would certainly liven things up in a Hardy novel.

    Thanks for digging this up and making us all aware of the next wave of craze…

  2. June 21, 2009 7:19 am

    When I saw this in Borders a month ago I immediately thought of you Paul! Having never read Pride and Prejudice I probably should attempt the original before the mashie. Maybe a back to back read? As a HUGE fan of the musical mash up (and the wonderful irony which is often woven into a mashie) I can’t wait to see how a literary version plays out.

    As for Hollywood – they do flog a dead horse don’t they? But Pride and Predator? Someone needs to be struck about the head with a blunt object! I’m still waiting with trepidation to see how they’ve treated The Time Traveller’s Wife.

    As for the BBC (or was it ITV?)Dead Ringers was one of our favourite comedies when Dave and I were first together and was a bunk off from studying but perhaps we didn’t get the series with Jane Austen and The Terminator. I’m certain I would remember seeing that. We loved the send up of Tom Baker! We did recently have Lost in Austen which I intended to watch but only saw the second half – but it seemed like an interesting take on the original – though obviously NOT with zombies attached!

  3. June 21, 2009 10:41 am

    Sorry. That’s *Joss* Whedon.

  4. June 21, 2009 10:41 am

    What has Josh Whedon unleashed?


  5. June 22, 2009 2:07 am

    I’ve never heard of these books but I am a fan of Pride and Prejudice. I’ll look in to it. Thanks for the suggestion!

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