Austen Horror or Horrified?

There have been few times in my life I committed a Daffy-Duck-style double-take. One was in the movie theater last week when the preview for Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter rolled. I blanched, giggled, hid my face in my hands, and groaned, “Make it stop.”  Another of these time times occurred in Barnes and Noble, as I passed a display by the front door: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith.

Product Details

Eh?

And this is not the only attempt to blend Austen with other genres. There are Jane Austen mysteries. Even a whole slew of Austen vampires:

Product Details Product Details Product Details Product Details Product Details Product Details

In all fairness, I will admit I have not read these books. I cannot rightfully praise or disparage the writing style or ability of these authors. What I mean to do today is address the surprising notion of bringing out the darkness in Austen. Crossing Jane with murder and monsters.

I tend to think of Austen’s works as a soufflé. It is not that her works lack substance, not by any means. Like a soufflé, they are full of rich, filling ingredients. But they are mixed, whipped, and baked with such careful precision that one early peek into the oven will cause the whole structure to collapse. Only a master chef like Austen, the Julia Child of early novelists, can cook up such a plot, where the heaviness feels light. Jane has a great deal to say on weighty matters, but she never feels heavy or preachy. The deception of meringue, after all, is that the texture is light and sweet, but in reality, it’s made of egg –meat—without a drop of yolk, not beaten a second too little or too much.

Is this an unfair assessment? How much darkness is really in Austen? We can’t overlook the elopements, adultery, broken promises, life-threatening illnesses, swindling, familial favoritism and neglect, and implied murder that form key hingepoints in her plots. I invite discussion.

I would call Austen’s observation of human foibles biting, at times. Is that a form of vampirism?

Maybe the problem is I just don’t care for horror. Horror movies either gross me out or make me laugh. I have read Twilight, in an attempt to understand why the many teenagers I work with love it. But when I step out of realism in literature, I tend to seek out Vulcans, fairies, the denizens of sci fi and fantasy. I don’t hang out with vampires, werewolves, and the undead. Would Austen? I don’t know. Maybe. Clearly she read gothic novels. Otherwise, how could she parody them in Northanger Abbey? But I get the sense this was a tongue-in-cheek guilty pleasure for her. She was able to read, and enjoy, and laugh at herself for enjoying the extremes of such novels.

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

―    Jane Austen,    Northanger Abbey

Still, I ask, what’s next? The Persuasion of Yeti? The Creature from the Black Lagoon Comes to Hertsfordshire? Mr. Bingley is the Boogeyman?

Who am I to judge cross-genre rewrites of classics? After all, I enjoyed Sharon Shinn’s sci fi take on Jane Eyre, entitled Jenna Starborn.

Product Details

More on that next time.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under cross-genre, Pride and Prejudice

2 responses to “Austen Horror or Horrified?

  1. Sarah, I was glad to see The Christian Reader appear in my inbox, and came to read immediately. I know exactly what you mean by doing a double-take over the attempt to turn Jane Austen’s classics into the foundation for horror. Last year when I saw a display of Jane Austen titles combined with vampires and zombies, I just stared for several moments amazed at the combination. I just never thought that those who love Jane Austen and those who enjoy horror could ever be the same people. Life is full of surprises.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s