30 November 2009

Zombie mayhem in classical literature

By Nicole E. Avery
GVL Columnist

Is it possible, or are my eyes deceiving me? Nope. It's true and there has been a permanent smirk on my face all week long while I've been reading "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith -- a fantastical redoing that enhances a timeless classic by introducing zombie mayhem.

Whether it was from a traditional English class, a BBC special, or that adventurous well-read Jack Russell dog re-enactment from the PBS show "Wishbone," almost everyone has heard of this classic must-read tale. I am an avid reader and love the classics. Like many other young girls I was charmed by Austen's handsome man of few words, Mr. Darcy. Yet everyone isn't as enthusiastic as I am about classic literature -- some people just aren't that geeky.

I attribute my extreme nerd behavior to personal preference or different strokes for different folks, as my dad would say.

One of the main reasons I am enjoying "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" so much is because it represents that commonly felt exasperation when you are struggling to get through thousands of pages of Ayn Rand, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck or Herman Melville -- which is exactly why what Grahame-Smith does with Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" is so important. Grahame-Smith is able to change the way the reader relates to this particular book and draw in a crowd that would otherwise never be exposed to what I consider essential reading.

The only major setback to this novel is that many people will think that Grahame-Smith is defiling a classic by interjecting gore and hand-to-hand combat into an already "perfect" novel. Changing the novel seems almost insulting, disrespectful or some other sort of negativism that distracts from the authorial intent of the novel.

I look at it this way: My mother has cooked spaghetti the same way for years. I've always loved it, but when I moved out to Grand Valley State University for school I had to learn to cook for myself. I began to experiment with new ways to make a homemade spaghetti sauce. Guess what? It's scrumptiously delicious. Just because I came up with my own way to cook the recipe doesn't mean I would no longer eat the dish the way my mother prepares it. I like it both ways.

I feel the same way about "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," because though I have read the original, I find this version even more enjoyable and I am left with the feeling that even if I hadn't read the original beforehand, I would be curious and would read it.

You can enjoy something old by making it new. Everyone does it. Bands make covers of old songs, and Disney steals all their ideas from cultural folklore. It's exactly the same and shouldn't be so frowned upon.

Illustration from, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies".
Quirk Classics

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