Friday, 11 June 2010

New Take On Classics - Friend or Foe?

So I finished my current read this morning, and set about trying to figure out which book I was going to move onto next.  My last read was Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, and after reading about the decimation of the American Indians, I needed something a little light, a little fun - something NOT to be taken seriously.  

My eyes landed on a book I've had for a while and never got around to.  It was Mr Darcy, Vampyre Hunter.  I've only read a few chapters at this point, but something struck me.  While it's go so far and definitely hits the mark for getting the time period believable and everything, it blatantly wasn't as good as Austen.  Now, I'm not trying to say this was the author's intent but there is some controversy over this kind of thing.  Is it damaging Austen's reputation and spitting on her excellent work by twisting and distorting her loved characters into something modern society feels it can enjoy more?  Or is it simply a bit of a laugh and will ultimately make its readers want to reach out and grab what originally inspired it?  Have Austen book sales gone up since the release of titles such as this?  Did Pride and Prejudice and Zombies make people want to see where Lizzy and Darcy actually came from?  Or have we simply stolen ideas and slapped a different spin on it?

After reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I wrote a blog post similar to this, but since then my eyes have been opened further as I realised just how much Alternate Austen there is out in the world.  My first thought was, sure, I like it.  But now I'm beginning to wonder where the line is - and has it already been crossed?  A lot of people sneer on Seth Grahame-Smith and how he was altered and adjusted some of Austen's classics, but in my opinion the works are two different things.  It's like when I read a book then watch the movie - I have to separate them in my mind and make them two different projects in order to enjoy it.  Once you start comparing, you're never gonna be happy.  

So where is the line that says it isn't entertainment and it's merely plagiarism hiding behind a 'new' face?  The further I delve into this world of revamped classics, the more torn I get.  Generally speaking it doesn't bother me and I'll happily read the original and the spoof (I mean, what else can you call it?) but the more I think about it, the unhappier I get.  As a writer myself, I can understand where people are coming from and think that yes, they have every reason to be upset.  It takes a lot to create characters, plot and settings and even more to create ones that readers will fall in love with.  So how would Austen feel if she knew people were taking her ideas and twisting them into something else?  Would she be flattered? Or would she cringe?  I don't know.

What I definitely do have a problem with is new 'discoveries'.  People pretending to have discovered previously unpublished works from literary icons and passing them off as the genuine article, when all they are is glorified fan-fiction.  When I first saw Pride and Promiscuity - The Lose Sex Scenes of Jane Austen, I was all 'hell yeah!  I gotta read that!'.  I have since discovered this isn't the truth.  People have pretended to find this work and passed it off as Austen - when in fact it is a work of their creation.  I'm still curious to read it, but now feel apprehensive.  Had the people who brought this lie into the world marketed it differently and for exactly what it is (ahem, fan-fiction) then I'd been more willing to read it.  But it feels almost dirty and cheap - like reading Stephenie Meyer's Midnight Sun after it was leaked onto the internet.  No fun in that.  

So as of right now, I'm undecided.  I can enjoy them to a certain extent but I keep changing my mind on where I stand.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed one day the classic lovers and the modern freaks (I can say that - I class myself as freaky on the odd day) can live in peace and maybe find some common ground.  But I won't hold my breath.


Anonymous,  14 June 2010 at 22:12  

I haven't read any of these yet. I'm skeptical of them.

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