Friday, August 28, 2009

Something old, borrowed, new?

WARNING: Spoilers if you have not yet read Pride & Prejudice. Even if your beloved other half bought it for you ages ago. And yes, that OH may not have read all your gifts, but this particular book might just happen to be one of the aforementioned O.H.'s favourite books of all time and if she could be anyone in literature, it would probably be the main character.

Where was I? Ah, yes, after all the preamble of spoiler warnings, I wanted to note that, while away holidaying, I read with a mixture of amusement, fascination and horror, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It was... pretty good, actually. I have just two grumbles. One, it makes use of puns on "balls" much more than I really think any book needs, let alone an Austen, updated or otherwise (too much of something blue, methinks). Two, part of its very joy - things "falling into place" in the plot - are things that I find on some level troublesome and, really, a failure to understand the importance of the original. For example, Charlotte's decision to marry Mr. Collins makes much more sense, according to some reviews. But of course, in the original, her decision is due to feeling in danger of being left on the shelf, being stuck at home with her parents, and without anyone to take care of her were they to die before she married. The things that don't seem to "make sense" actually do when you look at them through the prism of how clearly women did lack choices and control over their lives.

Nonetheless, I'm not trying to write it off or be (too) humourless about the book. There is an interesting look at gender in both, and knowing the original is essential for getting the point of the later version. In P&P&Z, a large proportion of the nation's defenders the scourge of zombies are unmarried women*; a woman's worth is partly based on her immense strength and ability to kill zombies - Lady Catherine is an absolute legend in that field, which aids the narration by explaining why such an awful woman is so greatly esteemed. P&P&Z elevates women and explicitly recognises how vital they are to a nation's health; it also mocks the things that women were actually valued for - not strength or intellect, but sewing and being gentle and playing the piano - not that playing the piano isn't awesome, but it doesn't make you worth having a relationship with - unless you're really good, I suppose.

What reading P&P&Z mainly brought about was the renewing of my obsession with Austen books, and I have just re-read Persuasion in a day. I do utterly love that book. P&P does win out for me, but the older I get, the more Anne Elliot resonates, and the sadder and more thrilling the story. Maybe it's time to re-visit Emma, too, and of course, Sense & Sensibility - before S&S & Sea Monsters emerges. Would that I were joking.

* When they are married, they cease this work to devote themselves to the presumably much more important job of getting pregnant.

Cross-Posted at Hall of Shame.

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