Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jane Austen and the Gothic

I just read Vampire Darcy's Desire by Regina Jeffers. I am going to read Amanda Grange's Mr. Darcy, Vampyre as soon as it arrives in the mail (hopefully today). Having just revisited Northanger Abbey, I cannot help but wonder what Jane would think of these Gothic adaptations of Pride & Prejudice. The insertion of monsters into her stories is all the rage right now, ever since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was released over the summer. This book has been wildly successful and there is a rush to jump on the band wagon (I have yet to get my hands on Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters). I must admit of the two I have read I much preferred Vampire Darcy's Desire to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The later was totally over hyped. While having Elizabeth Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh duke it out was quite fun, all this book did was take Austen's original text and insert (sometimes artlessly) zombies into it. Very little was actually new and for those of us who have read Austen over and over and over again it was a bit tedious. Sometimes dialogue was attributed to the wrong characters, making me think the author was not a true Austen fan and hadn't read her text as carefully as it deserves. With all the wonderful adaptation out there, I'm sad that this is the one that has captured the broader public's attention.

Vampire Darcy's Desire, on the other hand, is a totally new rendition of the Darcy vs. Wickham conflict, packed with folklore and mythology. I only wish Ms. Jeffers had edited the book a bit more carefully. It feels like she rushed to publish while the trend was in full force. This book is much more sensual than Austen ever dares to be. While overt sexuality sometime makes me a bit edgy in Austen spin-offs, the fact that we're dealing with vampires here makes it far more acceptable. What is vampirism if not the 19th century's way of expressing repressed sexual desire? Still, here we are thrown into a world of nightmare and suspense (Udolpho, anyone?) and I constantly heard, as the text progressed, Henry Tilney whispering in my ear:

"Remember that we are English, that we are Christian. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetuated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest [Ms. Jeffers], what ideas have you been admitting?"

Wouldn't it be wonderful, while we're all monster happy, if some inventive writer produced a more satirical work of the sort, in the style of Northanger Abbey? Something to bring us out of the Gothic and secure our feet back on that solid, well-warn road between Longbourn and Meryton, where the worst disaster one might encounter is a pig escaped from its yard or enough mud to render a petticoat thoroughly unpresentable.

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