This essay reads Quirk Classics’ monstrous mash-ups, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, asdeliberately excessive and unnatural alterations that speak to a preoccupation with improvement that is both thematized within Austen’s own work and symptomatic of Austenmania’s broader project of renovating the literary landscape that is Jane Austen’s estate. While the mash-up enterprise is, no doubt, an exercise in making Austen’s novels worse, the essay frames the Quirk travesties in terms of Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp,” asking whether it is possible that these imprudent “improvements” might actually be good because they are bad. Insofar as the enhanced editions make manifest the Camp sensibility that has long been latent in Austen’s prose, they tease promising critical insight; however, the increasingly derivative mash-ups ultimately fail in their campiness precisely where Austen succeeds: for hers remains a secret of style.What do you think? Are spin-offs like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters a good or a bad thing? A good way to get more readers introduced to Austen who might not otherwise try reading her (i.e. read the spin-off and then read the original)? Or are they a destruction of good literature?
People like [previous Austen biographer] Lord David Cecil had tried to present Austen as though her family were part of the aristocratic society, or gentry. But looking at who her Hampshire neighbours actually were, which I think nobody had done, and then looking at the fact that her mother and father couldn’t afford to bring up their children so they had to run an all-boys boarding school, and that they didn’t live in a house they owned so when her father left they were homeless – it seemed to me that there was so much there. Of course they went to balls where they met people from higher classes, but basically they had a tough time.No matter who the subject is (though Jane's biography was naturally our favourite at the Jane Austen News), Tomalin's biographies are a joy to read so we look forward to her new book. Tomalin's full interview can be found here.
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I do pity any purist who is opposed to Jane Austen spinoffs and JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction literature) because they can rail against it, write thoughtful think pieces about it, write turgid academic prose condemning it, and accomplish exactly nothing! JAFF has legions of fans who will not give a hoot about the opinions of these bien pensants.
Well I can’t think of a reason why! I certainly don’t care what he thinks.
Extremely well put and ‘spot on’!
Is there a reason why we should care about Mr Coren’s opinion? Isn’t he a restaurant critic?