Saturday, September 5, 2009

Pride and Prejudice Goeth Before a Fall

I'm about forty pages into Pride and Prejudice right now, which is entirely due to the zombies.

A while back Kim checked out of the library the latest and greatest parody of literature, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. She was so amused by it that she stopped reading and bought her own copy, which arrived this week in the friendly cardboard box with the Amazon logo that says "You can put your life on hold now." I was going to read it too, but when Kim found out that I had not read the actual Jane Austen novel she was just appalled and insisted that I needed to read that first.

A decent point, it must be admitted.

So I put it in the queue, right after the book on the history of the stone walls of New England. Really - I have this book. It was given to me by someone I met through the course of one of my many jobs - a fellow history nerd, it turned out - and it ended up being more interesting than you'd think. Plus, as the review on the inside cover said, if you're going to have one book on this subject, this is the one to have. This of course raises the question of just how many books on this subject there are, as well as the related question of how one would judge the literary and scholarly merits of each book against the others.

It's a complicated and cut-throat business, writing about stone walls.

I finished the book on stone walls this evening, and - being incapable of not having at least one book in progress at all times - immediately picked up Pride and Prejudice, which Kim had in a magnificent red-leather-bound and gilt-edged edition. It even has pictures of the main characters, done in the sketchbook style of the time.

I find myself in somewhat of a bind.

I have never been much of a fan of middle-class Victorian comedies of manners, mostly because the characters just make me want to smack them with a dead fish and tell them to relax. The Victorian middle class may well have been necessary for the industrial revolution, but other than that they were pretty much a disaster. A well-dressed disaster, granted, and scrupulously polite, but a disaster nonetheless.

So if I end up liking this book, I will be forced to revise my opinion (about the comedies, not necessarily about the Victorian middle class), which is always painful and will deprive me of many comedic possibilities of my own. Say this about the Victorian middle class, say that they are a target-rich environment for the satirist. I can see why people would introduce zombies into their world.

On the other hand, if I don't end up liking this book, I will stand accused of going in with a closed mind predisposed to not liking this book and why did I even bother and what a low, uncouth and hopelessly uncultured person am I.

I'm trying to keep an open mind, therefore. I have decided to blog about it as I go, in the hopes that this keeps me honest.

So far, so good, though in all honesty I cannot tell if anything has happened yet.

A rich, eligible bachelor has moved into the village. There has been much dancing, much social maneuvering, and more than an avalanche of words regarding marriage, social climbing, and the relative characteristics of young women among the Bennett family. Jane is sleeping off a cold and Mr. Darcy is being insufferably Romantic. Nothing has exploded. Indeed, other than in the minds and imaginations of the characters, nothing much has happened at all. This may be the point, however.

I will have to explore further.


Katherine McKay said...

Didn't .Jane Austen die some twenty or so years before Queen Victoria took the throne? Jane was ever so gently mocking the polite society in which she lived where women were totally dependent upon men and marriage for their status in life. The novel will go better if you keep an image of Jane in your head with her tongue firmly planted in her cheek. She was a sly one.

KimK said...

I'll be here for counseling when you need it. :)