Monday, March 14, 2011

But vanity, not love, has been my folly

I've finally gotten around to reading Pride and Prejudice. I've mentioned this before, but I've read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a couples times, so I figured it was about time I read the original. Now I can quit feeling guilty. Here's the thing, I think I might like the zombie one better. Now before you start bludgeoning me with your Complete Works of Jane Austen* let me explain. The story, the characters, the plot of Austen's Pride and Prejudice are what primarily makes up the story of P&P&Z. The zombies are really secondary. If you don't like Austen's text, you'll never like the zombie version. I'm actually surprised Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has been so popular. I'd think the cross section of people who like Austen and people who like zombies is very small. So the zombie version is just Austen with a little something extra. Something extra that is absurd.

I don't want to spend this whole post talking about zombies though. I do want to talk about Austen's work, which is brilliant. Even after reading the zombie one, I was still a little worried going into this that I'd find the work boring. I know, I know, I just finished saying that if you don't like Austen you won't like the zombie version. While I liked Austen's language and story, I wasn't sure if the zombie scenes were getting me through some of the parts that would drag more in the normal version. I've read Sense and Sensibility before and wasn't crazy about it. I have been pleasantly surprised. I've hardly been able to put the book down. Austen creates wonderful characters that are so smart and so well developed. They behave in a way that is true to their personalities and it never feels like they are doing anything as simply a means to progress the plot.

Lizzy and Darcy are wonderful characters. The scenes where these two are together sparkle. There is so much wit and pride between them that it is a joy to read their interactions, and anytime they were separated I found myself flipping ahead to find out when the two would share the page again. Their love is clear early on, but obviously they must be kept apart for the duration of the book or else the story would be very short and boring. The events that keep them apart don't feel contrived, which means I don't have to spend the whole book thinking the main characters are morons, as is the case with most romantic comedies.

Even the ridiculous characters make sense and feel real. Sure, Mrs. Bennet is obsessed with getting her daughters married off, but her worries are not unfounded. Her family will be very likely turned out of their home when Mr. Bennet dies and women didn't have many options for making their own way in the world. Marriage was essentially their only hope. I can laugh at Mrs. Bennet, but at the same time I can understand her worries.

I'm happy I finally got around to this book. Not only because it's long overdue but because it gives me at least one book that is a) not written by an American author and b) written pre-1970s. I'm not quite finished with the book so there's a possibility of a second post coming up.

*As soon as I typed that I started to imagine different book related homicides. I bet those metal book marks could do some damage.  Or maybe millions of paper cuts and then the victim falls apart, a la that laser scene from one of the Resident Evil movies. See, I start writing about Pride and Prejudice and then just segue right into book-deaths. This is why the zombie version worked for me.

Title quote from page 199

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Signet, 2008.