Thursday, July 19, 2012

Are We Going Too Far for the Market?

Here's some food for thought. I was trawling around on the Internet and stumbled upon an article in the Independent Mail discussing an upcoming series of re-worked classics. The "re-working" consists of the insertion (mind the pun) of erotic scenes into such beloved stories as Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.

My first reaction to reading this was "Oh no they didn't."

I don't want to debase anyone's reading preferences, but seriously? I know re-workings are all the rage right now. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, etc can all be found on today's bookshelves. I've never read either, nor the other multitude of paranormal tales interlaced with classic stories.

Have we come so far as a society that we must re-write Pride and Prejudice to include erotic sex? Therein lies the issue: the point of these novels was the simmering sexual tension beneath everything. What's more, the company behind these re-workings as a true devotee of both Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, I would not even think to degrade their works by adding these scenes. It's just wrong.

The article cites the enormous success of Fifty Shades of Gray as reason for these re-workings. I haven't read Fifty nor do I intend to. I did however read an absolutely laugh out loud (which is rather funny since I've lost my laughing is actually a long high pitched wheeze) review on GoodReads. If you are easily offended by language, don't click over. I generally feel like reviewers should be respectful in their reviews, even if they are negative, but I'm making an exception this time. Please forgive.

Ok, so I digressed off point. Fifty of Shades of Gray was originally a fan-fic. And so to use that as a measure of whether or not to make classic novels erotic is just a bad judgment call. It's one thing to have some fan fiction fun for your own amusement and quite another to give it a world wide audience (i.e. a publishing contract, movie, etc). Sure, I used to write Jane Austen fan fiction when I was in high school, but I never would have had the audacity to  change the names and publish it. Of course, I've never been a huge proponent of re-writes or add-ons. I can kind of see finishing unfinished classics, but the multitude of authors cashing in on making Jane Austen a super sleuth, continuing on where one book left off, or filling out other secondary characters from classic works has never really appealed to me. It's nearly impossible re-capture the same panache and style as the original author. And personally, some things are better left to one's imagination.

So how far is too far? Should we relegate re-workings of any author's work to the internet world of fan fiction or should a larger platform be made available?


  1. Personally, I would never read something like that. It might ruin the original for me. I can see why they'd do it: for the money, but still, it would be like.... bleh.

    I just read that review of "fifty shades of grey." I don't like to bash books either... but LOL at that!

    1. I just think it ruins the original intent of the book. I mentioned on another forum that putting sex scenes into Jane Eyre may make sense but it completely undermines Jane's values, which she staunchly upheld when he asked her to be his even with the pesky wife.

      I wonder what the Sherlock Holmes purists are saying about the proposed Sherlock and Watson love affair? There was quite the outcry when Laurie R. King married Sherlock off to his apprentice Mary Russell in her books.

  2. That seems so...wrong to me. I haven't read the "...and Vampires/Zombies/Etc" books, because they don't appeal to me, but I can appreciate the sort of tongue-in-cheek humor or irony of the concept. But to just thrust (ha) erotic scenes into books like these disregards the original style, aesthetic, and culture surrounding the book. I think I'm also bothered that this isn't some individual writer's fanfic turned published book (I still wouldn't like it but it would at least feel more authentic)--it sounds like a pre-packaged marketing stunt.

    I find it interesting that they "aren't rewriting" because they're "keeping the author's original prose." I would actually prefer a full rewrite in this case--if you want a historical erotic romance, write a historical erotic romance based on the storyline and characters. This implies that the authors "left something out" and it needs to be corrected--which is just ridiculous!

    1. So true, Rowenna. I remember a particular series of books chronicling Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage that was supposedly pretty hot. I never read them but I have an easier time with that--yeah, I don't care for add-ons but at least the author was starting with a blank slate so to speak.

  3. I cannot get through the original Pride & Prejudice, I'm ashamed to say. (I can make it through the movie on Colin Firth alone, however.) But, if I understand the original intent of the book it was primarily a lesson in appropriate behavior. If there was a shimmering sexual tension in the novel, I must have put it down too soon and missed it.

    My favorite novel is The Scarlet Pimpernel. It's not even supposed to be particularly well-written, but then it's hard to judge books of the period based on our own writing standards. That said, I think there's a great deal of sexual tension shimmering beneath the surface of that relationship.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Mary Jean. I think I was thinking more of "Jane Eyre" in regards to sexual tension. Although the disagreement between Lizzy and Darcy could easily be construed as a sexual tension, in my opinion.

      I've got to read "The Scarlet Pimpernel"! I'm a huge fan of the various movie adaptations ( particularly the 80s one) although my stepdad recently read the book and said it was quite different from the movies.

  4. First off, let me say, "Oh, heck no!" I am old-school. All of this re-make/re-telling/re-vamping, whatever seems like a cheap short cut. The books are considered classics because they are great literature that has stood the test of time. Im not a fan of re-makes in film (Star Trek is my one exception)and certainly will not be in my books.
    I admit, I do judge books by their cover, in a sense, and if they cover is a rip-off, I'm not going to give reading it a second thought. This just seems like pandering. If someone is going to write a book, it should be because they have something to say, a story to tell. Their own story. Adding onto someone elses is like piggy-back riding to the top of a mountain, and when you get to the peak, you have the nerve to brag about how you didn't even break a sweat.
    It may sound harsh, but I feel very strongly about this. The trend of turning real literature into smut turns my stomach.
    Okay, now that that's out of my system- I can honestly say, I won't be purchasing any of that type of material.