Fifty Shades of Mr. Darcy: A Parody, by William Codpiece Thwackery – A Review

Fifty Shades if Mr. Darcy: A Parody, by William Codpiece Thwackery (2012)From the desk of Christina Boyd.

Fifty Shades of Mr. Darcy is described as “A titillating mash-up of an erotic bestseller and a romantic classic, peppered with puns.”  As an unabashed reader of anything Jane Austen, or Pride & Prejudice… as well as a blushing, shameless fan of E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, I confess, my curiosity was peaked. How could it not?  In a literary world of sequels, prequels and what ifs, it was but a foregone conclusion that someone would lampoon these two bestsellers together.  Contrived by a writer with a silly nom de plume, William Codpiece Thwackery, how could this be anything but a hoot?  (Warning: Spoilers.)

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good riding crop must be in want of a pair of bare buttocks to thrash.”   Eh-hem. And that is how we find Elizabeth Bennet, tied to Mr. Darcy’s bedposts, flashing back to how she came to such a moment… Mrs. Bennet, now on her 4th husband, Billy Bob Bennett—she previously bonked to death his predecessors (Thwackery’s word choice, not mine) announces to her family, “I have heard that both men are considerably well endowed.  Both have huge packages…” Unlike Austen’s irrepressible Elizabeth who possesses a dry wit, enjoys spotting a fool, and refuses to be taken lightly, this Elizabeth is not even offended by Mr. Darcy’s initial slight; she does at least resist her mother’s pleas to don a leather mini-dress.  “If Mr. Darcy considers himself above our station, I can understand it. After all, our stepfather has but two thousand pounds a year, and Mr. Darcy is a man of vast wealth, and well known for his charitable works.” One of which is his support of unwed mothers in a business venture called Hooters. It was immediately apparent that this course, vulgar farce was simply going for shock value. And the mixing of modern with Regency made utterly no sense.  But I soldiered on.

In addition to the burlesque plunder of Austen’s beloved Darcy & Elizabeth and Bennet family, a train wreck of meanly written characters are hijacked from both novels. Elizabeth’s Subconscious and “Inner Slapper” continually argue whether Mr. Darcy is in fact gay. Bingley’s sisters have become Looseata and Carrotslime. Mr. Darcy’s grand estate, Pemberley is now “Memberle y.” Lady Catherine is a dominatrix over Mr. Darcy. Christian Grey’s helicopter, Charlie Tango is now a hot-air balloon. Mr. Wickham has become Mr. Wackem who has a penchant for hiring maidens as his unpaid interns in his publishing company. And Mr. Collins is Phil Collins.  Yes, that Phil Collins the rock star who used to be in the band Genesis.

Unlike the kinky, sexual prowess of the hero (or antihero) of Fifty Shades, Christian Grey, this Darcy flogs Elizabeth with no more than a toothbrush and an unfolded newspaper, leaving her wondering what all the bondage hype was about. (Me too, girlfriend.  Me, too.) Elizabeth often broke the third wall expressing such nonsense as, “… I must beg your forgiveness.  It is somewhat confusing being in a mash-up of two very different novels.” I might inquire why, with so evident a design of offending and insulting, Thwackery chose to self-deprecate? For me, his humour fell short.  “She could feel his grey eyes burning into her, like red-hot pokers stirring her desire. The more they poked, the higher her flames of longing rose, until the metaphor exploded in a burst of sparks and badly written prose.”

“‘I have many vices,’ Mr. Darcy said huskily. ‘My libido, for one, I dare not vouch for.  It is, I believe, too little yielding.’  ‘That is a failing indeed!’ cried Elizabeth. ‘Implacable lust is a shade in a character.’ ‘I have many shades, Miss Bennet,’ said Mr. Darcy. ‘About fifty, last time I counted.’”  I suppose the occasional mash-up of Austen and James’ famous lines were droll enough, however, it turns out that like Elizabeth, I was misled.  “‘You encouraged me to believe that “fifty shades” referred to your complex, multi-layered personality.  Not… not this.’  Fifty lampshades?  It was just a bad joke.” Yep, he was hiding a room full of lampshades.  Badly done.  Badly done joke indeed.

I’m all for diverting, quick-witted satire but indubitably, buffoonery is in the eye of the beholder.  I found myself questioning my own sense of humour, that maybe my funny bone wasn’t evolved enough to catch the satirical tone.  Despite the execution of purple prose mimicking E.L. James’ generous and often redundant adjectives, as well as the plethora of puns on characters, places and sex acts, Fifty Shades of Mr. Darcy seems simply an over long collection of random absurdities and lewd wise cracks. In reviewing this, I was most diligent in my search to be able to use Christian Grey’s line of, “Good point, well made.”  I was about to remark on the eye catching cover… but then it was pointed out to me that the boots aren’t even Regency-era Hessians but army field boots from the late Victorian age. (Later Darcy’s boots are described as Cuban heeled riding boots. What? Me too. I was befuddled at every turn.) Shame on William Codpiece Thwackery’s attempt to profit by slovenly satirizing Jane Austen’s timeless classic, Pride and Prejudice and E.L. James’ uber pop-culture phenom, Fifty Shades of Grey and then hiding behind a pasquinade nom de plume.  He deserves at least 20 lashes with a wet noodle.

And what about Austen’s happily ever after?  Well, yes. Lizzy does end up with the billionaire (why she would ever want this one, still is beyond me) but I will NEVAH be able to get back the 3 ½ hours of my life spent slogging through this obscenely boorish excuse for a parody. I can only imagine a jocular bunch sitting around drinking and throwing out nonsense as someone typed — really need to be fall down, sloppy drunk to find any humour.  Real writers will be offended.  And readers will be mad for buying it. The P&P and Zombies books was far superior. My apologies for the spoilers, but hopefully the spoilers will be all you ever subject yourself to reading. (I got my advanced copy electronically via NetGalley.)

1 out of 5 Regency Stars

Fifty Shades of Mr. Darcy: A Parody, by William Codpiece Thwackery
Michael O’Mara Books (2012)
Trade paperback (192) pages
ISBN: 9781843179962

© Christina Boyd, Austenprose

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: (Jane Austen Ate Our Brain Long Ago) – A Review

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith (2009)We’ll confess all right up front. We don’t quite understand what the fuss is over Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Jane Austen ate our brain long ago and we have been an Austen zombie ever since, attentively working away for 200 years for her cause in pursuit of more brains to initiate into the holy sect of The Gentle Reprove and Witty Banter Society. Our diligence has paid off. Pride and Prejudice is the most popular book in print short of the bible, she is the darling of scholars and Hollywood, Internet websites and blogs herald her charms, and even other authors flatter her by attempting to emulate her style. The assimilation plan has been successful. It was never a hard sell. Quality rarely is. 

We were mildly amused when the frenzy erupted in the media after the news of the publication of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was announced. Some social climbing author out in Hollywood had hitched his wagon to her star lifting 85% of her text and mixing in bone-crunching zombie mayhem into her genteel story. *Yawn* He claims he has transformed “a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read.” Oh really? Given that Pride and Prejudice has more editions in print than any other novel, it appears that several people have wanted to read a masterpiece of world literature since its first publication in 1813. We shall see if author Seth Grahame-Smith will need to retract that statement, or throw down the gauntlet and meet us at dawn with swords. 

And so Gentle Readers take heed. A mysterious plague has befallen Regency England killing the living and reviving them back to life as the undead who must feed on the living to survive. The conflict in town is fierce, spreading to the countryside and into the village of Meryton where Elizabeth Bennet and her family reside nearby at Longbourn. Mr. Bennet extricated from his library has dedicated himself instead to training his five daughters from an early age in the deadly arts, traveling with them to China to attend Ninja finishing school with a Shaolin Master. His business in life was to keep them alive. The business of Mrs. Bennet’s was to get them married. When Netherfield Park is let at last, Mrs. Bennet is hopeful that the new resident Mr. Bingley and his friends might marry one or another of her daughters. When Meryton society finally meets Mr. Bingley, they agree that he is was good-looking and gentlemanlike, but his fine friend Mr. Darcy with his noble mien gave immediate disgust even though he was reputed to have slaughtered more than a thousand unmentionables since the fall of Cambridge. After he slights Elizabeth, claiming her to be only tolerable and not handsome enough to temp him to dance, the warrior code in her demands she avenge her honour and open his throat with her dagger. Her warrior duty delays her instincts as the dance is suddenly invaded by a maraudring horde of unmentionables who break through the windows, attack the guests, and devour the head of Mrs. Long. Elizabeth and her four sisters rip out their razor-sharp daggers and make short work of beheading all the sorry stricken. Darcy watches in wonder, knowing of only one other woman in England who could match her accomplishments. The spark has been ignited. The love zombie story begins. 

It is now “a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” (Usurper! That is our campaign slogan. I guess we should ™ trade mark it.) We continue along in this manner following Jane Austen’s plot interjected with Grahame-Smith’s fanciful parody of zombie bedlam. It appears that anyone who is not a ninja warrior is a target for zombie destruction, so if there is a character from the original plot ripe for reproach, then it is sure to happen. Brains and vomit seem to go hand and hand. We see Elizabeth Bennet as the defender of Longbourn and the Heroine of Hertfordshire battle zombies, spar with Mr. Darcy and literally kick ass in an ultimate ninja throw down with the officious Lady Catherine de Bourgh. If the concept of Jane Austen’s refined country gentry and gory zombie destruction are in conflict, think again. Like the warrior Bennet sisters who have refined their deadly skills into an art of precision and style, Grahame-Smith knows his zombie lore, skillfully incorporating a genre wholly at odds to the context of Jane Austen’s elegantly refined prose, yet working within its strengths to achieve his goal to have fun with a literary classic, and well, lets face it, make money. Given the fervent response by the public and the media to the book’s announcement last January, we are not surprised that there is a bidding war underway with major movie studios for film rights. Even though this high concept parody is amusing in print, we doubt very much if it will be buffo box office. Given the passions of thirteen year-old boys for gore and goo, we may stand to be corrected.   

So who will like this book? Certainly not the Austen purist without a sense of humor. They will not even get past the gruesome cover. Not zombie fans, who will be annoyed having to trudge through a masterpiece of world literature to get to the scant zombie action. So that leaves the rest of us. Those loyal and devoted members of The Gentle Reprove and Witty Banter Society who, like Jane Austen, enjoy a good campy and gory Gothic novel, recognize tongue-in-cheek humor, and have been happily doing so for over 200 hundred years. 

Laurel Ann 

4 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Quirk Books, Philadelphia, PA (2009)
Trade paperback (319) pages
ISBN: 9781594743344

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(Jane Austen ate our brain ® is a registered catch phrase by Margaret C. Sullivan)

Zombies and Vampires and Jane Austen, Oh My! Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is Haute!

Pride Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (2009)“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” 

And so Gentle Readers begins the altered famous line from Jane Austen’s classic novel now renamed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem and rewrtten by Seth Grahame-Smith being published this June by Quirk Books. 

What? Whoa, wait a minute here you say! 

Yes, it’s not a joke. I’m dead serious and so are the undead Zombies. I first wrote about this new novel combining Austen’s classic novel and Zombie bedlam at my co-blog Jane Austen Today. Now it’s all over the blogosphere. Even Paris Hilton might agree that combining Jane Austen and Zombies is hot. 

Breaking News!!!  Now it’s so HAUTE that Quirk has announced today that it is moving up its publication date two months to April!

Here is the publisher’s description 

So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton-and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers-and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Can she vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read. 

Here is an excerpt compliments from Bryan at Cinema Suicide who tells me he has it from a super secret source. 

“Come, Darcy,” said Mr. Bingley, “I hate to see you standing by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.” 

“I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it.” 

“I would not be as fastidious as you are for a kingdom! I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening; and several of them are uncommonly pretty.” 

Before Mr. Darcy could respond, a chorus of screams filled the assembly hall, immediately joined by the shattering of window panes. Unmentionables scrambled in, their movements clumsy yet swift; their burial clothing in a range of untidiness. 

Guests who had the misfortune of standing near the windows were seized and feasted on at once. Elizabeth watched Mrs. Long struggle to free herself as two female dreadfuls bit into her head, cracking her skull like a walnut, and sending a shower of dark blood spouting as high as the chandeliers. 

Double whoa! I dearly love to laugh as much as the next Janeite (maybe more), but this is the most creative way I have ever seen to entice readership of literary classics. I fear Austen and literature purist will be appalled, and new novice readers will be amazed. Everyone who was forced to read P&P in high school and hated it (a small minority I assure you ;) will have a secret smirk when they hear about this one. In addition, last June we heard about “Jane Bites Back,” Michael Thomas Ford’s new novel which 

presents an undead Jane Austen, frustrated by nearly 200 years of writer’s block and 116 rejections of an unpublished novel she finished just before turning into a vampire; she’s becoming increasingly irritated that the rest of the world seems to be getting rich and famous off of her works and her life. 

Not quite sure how all of this will settle out, but it is interesting to watch the public reaction and I am glad to see people talking about Austen. There are pros and cons to the argument on free market vs. copyright restrictions. I just hope that Darcy isn’t killed and becomes one of the undead.

More Austen Zombie mayhem around the blogosphere