Austen Tattler: News and Gossip on the Net: Issue No 9

“All that she wants is gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it.” Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 31

April 12th – 18th, 2010

Hot News of the Week:

New author Jenni James of Northanger Alibi, a modern retelling of Northanger Abbey influenced by Twilight, lands the Austenesque book publicity coup of the decade! Wow. This might be a first for Austen on TV.

Noteworthy:

Author and Janeite Catherine Delors features Jane Austen’s juvenilia The History of England and directs us to the original manuscript viewable online at The British Museum website.

The beautiful new hardback editions of Penguin Classics are featured in a Elle Decor article including Jane Austen’s Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith.

Interview of Monica Fairview, author of The Darcy Cousins at Austenprose. Swag contest ends 23 April 2010.

Author Jane Odiwe of Austen Sequels Blog features a preview of the new debut novel First Impressions, by Alexa Adams.

Regency Mourning Fashions in England by Vic Sanborn of Jane Austen’s World is featured in the Suite 101.com online repository of insightful writers and informed readers.

Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe’s favorite Gothic novel The Mysteries of Udolpho that they read together in Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey is highlighted on Jane Greensmith’s blog Reading, Writing, Playing in a great post on The Gothic Novel.

Shameless self promotion here, but Maria Grazia has interviewed moi for her lovely blog Fly High. Leave a comment and enter a chance to win your choice of selected Austenesque books. Ends 25 April, 2010.

Another interview of note is of Vera Nazarian, author of Mansfield Park and Mummies at Jane Austen’s World.

Vote for your favorite Pride and Prejudice book cover from my top ten favorites. As of today, there is a dead tie between White’s Publishings lovely new release showing a graphic rep of Regency dancers from the waist down and the classic cover design by Hugh Thomson for the 1894 peacock edition of P&P.

Deb at Jane Austen in Vermont blog posts info on Soethby’s The English Country House auction results. Oh my. Beautiful Regency-era items, but the prices Lousia!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane invented baseball since she mentioned it in her novel Northanger Abbey. Doubtful? Read further proof in the third installment of posts by Mags at AustenBlog.

Entertainment:

British actor Elliot Cowan (Mr. Darcy in Lost in Austen 2009) opens in The Scottish Play in London next week. Read about the lore and superstition behind the Shakespeare play that we dare not mention.

The Jane Austen Story opened at Winchester Cathedral on 10 April, 2010. Read more about this new exhibit spotlighting Jane Austen’s burial place and life in Hampshire that will run until 20 September 2010.

The Los Angeles Times Book Festival has always been a lively affair and this year one of the guest speakers is author/editor Susannah Carson of the Austen anthology A Truth Universally Acknowledged that we reviewed and enjoyed. Jane Austen Today has a featured article on the the LA  festival which makes me homesick for outdoor book fairs that I frequented while I lived in California. *sigh*

New Austenesque Book Announcements:

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly — 16 Sep 2010

Book Reviews:

Until next week, happy Jane sighting.

Laurel Ann

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Dawn of the Dreadfuls, by Steve Hockensmith – A Janeite Review

If you have not heard about the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, you must be from another planet. The break-out best seller of 2009 (and soon to be major motion picture staring Natalie Portman) took the publishing industry quite unawares making its co-author Seth Grahame-Smith a hot property, oodles of publicity for its publisher Quirk Books and mega moola for all involved. Who’da thought combining Jane Austen’s genteel Regency-era novel and bone-crunching zombie mayhem would create the literary mash-up genre and spawn a plethora of knock-offs using Austen novels and other classic authors in an attempt to cash in on the craze. I will admit the original novel was fresh and funny but the publicity it received was way out of proportion to its merits. Now its prequel Dawn of the Dreadfuls has risen from its grave placing the story four years before we first met Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy and the maraudring horde of unmentionables invading Meryton, Hertfordshire. Well — of course we need to know how the plague began and why the Bennet sisters are trained ninja warriors battling the sorry stricken. *Ahem*

While attending the funeral of a neighbor, Mr. Oscar Bennet, his wife and five young daughters witness the corpse return from the dead and attempt to attack the congregation. The unmentionables have returned after being vanquished for several years and Mr. Bennet a former ninja zombie slayer must train his daughters in the deadly arts to defend themselves and exterminate the scourge of sorry stricken who are among them again. He immediately sets about training his daughters who resist at first and flounder about with weapons and mild battle cries: ““Haaiieee!” said Jane. “Hiiyaaa!” said Mary. “Hooyaah!” said Kitty. “La!” said Lydia.” Shortly after a Master ninja warrior arrives to take over and all the girls are smitten with the young and handsome Jeffery Hawksworth. Lizzy has the most potential, but gradually they all learn and begin hunting in the neighborhood for the zed word (young ladies do not say zombies in polite society), meet others who have come to Meryton to engage the enemy, are ostracized by the community because young ladies do not kill unmentionables, kiss a deer, have romantic feelings for some of the young gentleman, and fight an epic battle. Along the way we are dished out a hefty dose of campy comedy, discover how dreadfuls sprout from the grave and witness enough rotten flesh, goo, gore and killing to appease any thirteen year old boy who hates to read. La!

The plot is “stoopid” but it is meant to be. This is a zombie book with Jane Austen characters in it, not a Jane Austen novel with zombies mashed into it as we previously experienced in P&P&Z. (no defense implied) On the upside, Hockensmith does get many of Austen’s character traits correct: Mrs. Bennet wines, wails and waves her lace hankie, Jane Bennet is beautiful and biddable, Mary is blossoming into an inspid moralizer, Kitty coughs and follows Lydia’s lead, and Lydia is the most precocious eleven year old going on twenty five that you could ever wish to meet. Our heroine in the making Elizabeth is spirited, intelligent and as fierce with her tongue as she is with her weapons. We do get more back story on why Mr. Bennet takes action and converts his daughters from genteel young ladies into ninja warriors. His character is the most altered from Austen’s original negligent father who lives in his library in order to tolerate his harpy wife and that was a challenge for me, among other things.

The new characters add animation (in the cartoonish sense) to the narrative and are all caricatures atypical in a wacky Monte Python skit: Lord Lumpley the lascivious aristocrat who lusts after beautiful Jane Bennet, the mutton chopped Capt Cannon who has survived multiple amputations from battling unmentionables and must be transported about in a wheelbarrow assisted by his aids who act as his limbs, Dr. Bertram Keckilpenny the eccentric doctor/Sherlock Holmes who wants to study zombies so he can cure the “unmentionable plague”,  the handsome ninja Master Jeffrey Hawksworth who teaches the Bennet girls the deadly arts and falls for his best student Elizabeth, dashing Lieutenant Tindall who ignites Lydia and Kitty’s passions for officers in red uniforms and many more. (unfortunately no lumberjacks) The downside, it is all pretty predictable fare. However, I will commend Hockensmith on his skilled wordsmanship and cleverly crafted prose. He has captured the flavor of Austen’s novel with Regency-era words and phrases that are not too dense and intimidating for his target audience who complained that P&P&Z had too much Austen in it, and he has certainly squelched their objections to not having enough zombie action. I found that reading this novel made my head hurt after an accident so I listened to an audiobook recording read by Katherine Kellgren which made it much more palatable — except for the girls shrieking warrior cries which blew off my mob cap, startled my cats and interrupted my knitting. If movie producers like P&P&Z, they will love the easily adapted plot of DOTD into animated movie.

Did I like it you ask? Well, sort of. As previously highlighted the author is an accomplished writer who gave it his all. Some of the inside P&P humor made me chortle. If you love zombie grossness, than I recommend it highly. If you love Jane Austen, “I am afraid that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.”

3 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, by Steve Hockensmith
Quirk Books, Philadelphia (2010)
Trade Paperback (287) pages
ISBN: 9781594744549

Additional Reviews

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A Bookselling Moment with Dawn of the Dreadfuls, or a Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Emergency Room

Happy Easter everyone. I received my Easter egg a day early. It is sitting on top of my head and is not the chocolate variety. Add to that a nice shiner and I feel quite the proper street ruffian.

I joke about my enthusiasm to sell Jane Austen to the masses at my job at Barnes & Noble, but I never thought it would be extended to such lengths, nor be quite so dangerous. In the midst of a busy pre-holiday Saturday rush, a heavy roll-up window blind and metal fascia board decided to take a “spring break” when summoned to descend from its usual abode above a large window and landed on my head with a big crash. Ouch. My kind and cautious manager Cate called the EMT squad who promptly arrived to assess my war wounds. Off to the emergency room I would go, but not without my purse and more importantly my current book to be reviewed on my blog next week.

A funny thing happened on the way to the emergency room. The EMT guy Dwayne was quite a chatterbox and proceeded to tell me everything he and his family have read or are presently reading and pumped me for new book suggestions!!! Ever the diligent book seller, I figured I was still on the company time clock and should sell books even while laid out on a stretcher on the way to the emergency room. He asked me what I was reading. I hesitated, and then asked him if he knew about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? YES! He was a zombie fan and his wife loved that P&P miniseries with Mr. Darcy jumping into a lake. (I secretly smile. Jane is indeed everywhere. Even in an ambulance!) As my head is pounding I tell him I am reading Dawn of the Dreadfuls, the prequel to P&P&Z. He gets all excited and wants the rundown on the zombie books. Oh Lord! I was not quite up to my usual enthusiastic Austen car salesman self and told him I would be happy to offer book suggestions and the scoop on the P&P zombie craze if he wanted to visit me at the store next week. Who’da thought?

We arrive at the hospital and they wheel me into the emergency room. On the way to my room, which took some expert driving through the narrow corridors, we rounded a tight corner and my purse tipped over spilling Dawn of Dreadfuls onto the floor. The nurse picks it up and asks, “Oh! Isn’t this that Austen zombie book?” I nod in amazement. When the doctor finally arrived I was certain that his questions would be: where does it hurt, is your vision blurry and which Austen character do you think is most deserving of being eaten by a zombie?

Never a dull moment in the Austen book selling trenches.

Dawn of the Dreadfuls – Prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Rises from the Grave

Dawn of the Dreadfuls (2010)Quirk Books, the literary monster mash-up mogul who brought us Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monster has announced that its third book for Quirk Classics will be Dawn of the Dreadfuls, a prequel to its New York Times bestseller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  Here is the publisher’s description: 

In this terrifying and hilarious prequel, we witness the genesis of the zombie plague in early-nineteenth century England. We watch Elizabeth Bennet evolve from a naïve young teenager into a savage slayer of the undead. We laugh as she begins her first clumsy training with nunchucks and katana swords and cry when her first blush with romance goes tragically awry. Written by acclaimed novelist (and Edgar Award nominee) Steve Hockensmith, Dawn of the Dreadfuls invites Austen fans to step back into Regency England, Land of the Undead! 

Surprisingly, co-authors are listed as Jane Austen and Steve Hockensmith even though according to Quirk editor Jason Rekulak Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a “completely original novel inspired by Austen’s characters; — in other words, there’s not a drop of original Austen writing in it.” Obviously, since Jane Austen did not write a prequel to Pride and Prejudice there was no text to mash-up and this new novel needed to be an original story only lifting her characters names. We are, however, perplexed at her inclusion. Other authors have been writing prequels, sequels and retellings of Pride and Prejudice for years, but admittedly, this is the fist time this writer has seen the original author’s name attached with another author’s work.  

In actuality, the lack of Jane Austen’s text is a win-win situation for both Austen and zombie fans who each had qualms about their peas touching their potatoes on the plate. Now only Austen’s name is being exploited and not her words. 

Dawn on the Dreadfuls goes on sale in the US on the 24th of March, 2010. I liked P&P&Z, but this literary mash-up business was pushed way beyond amusing parody with Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and unless this new novel is exceptionally well written, I’ve had enough of others ripping off my favorite author.