Tuesday, November 27, 2007

One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other

This is a quote from Chapter 9 of Emma. Some pleasures I completely fail to understand are those found in hack* novels parastitically roped to Jane Austen. Some examples:

- a series of mysteries in which the detective is Jane Austen, now in its ninth volume. Ninth!
- a series of mysteries in which the detectives are Darcy and Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice, now in its third (!) volume.
- a series of romances, one for each of Darcy and Elizabeth's five daughters. Five, just like the Bennet sisters, ain't that clever. I don't know if the youngest two are complete idiots, just like the Bennet sisters.

Maybe I should link to these. They're easy enough to find, though, for the morbidly curious.

I understand how a mystery involving Jane Austen could be a hoot. But nine of them - nine verges on the soul-deadening. The Elizabeth & Darcy mysteries are even worse. I don't see how any of these books are really for fans of Jane Austen. They're travesties, ghastly parodies. They don't repeat or revisit the pleasures of the books, but instead mock them.

There are more - Pride and Prejudice from Darcy's point of view, and various attempts at finishing Sanditon. I have a little more sympathy here. A gifted writer could potentially do something interesting here, along the line of Jean Rhys in The Wide Sargasso Sea. Sanditon in particular is a sad case. It is lovely and funny as a fragment, and would certainly have been as good as Austen's other books, so the temptation to finish it is not in and of itself a desecration. I have some doubts about the results.

Somewhere here is a failure of education. The reader of a Jane Austen mystery really wants more Jane Austen, so he settles for a feeble imitation. What he ought to do is expand his reading a bit, to Gaskell or Trollope or The Heart of Midlothian. Or follow Austen back to her sources, like Ann Radcliffe, or favorites, like Richardson.** Anyone who has been tempted by a Darcy and Elizabeth mystery should not just add Fanny Burney’s Evelina to their NetBoox queue, but should put it on the very top.

I think many Austen fans, perhaps most, actually do read like this. But there's another group that does not, who don't know how to explore in their reading, how to follow one book to another. Someone failed them somewhere.

Feel free to ignore everything the grump says - except do read Evelina!

* The author of the Darcy and Elizabeth mysteries previously wrote Dungeons and Dragons novels. Hack, hack, hack.
** Austen's favorite book was Sir Charles Grandison.


  1. While I have never read a Darcy Elizabeth mystery, and have no plans to do so, I am fascinated by Austen knock-offs. I loved Clueless and comparing Bridget Jones the movie to the book. The book is constantly referring to P + P, while the film doesn't make nearly as many Darcy references, (no, "It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It's like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting 'Cathy' and banging your head against a tree,") but manages to change the plot to bring Darcy in gallantly saving the family from its own folly.
    I read the Regency romances now and then and was completely dismayed to learn that many of the authors of such fluff are doing it because they see themselves writing the next Emma.

  2. I totally agree with you! These are travesties! Why would anyone want to read a Elizabeth & Darcy mystery? It's just too horrible!