What does it mean to be dark?
Dark is when the lights go out and all that’s left is the beating of your heart and the whisper of each breath. Dark is that place within your mind where wicked thoughts churn and wait. Dark is the deepest part of every shadow. Dark is where the monsters dwell. Dark is dark.
If you were looking at a Johari window the bottom right quadrant of the Unknown would be pitch black as the abyss. The top right quadrant and bottom left quadrant would be shades of gray going dark, Blind Spot and Facade. Those are the places where the monsters lie. Some walk among us in ignorance, while others merely hide their dark nature, and others still wait like hungry beasts to devour any foolish enough to venture too near.
The monsters have many names. Some are obvious like vampire, werewolf, zombie, and demon. Others are less so known as sin, hiding within those that go by names like Catherine, Heithcliff, Anne, and Willoughby.
Monsters are our metaphor for the darkness of human nature because no animal is as vicious as the human. In the wild animals are driven by instincts to survive. When they hunt it is for food. When they fight it is to defend their territory. There is no ennui with them for they always have purpose. It is only humans who eat without hunger and fight out of spite.
Choosing books for a dark book club therefore can span everything from Gothic to thriller. Jane Austen may not have written any stories with the intent of making them dark, but her keen observations of human nature show us the darkness and shades of gray within everyday life. As the Austen world has become teeming with creatures of malicious intent or unfortunate affliction, we see an opportunity to have a few laughs while also making those monsters more apparent.
This is why we select books that spin Austen’s world into a monster mashup or twist the tale with vagaries. Bring on the supernatural, infusing it into the ordered world of English society. We welcome the decent into darkness, but we don’t stop there. We read the Gothic writers too, and the Romantics. We take our classics straight or creatively twisted. We look into works that dissect the human psyche. We want to laugh and cry and think.
Here in the Dark Jane Austen Book Club when we say dark we mean dark. Monster mashups, vagaries, alternate tellings, murders, mysteries, parodies, or satires; we consider them all dark.