Today we are pleased to introduce Steve Hockensmith, who comes to share how Jane Austen hit him with a roundhouse kick to the side of the head. As it was not knocked clean off, his appreciation found expression.
As a special Friday-just-before-Christmas treat we are offering a double giveaway of Dawn of the Dreadfuls and Dreadfully Ever After! Read through the post to find out how.
We all have blind spots. Truths we can’t accept, points of view we can’t grasp, passions we can’t share. White chocolate baffles me, for instance. We’ve got chocolate, people. What do we need that awful, chalky, colorless stuff for? And I don’t get sports. All the yelling and screaming and face-painting just because some beefy dudes decide to toss a ball back and forth? Really?
I have a literary blind spot, too. One that’s sort of strange for a guy who writes (hopefully) amusing stories for a living: Sometimes I can’t tell a book’s funny by reading it. I need people to put on costumes and act it out.
I first noticed this after reading Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon about 15 years ago. Despite the book’s reputation as a towering giant of the mystery genre, it left me a bit cold. Hammett struck me as stiff and stuffy. I just couldn’t see his greatness.
Turns out it was simply hiding in my blind spot. Fortunately, Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre came along to point it out to me.
Not long after reading the book, I watched John Huston’s 1941 movie version. As the novel was still fresh in my mind, it was obvious to me how incredibly faithful the film was. Long stretches of dialogue were lifted from Hammett intact.
And guess what? Now they were funny. Bogie and the rest of the cast brought vivid, vibrant life to characters who’d been dead to me on the page.
Part of the problem, I think, was this: The Maltese Falcon is a capital C Classic, and if there’s one thing college English courses will teach you it’s that Classics are not funny. Or even fun. No, they’re good for you. Like castor oil. For heaven’s sake, you’re not supposed to enjoy it.
What does this have to do with Jane Austen? Guess. Really. Take a stab at it. I bet you can figure it out.
That’s right. When I first read Pride and Prejudice a little more than 20 years ago, it struck me as stiff and stuffy and not amusing in the slightest. Because I had no idea it was supposed to be amusing. I just wanted to slap Kitty and Lydia and everyone else silly.
Come to think of it, I’ve come to admire Austen’s sly dialogue and insightful social satire and I still want to slap Kitty and Lydia silly. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Now guess again: Who dragged Pride and Prejudice out of my blind spot? Come on — you’re a Jane Austen fan. You should know.
Or maybe it’s only Austen newbies like me who owe a debt of gratitude to Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth and their brilliant castmates from the 1995 BBC P&P adaptation. After watching — and loving — the miniseries, I picked up the book again for the first time in a decade, and there it was: all the humor and humanity I’d missed the first time around.
I’ve read the novel again twice since then and I find new things to appreciate every time I pick it up. It’s almost enough to convince me to give Atlas Shrugged another try. Maybe that one was in my blind spot, too.
Tell me: Is the movie funny?
To enter our 1st ever giveaway:
Mandatory entry: please leave a comment on this post expressing how Austen has influenced you, your thoughts on adding monsters to Austen, where you stand on the white chocolate or sports issue, or perhaps, a brief note of encouragement for our guest poster.
Bonus entries: Additonal entries can also be claimed, please leave a SEPARATE COMMENT for each entry! You may have a total of 5 possible entries!
- Join the Dark Jane Austen Book Club site (you will have access to additional materials and discussions, and it’s free!)
- Follow @DarkJaneAusten on Twitter!
- Like The Dark Jane Austen Book Club on Facebook.
- Tweet the following: I slayed a zombie horde to win DOD & DEA from #DJABC and @DarkJaneAusten and @MrHockensmith!
Steve Hockensmith is the author of Dawn of the Dreadfuls and Dreadfully Ever After, the prequel and sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. He blogs semi-quasi-sorta-kinda-regularly at www.stevehockensmith.com.
Dawn of the Dreadfuls and Dreadfully Ever After giveaway provided by Quirk Books.