Twi[L]ight Me on Fire, please —

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Hold the Vampiric Phone, already --

Hold the Vampiric Phone, already --

Just now read Laurel Ann’s writeup on Regina Jeffers’ Darcy’s Hunger: a Vampire Retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and I am inclined to feel a little malicious. Only recently my fandom’s been strained when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies awoke in me an already festering disdain for Jane-in-the-Ass [see what I did there?] knockoffs and sequels [many, anyway; some I like].

I’d gotten an early copy of P&P&Z and enjoyed it–digging zombies–for what it was worth, but I am hardpressed to ever designate beyond “fun” and broach “good” – it isn’t; it’s leeching from established Janeite and horror markets and having good fun in the process, and that’s about it. P&P&Z was in the forefront of a monsterification trend, as genre-author fanboys-and-girls “horrify” [tr. verb def. 3] the regency, as if trying to find common ground between the Romantics and Stephanie Meyer.

 Mr. Darcy might be a little dark, but Byronic? I think the circumstance would be different for Regina Jeffers if she retold P&P in the style of–let’s say–Ann Radcliffe [The Mysteries of Darcypho], but–and I don’t mean to judge her prematurely–the preview at Austenprose leads me–Librarian with dwindling respect for sacred cows–to chalk her paperback as Harlequin and file it among volumes of the exact same thing.

— I know I’m being crass, and–if I think about it–I am not scoffing Jeffers’ writing (I am sure she is completely capable) or choice in book, – that isn’t the issue [although it may seem like it]; rather, I am more and more aggravated that Janeites continuously think this sort of thing Novel.

Godforbid, I am almost of the opinion that–if an author isn’t going to model Jane, rethink her in the manner of another contemporary [Radcliffe], exaggerate regency drama as horror [rather than make it horror just-because (P&P&Z would have been loads of fun and smart if the apocalypse were related to ill-feelings vis-a-vis the reverberations of the Fr. Revolution a generation prior)]–why not rename the characters and pawn his or wares as original.

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4 responses »

  1. “Mr. Darcy might be a little dark, but Byronic?”

    Actually it’s something I’ve been thinking about for some time. How do you define the Byronic hero? What, in your opinion, are the major characteristics?

    • I suppose Darcy seems a little Byronic in the sense that he’s tall and dark and brooding and arrogant, but I always assumed the most distinguishing feature was that the Byronic hero was generally an exile, an outcast, or had a questionable history. Darcy isn’t any of the latter; rather, he is a societal pinnacle to which any of the gentlemen ought reach. He is no antihero, and not really at all villainous. Like Bryon, the Byronic hero should probably be Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to know.

      • Yes, but – isn’t Darcy portrayed as a social outcast at first? No one likes him – they’d rather he never came. Isn’t he supposed to be a villain for a half of the story? I mean the impression he’s meant to create on one’s first reading of the book.

        It got me thinking because I’m from Poland, and we don’t have the bad boy archetype in our literature. Even if some exceptions might be found, it’s nowhere similar to the army of villains in the English language culture, and especially not among the protagonists. Our characters are portrayed in more shades of grey rather than black and white, which I think comes from the geographical situation as well as from history and politics. I.e. the English bad guy tends to be an outsider (Darcy is too), while ours are all insiders. Gothic novels are written off entirely, because vampires in our folk tradition are our relatives or at least long time neighbours, and they’re not even so scary or sexual, just miserable. It’s the Western literature that made sexual predators out of our poor Central-Eastern European undead. 😀

        There is one book (Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz) where a character similar to Darcy is considered Byronic exactly because he seems villainous at first, with some dark past et al, even though it’s later explained away. My point is that perhaps Austen had a similar approach to the archetype, making it sound and reasonable instead of just Mad, Bad & Dangerous to know. At least Lizzy thinks that it’s dangerous to know Darcy at first – she sees him as a bad-tempered cynic and a revengeful men-hater – but it all appears to be a very human misunderstanding.

        Was there such an archetype at all before the sentimental and romantic novels? I think that earlier villains were static. I.e. Don Juan doesn’t come through any change or revelation. He’s as bad at the beginning as at the end, and we’re left in no doubt about him. Even if other characters might be left in the dark, reader always knows better.

        Wiki gives a number of Byronic hero’s traits, and when applied to Darcy, either at the beginning or at the end of the novel, at least the vast majority of them fit him quite well.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byronic_hero

        Of course Austen couldn’t have taken her pattern from Byron. It was too early for that. But I think that the archetype was in the air, and she used it in her own way, while Byron went into the more dramatic rendition. Perhaps our contemporary definitions depend on our views on the whole. Darcy is no Heathcliff or Rochester, and so he comes off as very unlike the dark heroes. Yet, in my culture, where such heroes are few and far between (even though Romanticism is a major genre here), Darcy stands out as very typical for the era.

        Not that I feel like reading about a Darcy-vampire, but it’s not the first time I see such a stretch made, and my supposition is that Darcy lends himself to the Byronic hero archetype even though he’s not supposed to be a bad boy, sexual predator or whatever. Just in the Anglo-Saxon countries the archetype has bloomed for the last 200 years more than others, and so some women are likely to stereotypise him into the more familiar and, perhaps, desirable direction. What I really don’t like about it is the lack of any ingenuity behind it.

      • I wouldn’t be all too surprised if Jane lifted Darcy from Byron; while the Byronic hero in lit. wasn’t established as such, Lord B. was worthy gossip. By the time P&P was published, he had already skipped around the world [probably] leaving wakes of illegitimates. If I remember, he was the first blockbuster author, whose characterists just happened to jive with a Gothic-novel aesthetic; — I suppose between Richardson’s Lovelace and Byron-himself, there was already a palpable Byronic pattern writers could draw on.

        Jane’s novels are stock-full of Byronic wannabes (or “Byronnabes”) who stumble-about, choke-up, dwindle and fail. Wickham is more of a Lovelace, but he may fit; Willoughby certainly fits, going so far as to confess his admiration of the Mad-and-Bad Himself to Marianne; there is what’s-his-face in Sanditon who threatens to steal the heroine to Timbuktu …. All become jokes, caricatures of the model: Jane’s case-in-point in just how silly all this Byron-y is.

        Both Darcy and Colonel Brandon are more on the melodramatic side: tall, slim, dark, quiet, dangerous (Darcy), morose (Brandon) —

        — oops, I dallied: let’s save that thought.

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