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Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Obligatory Highbrow Literary Post

(There are a lot of bloggers who post about the books they've read. Which I think is cool. I've learned of some authors I hadn't heard of before, such as S.M. Stirling and Tim Powers. So, I figured that since I read books too, even ones without pictures, AoftheA will feature posts about books on occasion. Done in my usual style, of course....)

As President and Founder, I welcome you, as charter members, to the inaugural meeting of the Obligatory Highbrow Literary Post Confraternity, established by the Department of Literature and Fine Arts at Acts of the Apostasy. Membership is available to one and all, exempt from dues and duty.

Here we will examine and expound upon the great masterpieces of literature, poetry and theatre. A forum, if you will, to discuss the themes and thoughts of the greatest authors who graced our civilization with works that have withstood time, tempest and tyranny. Works of great influence and import that have served to shape our world and form our culture.

Our first action is to consider a question, borne from the antecedent statement:

Do cultures shape and form the books and plays produced within that sphere, or do the works themselves influence the culture? Or is it a combination of the two forces, juxtaposed against each other like the immovable object steadfast against the unstoppable force? It is a question that has spanned the ages, ever since primordial man drew crude figures upon the walls of his cavern abode. For centuries, anthropologists have wondered: was the caveman portraying the creatures he hunted and ate, or were they representations of dreams unfulfilled, the proverbial "one that got away"? Or was it just the work of a prehistoric environmentalist warning future generations of species extinction? I suppose we'll never really know the truth behind those sketches, because all the primordial men are dead. Come to think of it, every ancient species depicted in those illustrations is dead, as well, so perhaps they were warnings after all. Whispers of a lost time. Riddles that perhaps only Dan Brown has the capacity to unravel.

An author that seems to have transcended cultures and the passage of time is Jane Austen. The author of only six novels, her stories of early 19th society as depicted in novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility have proven to bridge the gap, as it were, between generational media. While the novels might be enjoyable to read on a rainy day or while on holiday, the tedious exercise of wading through the winsome words stretches one's capacity. Thankfully, these works have been adapted for film - eliminating much of the mundane sections and honing in like a hawk's talons on all the juicy bits.

Even with this technological improvement, however, the sense of classicism pervades. The displays of construed polite behaviour, the modest accoutrement of the genteeled class, the overt reliance on relationships, character and dialogue - these representative hallmarks of Austen's works compels the modern-day masculine reader to cry out with anguish to the heavens:

"Oh, where is the action?!? Oh, where is the gore?!?"

Well, fellow charter members of the Obligatory Highbrow Literary Post Confraternity, rend your garments no further. Salvation has been delivered unto us.

In September, Quirk Books is publishing Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters!

From Jane Austen With Zombies. What's Not To Like?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Jane Austen novel in possession of added gore will be a surefire best-seller.

That's the conclusion reached by publishers since the success of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," an unlikely literary sensation created by adding dollops of "ultraviolent zombie mayhem" to Austen's classic love story.

"Zombies" — billed as 85 percent Austen's original text and 15 percent brand-new blood and guts — has become a best-seller since it was published earlier this year, with 750,000 copies in print. There's a movie in the works. And it has spawned a monster — or, more accurately, a slew of literary monster mash-ups.

Next month, "Zombies" publisher Quirk Books is releasing "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters," which adds giant lobsters and rampaging octopi to Austen's love story. Out this week from another publisher is "Mr. Darcy, Vampyre," a supernatural sequel which portrays the aloof hero of "Pride and Prejudice" as an undead bloodsucker. Later this year comes "Jane Bites Back," in which the author herself develops a taste for blood.

Unfortunately, fellow members, I have yet to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Truth be told, I just learned of its existence the other day, and no, I am not delaying until the movie's release. Before the OHLPC reconvenes, I resolve to have read the novel and thus be amply prepared, with profound hope and regard, to facilitate a discussion. Or at least describe the cool parts.

The debate of whether culture influences its art or art influences the culture remains far from resolved. Perhaps it will be answered when someone pens Last of the Undead Mohicans or Great Expectations From Beyond the Grave. In any case, adding the macabre to the masters of literature will lend blood and fury to otherwise prosaic jejunum, the likes of which would have the original authors regret not having included such elements in the first place.

Happy reading!

What literary mash-ups would you like to see published? Put 'em in the combox. Entering a title confers automatic membership to the OHLPC. I hope to create a badge you can proudly display at your blog....or hide it away in a deep corner somewhere if you want, I don't care....either way, make it fun!