Readers: now that the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies film is effectively dead—insert the walking-dead joke of your choice here—surely serious discussions are at hand. Since, as we all know, there’s a universal minimum for period pieces in the works at any given time (no fewer than three; more if you can find a swanky-looking estate in the rentals section of Craigslist), retribution must be made! Who will buy all those empire-waist dresses and period boots, if not us? Who will fuel the muttonchops craze, if we will not fuel the muttonchops craze? Who will keep an eye on the happy endings, if we don’t keep the genteel romance mill churning?
Considering this sudden omission, and realizing the significance of Austen adaptations to the cosmic equilibrium, we ask you: What Austen or Austen-related film would you see made instead? Who would you cast, and why? And, most importantly, would you include the monsters?
Let’s hear it, readers.
I just came back from the mall, yo! That’s what you do when visiting the parental units in New Jersey. (And no, despite having grown up here I most certainly do not say “Joisey,” and I say “mall” not “maaauwl.”) And as I was driving home, I was thinking how appropriate it was that I was contemplating what to say about Michael Thomas Ford’s Jane Bites Back this week. The thing is, it reminded me of reading a Janet Evanovich novel. Evanovich’s main character, Stephanie Plum, is a wise-ass bond hunter in Trenton, New Jersey. While “Jane Fairfax,” the 200-and-something-year-old vampire Jane Austen, doesn’t carry a gun or drop f-bombs, she’s still a wise-ass, as is her sidekick assistant who works at her bookstore in upstate New York.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Jane Bites Back. It sounded a bit cheesy, and there are so many mish-mash Jane Austen Meets Whatever Monster of the Week available now that I could have easily lumped it into that long list and never looked back. But I love vampire stories—from the original Dracula by Bram Stoker to Anne Rice’s books to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Elizabeth Kostova‘s The Historian. When I was a kid, the next door neighbor would invite us over on a hot summer day, close the curtains, and play old radio broadcasts. The scariest ones always had vampires chasing lost people around abandoned castles. Mesmerizing! And now I’m just a little bit wigged out thinking about it.
What was I talking about? Oh yeah . . . vampire stories. I love them; therefore, I had to read Jane Bites Back. This isn’t a typical vampire story. It’s not scary, nor is it graphic with the blood sucking, and thankfully it’s devoid of Twilight-y teen angst. The characters aren’t particularly deep, and I’m sad to say that Jane Fairfax/Jane Austen is one-dimensional. (Single woman hanging out alone drinks red wine and eats lots of chocolate, is that they best you can do to describe the modern Jane Austen, Mr. Ford? Really?) But I found myself wanting to read more, and I laughed at Ford’s descriptions of the current Jane Austen industry. Actually, that’s probably the best part about the book, as I’m equal parts delighted and mortified with the variety of Austen-related crap, er, odds and ends available these days. The author isn’t taking any of this too seriously. Plus, hey, Jane Austen and other literary figures living among us because Lord Byron can’t keep his fangs to himself—I approve!