Leave Auntie Jane Alone


Enough with “The Pemberly Chronicles.” Enough with “Darcyland.” Enough with “Mr. Darcy’s Daughters.” And PLEASE, ENOUGH with the [insert Austen Title] and Zombies/Sea Monsters/Vampires.

First, let me begin by saying that no contemporary author has enough experience with Georgian English and 18th century colloquialisms to write a novel in an authentic Austen voice. Look, I have a Jane Austen quote mug (which I bought in Bath, thank you very much) and a Jane Austen Guide to Romance (which is really just a clever way of marketing an anthology of character analysis essays, I swear), I’ve seen (regrettably) “the Jane Austen Book Club” and I own a cinematic adaptation of every novel, but that’s where I draw the line. I go to Austen for the happy endings, sure, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that I also go to Austen for the language and the satire.

Stop with the sequels. If Jane wanted a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, she could have easily riddled it off. I’m sure she was asked to write her own “Pemberly Chronicles.” Diana Birchell, Jane Odiwe, Helen Halstead — Elizabeth Bennet is not your character to play with.

Last but not least, if you’re going to turn an Austen into a Sci-Fi novel, please assign your monsters appropriately. Sea Monsters would be much better supporting characters in Persuasion. I mean, common.


15 thoughts on “Leave Auntie Jane Alone

  1. I agree with every single word you wrote. I greatly prefer the original! Though I’m going to try my first sequel…I’ll let you know what my impression is. Mind, no vampires, no monsters nor ghosts!

  2. Birchall: Hey, Odiwe, check dis out! Here’s a lady who says she reads Jane Austen for the Satire and Language!

    Odiwe: You kidding me, right? What the hell she wanna do dat for? She want to ruin some good Sex and Shopping novels?

    Halstead: (Gently) I think she is objecting to our rape of Lizzy Bennet.

    Odiwe: (Confused) No way! I did Lydia. Never laid a finger on Lizzy in my life! Though I do paint her a lot.

    Birchall: And I wrote “Mrs. Elton in America.” Surely the divine Mrs. E. is fair game.

    Halstead: You’d think. And our books don’t have a zombie in sight!

    Birchall: Too true, damn it. Hey, did you know that zombie guy got a million bucks advance, and his book is Number Three on the New York Times Best Seller List? Jeez, I wish I’d thought of dat gimmick. I still have to work for a living.

    Odiwe: I think this chick is confusing us with Amanda Grange, who’s done a Vampyre sequel.

    Halstead: What’s wrong wid vampyres! Fine tradition of ’em, going back to Signore Polidori.

    Birchall: This lady don’t know from tradition. Well, I’m sorry. When I wrote Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma back in 1994 I didn’t know what I was starting.

    Odiwe: Really, Diana. You didn’t write the first Pride and Prejudice sequel. What about Pemberley Shades back in the 1940s?

    Birchall: Oh, I know. The title of first sequel goes to Jane Austen’s own niece, Catherine Hubback, in the 1850s. She’s the one to blame for the wholesale hijacking and rape to which this elegant young lady objects. And the family *did* blame her. Mostly because she thought of it before they did, I suspect.

    Halstead: Gee, Diana, you sound awful eddicated.

    Birchall: Don’t worry, I ain’t. I only went to CCNY back in the ’70s. I ain’t Accomplished or none of that stuff. You know how in the present day young ladies are so accomplished. They even got Masters Degrees now.

    Odiwe: Bet you can catch a high class husband wid one of those.

    Birchall: Of course, I *have* studied Georgian English for thirty years. And I *can* spell Chronicles.

    Halstead: Yeah, tell that to the Marines, you superior cow. You know, I think this lady ought to be defending Emma, not Lizzy.

    Birchall: Why? Because she seems to have a tendency to think a little too well of herself? Meow.

    Halstead: You said it, not me. Say, speaking of Emma, did you see this guy just wrote a gay sequel? He’s taken Jane Fairfax and made her James Fairfax. Pretty slick, huh?

    Odiwe: (enviously) Think he’ll make a million?

    Birchall: Nah. The real money’s in vampires. I work for a film studio, ya know, and you hear it from the horse’s mouth (an elegant phrase, akin to “Keep your breath to cool your porridge”). Those things sell!

    Halstead: Well, what’s keeping us, then? “Only a sequel” – only a novel which pays homage to the finest authors, in the best chosen language.

    Birchall: You illiterate cow yerself, what you talking about? You wouldn’t know fine language if it hit you in the mouf.

    Halstead: Hey, Birchall, it’s you what made Mr. Darcy middle aged and bald!

    Odiwe: Can that noise, willya? I’m trying to read Jane Austen here.

    (Apologies to my sister sequelists, who had nothing to do with this bit of sickness and wickedness)

    • How could I not be a good sport when so humorously reprimanded by the subject of my post herself! I’m flattered (sort of?)… I was trying to compose an equally funny response, but i’ll bite my tongue… for now 😉

      while I may be less inclined to pick up “Darcy’s Dilemma,” I’ve already put in an order for “Onoto Watanna”

      thanks for reading!

  3. I’m really pleased to see you have a good sense of humour – I dared Diana to post it! I’ll be honest, I never read any sequels and secretly despised the idea until I did my own. I’m not sure I still approve really, but I am compelled to write them – for my own pleasure – if others like or not like to read them that’s all well and good. I will put my hands up at this point and say although up until now I have only written about Lydia Bennet and Marianne Dashwood, I’m afraid to say I have just written a book about – wait for it – Elizabeth Bennet/Darcy, and of course, Mr Darcy, though I promise there are no vampires, zombies or anything else of that ilk in its content. And Diana is quite right, I do paint a lot of pictures of Elizabeth too for my sins.
    Anyway, you are a good sport Kathleen. Diana is so funny and has such a wicked sense of humour, I’m sure you’ll agree!

  4. Kathleen – You judge aright. Onoto Watanna is truly an interesting woman and phenomenon, culturally and biographically. Much more substance than a sequel. I have done with writing sequels, and I do apologize for my spleen, which comes from frustration at the publishing market. (“Take care, Lizzy, that speech savours strongly of disappointment!”) You’re a class act and I invite you to make all the fun of me you choose!

    Best regards,

  5. Wait! You need someone young and impertinent to chime in and tell you how incredibly wrong you all are.

    About zombies. Not sequels. I never read sequels. But kids today love themselves some zombies. I can’t really explain it.

    Also cool: ninjas and pirates. Vampires are more of a Gen X thing (us “kids” meaning those of us born in the ’80’s). And sea monsters? WTF?

  6. Pingback: In Defence of Jane Austen Sequels « Jane Austen Sequels Weblog

  7. Kathleen, I appreciate your objections to others abusing Jane’s good name. I do too! But please do not lump Jane Odiwe, Diana Birchall and Helen Halstead into the bad brew. As someone who reads and reviews Jane Austen sequels, these ladies have worked with Austen’s characters and not against her style or narrative. Of all of the authors to choose, they are the most unobjectionable. Other authors that I will not defame, have sexed up Lizzie and Darcy or had her character doing outrageous things so outside the Regency norm, that it borders on downright abuse and robbery. The Sea Monster thing, that is jumping on the bandwagon to just make money. P&P&Zombies was a funny parody laughing with Austen. Sea Monsters desecrates classic literature, and laughs at Austen, not with her. A big difference in my book. My only advice for you is just divert your eyes away, and read the originals. Thanks for your input.

  8. Hi Laurel Ann! Interesting discussion. Now, Young Lady J.T. Oldfield (doddering here), I know alllllll about zombies and vampires, more in fact than you might dream possible, because in my movie business job I naturally read EVERY vampire and zombie book that comes out! Like it or not, I’ve read them by the score. That’s why, about four years ago, the idea struck me to put vampires and Austen together, in order to make my much-needed millions of bucks. Obviously it was a brilliant idea, way in advance of its time. But I couldn’t do it. It just wouldn’t write. No idea what subconscious inhibitions stopped me. Inability to really traduce Austen, when it came right down to it? Inability to write sucking scenes? I don’t know, but I remain not only poor but not even able to comfort myself by taking the moral high ground, since I actually *tried* the low ground and failed! A pitiable state, is it not? I have really wearied of the whole subject, as well I might after so many years, and could say, with Jane Austen, “Now I will try to write of something else:–it shall be a complete change of subject–Ordination.”

    Well maybe not Ordination. But not sea monsters, either! No, sir!

  9. Kathleen,

    Several weeks ago I wrote an opinion piece entitled Jane Austen’s Legacy: Precious Bits of Ivory Turned into Monsters. You can find it in this link – http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2009/07/18/jane-austen’s-legacy-precious-bits-of-ivory-turned-into-monsters/. I believe my post links to Laurel Ann’s, which also is a rant.

    Except for the three authors you name, I agree with your opinion. Enough is enough with these uber fantasies about Darcy and Elizabeth, and even Mary Bennet and Jane Fairfax, now turned into a gay man. Seth Graham-Smith understood the Zombie genre very well – he even wrote a reference book about them – and he was smart enough to keep 80% of Jane Austen’s words and plot. Even so, I found P&P&Zombies bothersome, and could only review it tongue in cheek.

    There are some sequels that have no link to Jane Austen’s novels other than that the characters have similar names and back stories. Everything else – from the plotting, quality of writing, and language – is different. On top of that, most writers utterly lack JA’s insights and biting humor, and without those two attributes, these new stories are pedestrian at best.

    While I too am tempted to write a sequel just for the heck of it, why bother? Why not devote one’s talent to an original story and work with it? Oh, well, I think I’ve just read one bad sequel too many and am becoming a curmudgeon. I am all anticipation to read A Truth Universally Acknowledged, which is an academic compilation, and which harks back directly to Jane’s work.

    Thanks for starting this dialog. As usual, Diana’s response is both funny and spot on. Well done you.

  10. I feel like I started a tsunami! I should say that I picked on you three ladies because you had the best-selling Austen sequels according to B&N.com — obviously, you know what you’re doing and do it well. And I certainly appreciate anyone out there making their way writing books… hell, i mean, that’s what I want to do when i “grow up.”

    my big complaint, which seems generally shared, is really with the Austen Industry. I’m the first to admit I consume more than Austen’s own writings. I mean, who am I to talk really. i’m sitting here drinking out of a Jane Austen quote mug that I bought in Bath… tea really does taste better in it… something to do with english porcelain, I’m sure. But there’s a good reason why Salinger (thanks Diana) protects his Franny and his Zooey and his Holden. What authors write — the characters they create, the stories they tell — is highly personal. There’s something about keeping things intact and unique. The original gets diluted by off-shoots. Austen has long since left us, and that means she doesn’t have much say in what happens to Lydia in the 21st century. Though, I wonder how Austen would feel about Bridget Jones? I think she’d kinda dig her.

    I also wonder, will we one day have a Vonnegut Industry? Will we be reading sequels to Slaughterhouse Five, about Billy Pilgrim’s newest time travels and previously undocumented return to the planet of Trafalgamadore?

    No, not likely. There aren’t any corsets in Vonnegut.

  11. Barnes and Noble said that? Gosh, not true in my case! However, we’ve all discussed this subject and ranted at length – and clearly have similar feelings. Bemusement/disgust. It makes me sad because the Austen Industry is having the effect of turning me away from…Austen. Every day I see new atrocities and feel more depressed. Oh well, gotta move on.

    J.D. Salinger (who wrote Franny & Zooey) is still alive, and he’s famously against any kind of publicity. Vonnegut’s always been kind of a “cult” author in a way…but this huge exploitative phenomenon about Jane Austen, truly a tsunami to use your word, is something unusual. I wish they’d picked on anybody other than her; then I could have ignored the whole thing. Hm, now maybe we should try to write a book about Jane Austen and a tsunami…Hurricane Jane…help! I’m going mad!

    • messing up salinger and fitzgerald… this is what happens when you start following ol’ F. Scott’s example and hit the gin. thank you for correcting me once again. gee whiz i’m doing a good job of making myself look silly.

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