Monday, March 21, 2011

Zombilicious!


Let me just say it from the beginning -- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After is zombilicious! This book comes on the heels of the best-seller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (published in 2009 by the fab folks at Quirk Publishing!). The story follows the plot of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, but places the novel in an alternative universe version of Regency-era England where zombies roam the English countryside. And, thankfully, all of the original characters are here as well: Elizabeth Bennet and her lovely sisters, Mr. Darcy, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and even Anne, Catherine's shadowy and slightly menacing daughter. Last year, a prequel was also published -- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. This novel explains how Elizabeth Bennet became the kick-ass zombie killer that she portrays in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies . And now, finally, we have the sequel -- what happens to Elizabeth and Darcy (and even Jane and Mr.Bingley) after the wedding? Do they continue to combat the dreadfuls?

But first -- a little academic talk! When I first analyzed the original Austen classic as an undergraduate, I never considered anything outside the parameters of "the white world" of Regency England. I recognized that Austen was using wit as a tool against a society of double standards and hypocrisy. But perhaps because I grew up as a white girl, I never thought about the characters (or the context) "behind" the page. In the case of Pride and Prejudice, there is a whole society of people who are providing the livelihood of many of the main characters (as in the British Empire "raping" the natural resources of India).

As many of you know, my literary field of interest is non-western texts (specifically African and South Asian literature). My studies in Rhetoric and Composition have also followed this angle -- race studies in composition. As a graduate student (for my MA), I started taking classes and seminars that completely changed the way I read the "greats" like Kipling, Conrad, Austen, etc -- it's hard to articulate in just a few words -- what I learned but essentially I was encourage to read against the grain for the first time in life. I also started to be more aware of "the other": I think the best way to overcome stereotype is to genuinely encounter "the other" -- to see "the other" as they really are. Whether it is understanding someone who is gay or someone who is of another ethnic group, opening oneself up to an alternative viewpoint can be liberating.

Which is probably why I loved, loved, loved the Bollywood version of the Pride and Prejudice book/ films -- "Bride and Prejudice" (a fantastic 2005 film staring one of the most beautiful women in the world, Aishwarya Rai). How would an Indian version -- a country, of course, colonized by the British Empire -- interpret a thoroughly British story? (the director, Gurinder Chadha was also behind the great film "Bend it Like Beckham"!) If you have seen this film, the opening scene starts in agricultural fields, underlining the fact the British empire exploited the natural resources of this country without honestly encountering the people who lived there. Though there are no "zombies" in this film version, there is something unsettling to viewers -- at least I think so -- in the fact that we western readers never question the white society we so complacently "digest" (pun intended!).

Are you still following me?! Connecting zombies (or "unmentionables" as they are called in the series!) with colonialism terminology is not an original thought on my part. According to Edna Aizenberg's article "'I Walked with a Zombie': The Pleasures and Perils of Postcolonial Hybridity," zombies can be highly representative of "the other" in the literature, especially texts from a non-western perspective: "A postcolonial perspective shifts focus from imperial centers and offers tools for comparing the formerly colonized's oppositional cultural politics and destabilizing, frequently innovating literary strategies. And a post-colonial perspective provides strong paradigms for reading in power situations, bringing into sharp view significant but ignored features of texts from, say, Latin America or Africa, permitting a more penetrating critical practice and a more liberating alliance-building among intellectuals." So, in other words, the zombies of this newest Austen revival are "bringing into sharp view" a new paradigm, a new way of looking at a world view that takes us away from the "imperial center."

Quite seriously Dreadfully Ever After is also just a good story! I won't give away all the details but Elizabeth saves Darcy's life after he is bitten by an unmentionable and we readers finally get to see the dastardly Lady Catherine de Bourgh get her just due. I found the story to be clever and engaging (and, interestingly enough, we readers discover that only England has a zombie problem and that the cure is found in the blood of "the other").

I am not usually a reader of the zombie genre but this is fun -- and wretchedly funny if you are a fan of Austen's original masterpiece! Even if you don't "do" zombies, give this book a chance -- you might find yourself saying, "How Zombilicious!"

Quirk Classics is having a give-away - just "like" the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After Facebook page to enter.

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