‘Let us talk… about the weather… I am rather partial to all things wet, Miss Bennet. It makes going inside all the more pleasant.’- Mr. Darcy
Eckstut’s 2001 novella is a well-written parody. However, my compliments stop here. What is an amusing tribute to Jane Austen’s work in a fresh, quirky way, quickly becomes a one-part-pornography-one-part-erotic-fiction disaster that leaves you feeling a little nauseous. Indeed, I put the challenge to anyone to read it without blushing.
This is definitely an addition to the x-rated adult-fiction genre (and I would probably say that anyone under the age of 18 should be kept well away). It is packed with sexual innuendoes and explicit descriptions of sex (whether it be threesomes, homosexuality, bestiality, incest or role-play) and although this is to be expected from the book’s title, the extent to which it goes through both the graphics (oh yes, there are pictures) and the language is just one step too far down trash-lane. I would also recommend having this glimpse of the book, if you haven’t read it, as it might give you a taste of what you are in for- however it leaves out all the sexed up excerpts and isn’t the best sample.
I found the concept amusing, shown nicely through the introduction where it is composed as a literary contribution, but then it feels like a blow to the stomach. I kept thinking to myself “My Elizabeth would never do such a thing!” constantly throughout. The book actually delves into each of the Austen novels (even to the point of prequelling Persuasion, and adding a letter to the unfinished manuscript The Watsons) however none is given the attention that Pride and Prejudice is, with three new scenes and a collection of letters.
The three scenes, one about Jane at Netherfield (and having a midnight romp with Caroline Bingley and Mrs. Hurst), another regarding Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, and the last being Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas (where they use role-play and whips to help their relationship along). The scenes are written with, if not the flair and wit of Austen, at least some form of tribute to her language style, however crude lines such as “Mrs Hurst and I have taken it upon ourselves to satisfy our chief concern, namely that you will be able to satisfy him” (Italics kept from the book) tend to negate this.
Apparently, some people actually fell for it and believed that these were the original newly uncovered works of Jane Austen. Apparently. Where are these people and what planet did they drop down from? Eckstut might be pretty decent at writing in a vaguely Jane-ish way, but honestly, that’s just plain ridiculous. Not even considering the subject matter here- the scenes, although descriptive enough to be offensive to my Regency taste, can be vague (and brief, the whole book only spans 150 pages odd) and do not have half the length and clarity that Austen writes.
Possibly, it would have been improved had it been a trifle less contradictory to the way in which we view Austen. There is something beautiful about the fact that the characters in the original novels never touch, never kiss, and certainly never engage in what we see in this. I honestly didn’t read the whole thing. I read the Pride and Prejudice section, Sense and Sensibility and then a few scenes here and there, mainly because it isn’t my thing. I have heard that a lot of people liked it or found it funny, including my sister, and I dare say that if it had been a parody of another book group then I would have found it more to my taste. If you are really into this type of fiction however, then why should it not be Pride and Prejudice themed? I fail to see how I can stomach Zombie-killings more than this.
If you’ve ever asked ‘I wonder what Lizzy and Darcy do when the Gardiner’s aren’t around’ or ‘Could Charlotte Lucas ever sleep with Mr. Collins?’ then this is definitely the read for you.
Curiously, the authors are very confused on different versions of the book. The copy that I have here (on loan from a friends friend) is published by canongate and only credits Eckstut as the author. The image I have included has David Auburn as a name listed, and often Dennis Ashton is given as the name of the second author. Auburn also wrote the screen play for Proof (Gwyneth Paltrow etc). Ashton appears to have never written anything else other than four books about grief with Joyce Ashton (sister?). I’m confused. Apparently, according to a blog I found after I followed this inconsistency, the name differs based on whether it is the UK or the US version and there is the suggestion it’s due to reputation? If anyone knows anything about this, I would be truly fascinated.
Just a bit of a background: As for Eckstut herself, she has apparently written plenty about sex before (and I must mention for context that she is married to an ex-gigolo- David Henry Sterry). She is also the founder of LittleMissMatched, a sock company that sells odd-socks in odd-numbers, a literary agent- running the west coast office of Levine Greenberg Literary agency, a lecturer (particularly doing seminars on how to write and publish a book) and I even found her quoted when she was 11 in an article, which means she is about 38 years old at the moment. She is taken extremely seriously in the publishing world in the US (and I would guess, everywhere else).
The book is also illustrated by Chris Brown (the pictures are well drawn, the subject matter not so well picked). So did you enjoy it? Is the idea distasteful? Is the boundary between homage and desecration ill-defined? I’d love to hear your views below.