Thursday, 5 November 2009

Axl's Thoughts On The Book 'Pride & Prejudice & Zombies'.

As I was walking to college today, I walked past Borders and in their window was a poster displaying some of their 'Books Of The Year'. On this poster was the book 'Pride & Prejudice & Zombies'. Now, my initial reaction was something along the lines of 'Oh my God, what the fuck is that doing on a 'Books Of The Year' list? For fuck's sake, that's ridiculous,' but then I started thinking.
See, I was listening to my iPod, and the Four Tet remix of 'Volcano' by Anti-Pop Consortium had just finished playing. I would say that this is one of my favourite songs of the year.
But it's a remix.
This got me thinking.
What's inherently wrong with 'Pride & Prejudice & Zombies'?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but PP&Z is the book 'Pride & Prejudice' with some extra zombie scenes written into it, therefore putting the overall work into a different context. You could say it's someone remixing literature. That's what someone does when they remix a song after all, they change the context of it, writing new parts into it and therefore changing the overall effect. Okay, that is simplifying the remix process somewhat, but that is essentially what it is, right?
So what's wrong with remixing literature?
What is actually wrong with that?
Coz I haven't read it, I was making snap judgements on it based on what it is, and yet, thinking about it, I can see no reason to not like what it is. Sure, if I read it and thought it was trashy and stupid then fine, but I can see no problem with what PP&Z is doing.
NOW, someone out there is going to be thinking something along the lines of, 'But Axl, a remix of a song is totally different because the people involved in the song have specifically asked for their song to be remixed. With PP&Z, someone has just taken an out of copyright text and messed around with it. Jane Austin has had NO say in this whatsoever. It's being promoted as something new when in fact it's just a gimmick designed to make money, not an exercise in recontextualisation at all,' as indeed those are arguments against this book that I have heard and read before.
Well, this won't be very popular, but I reckon that unless you have read the book, you're not in a position to make that judgement. Fine, you can know the idea and decide that it's not for you, or that you don't think it's something you would enjoy, we all make those decisions all the time, but I don't believe that as an idea and a concept, it is something that can be written off.
Look at Baz Luhrmann's 'Romeo + Juliet'. The audacity of taking that play and putting it in modern times and re-writing very small elements of it (e.g. guns instead of swords, Romeo going to the Capulet party off his tits, etc), places it in a new setting and context and completely alters the work. Reaction? Trepidation and scepticism at first, but on seeing it most people agree that it is a very good film, and a pretty brave one too. Slightly garish in places yes, but come on, that's a really good film right there, and an adaptation that Shakespeare had nothing whatsoever to do with.
Also there are many, many things that get done in music with JS Bach, Mozart, and many other classical composers out of copyright music that is a complete bastardisation of the original works being repackaged and jigged about with, including things like 'The Well Tempered Synthesiser', JS Bach's 'The Well Tempered Clavier' played on synths, and 'Bach To Africa', selected JS Bach pieces played with African percussion accompaniment.
This is just a small selection of reworkings, rewritings and yes, recontextualisings of works that happens all the bloody time. Why novels should be the sacred cow among the arts I really don't know.
'Pride & Prejudice & Zombies'? The more I think about it, the more I'm surprised it hasn't happened before, and that this kind of thing doesn't happen more often.

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