After our little editorial commentary on Colleen McCullough’s latest book the other day, we were amused to see another review of the book on the Steve Reads blog, and we wished to share it with our readers.
I guess once an author’s proven herself to her publishers the way McCullough has, she gets as much latitude as she wants, and maybe I’d appreciate the whole thing more if the book itself weren’t so relentlessly awful. But the whole time I was reading it (well, ‘whole time’ as in roughly 70 minutes … but you know what I mean …), I was bothered by something else entirely than the lack of any noticeable proficiency with language, character, dialogue, plotting, or drama.
And there’s one basic rule of pastiche that comes before any others: don’t violate the heart of your original.
The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet violates the heart of Pride and Prejudice. It violates the heart, the soul, the kidneys, the spleen, and every other organ it can get its hands on. But the most central violation is the worst by far, because as all readers of Jane Austen’s great novel (perhaps the greatest novel ever written? Certainly in the top five) know, the heart of the story is that Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are, despite everything, perfect for each other, that they have managed, as very lucky lonely people sometimes actually do, to find each other amidst the noise and frivolity of the world around them. If you violate this living, breathing heart of Pride and Prejudice, your pastiche will not only stink but annoy the hell out of Steve.
Preach it, brother!
Well, we suppose if we’re going to continue to point and laugh, we should probably read the bally thing so we can do so ethically and knowledgeably. We’ve put it on reserve at our library via their very clever website. Interesting to note that our county library system has 21 copies of the book, and only 5 are currently available. So people are reading it. Libraries (at least) are buying it. The Editrix’s cynical side (who, us? cynical? nah) whispers that Ms. McCullough has performed her task most admirably, despite all the snark going around. Oh, and if you were wondering about the backlash against the dried-up tar-hearted purist &c. &c. Janeites Not Getting It, here you go (kind of weaksauce, though).