Friday Bookblogging: Austen Undead Edition


As you may have guessed from the title, interest in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies continues unabated, and we found a couple of articles of particular interest.

The Philadelphia Inquirer engages in a bit of good-natured snark.

In the new version, which Grahame-Smith sees as a mix “between a costume drama, The Matrix . . . [and] Kill Bill,” Elizabeth and her betrothed, Mr. Darcy, don’t flirt while discussing novels, but while kicking zombie behind.

As Sophocles once put it, add zombies to any story and you have an instant hit and serious street cred.

The Hartford Courant actually interviewed a zombie expert.

Even odder than its origins is the zombie’s enduring appeal.

“Vampires are sexy; Frankenstein has pathos,” McAlister says. “The zombie is not attractive.” Usually, there’s not even a back story to give us a better understanding of the zombie. Most monsters, even second-tier ones like Mothra, are the center of attention. But the zombie is only one of many, just another expressionless creature in a crowd of walking (sometimes running) dead.

The vampire grows out of the gothic, aristocratic tradition, McAlister says. The zombie is the working class monster, which makes crashing into the upper-crust environs of a Jane Austen novel all the more jarring.

Speaking of which, would the folks in “Pride and Prejudice,” set in early 19th-century England, have even heard of zombies, let alone known the particular methods for slaying them? For this question, we turn to Peter Dendle, author of “The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia” and English professor at Penn State. He says that zombies were well-known in black communities in the south in the 19th century but unheard of by whites in the U.S. and Europe.

And, at the time, zombies were imagined in a much different form than they are today. For believers, “the zombie was alive as a bogeyman, and also as a divinity,” Dendle says in an e-mail. “Voodoo practitioners worshiped a divinity known as ‘Li Grand Zombi.’ This actually preserved an ancient and authentic sense of ‘Zombi,’ which represented a variety of spirits/divinities in West Africa.”

So, no, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy would have been at something of a loss in the case of a zombie attack.

And there you have it. That’s it for this week’s Friday Bookblogging, Gentle Readers, so until next time, remember: Zombies May Be Undead, But Books Are Nice!