More McCullough

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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.

Ouch!

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).

When good writers write bad Austen paraliterature

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We have not read or reviewed The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Colleen McCullough, and have no plans to, as life is too short to read bad books; and from what our fellow Austen bloggers have to say about the book, it is a very bad book indeed.

From Laurel Ann’s review on Austenprose:

The real pinnacle of exasperation for me came with McCullough’s handling of Mr. Darcy who immediately regrets marrying Elizabeth, resents being burdened with her ‘below his station’ family, and now acts far snootier and more puffed up than we were subjected to when we first met him at the Meryton Assembly in the original novel. Ambitious, scheming and underhanded, this Darcy has gone Gothic villain on us and it is not pretty. This caustic rendering of Darcy alone will catapult many a book across living rooms and bedrooms across America.

From Janeite Kelly’s review on the Jane Austen in Vermont blog:

This hodge-podge might have been remotely palatable if the writing was less sub-par. Repetitive trains of thought emanate from all the characters. When not recounting ideas within their own heads, the characters interact in the dullest of dull discourse. Absurdities like Charles Darcy referring to his father, Fitzwilliam Darcy, as Pater are surely meant to make the novel sound “period”; they do not. And entire conversations around “wees and poohs” and circumcision? Who cares. Nothing really happens; instead people talk about what they think, feel, will do, should do, have done: “When I have assembled all the facts, the notes, the conclusions, I will write my book. Around the beginning of May I will set out on my journey of investigation.” (p. 39)

According to several interviews, Ms. McCullough wrote this book to “tweak the noses of the literati.” At the risk of being accused of being a dried-up tar-hearted spinster &c. &c., we link to these reviews as a public service to our fellow Janeites. In our admittedly quite active imagination, we see a fresh-faced, innocent Janeite in her Cozy Local Book Emporium™, perusing the latest releases, seeing a sequel to her beloved Pride and Prejudice by an author who has produced some pretty good books in the past–yes, the Editrix, like many nice Catholic girls of her generation, was enthralled by Father Ralph de Whatawaste in The Thorn Birds back in the day–and snatching it up with a gleeful cry. “This will be SO much better than Mr Darcy Does His Wife and all the other Austen-related junk we’ve innocently purchased at our Cozy Local Book Emporium™! Colleen McCullough is a PROFESSIONAL author! She won’t do Our Jane wrong!” We simply wish to give that Janeite, who is, though we might not be personally acquainted, our Brother or Sister In Jane, fair warning. We ask, when the inevitable backlash is launched against the Dried-Up Tar-Hearted Spinster &c. &c. Janeites Who Just Don’t Get It, that our Gentle Readers remember that simple fact.

(If you’re still morbidly curious and rationalize it with “Oh, everyone knows the Editrix is a dried-up tar-hearted spinster &c. &c., I’m gonna read it anyway,” why don’t you try the library? You know, the library? Big building with lots of books in it? They actually let you TAKE BOOKS AWAY and READ THEM! FOR FREE! Amazing, ain’t it? Just don’t forget to give them back when you’re finished.)