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“I felt there was a hidden story behind the one Austen shared with us, one she gives readers just enough clues to discover if we will.”
This is the bold statement with which Ann Herendeen explains the subtextual effort of her Pride/Prejudice (Harper, 2010, $14.99), a renovelization of (yes) Jane Austen‘s Pride and Prejudice that focuses less on courtliness and more on buggery—or what Bingley, in Herendeen’s version, describes as “Achilles-and-Patroclus, Damon-and-Piteous [sic] stuff….” A racy offering for the book-club bunch, in other words.
Or perhaps not. As Herendeen tells it, the new work is merely a reading-between-the-lines, an explication of lewd tensions already bubbling just below the surface of Austen’s narration. An academic exercise, even: “It’s no more wrong to include [sexuality] in modern retellings of her stories than it is to examine some of her other subtexts, such as the slave trade and the wealth derived from it in Mansfield Park.”
Right. As long as we’re keeping things in perspective.
2009 was a major year for Austen pastiches—viz. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies; Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters—but whereas Seth Grahame-Smith confined himself to the playful insertion of an occasional man-eating squid, Herendeen takes the “reimagining” shtick to a whole new level. Herewith, a selection of the bawdier innuendoes Herendeen unearths over the course of her scholarly undertaking:
- “Don’t talk,” Fitz said. He moved lower in the bed, opened his mouth, and paid his forfeit with an alacrity bordering dangerously on enthusiasm.
- “When have you ever looked at a woman but to find fault? As far as marriage is concerned, my fundament is as close to a wife as you’ll ever come.”
- “Lord help me!” Charles said. “I’m a goner. I won’t be able to sit for a week.”
- [Any of a large handful of allusions to “Achilles and the Myrmidons.” It’s a wonder they had any time to fight!]
- “My dear Charles! …no, not the two of you at once. At least, not until I’ve had a chance to try her alone.”
Bonus: Ann Herendeen explains herself on a rooftop!