Real Mistakes, Real Laughs:

Air bases were built on captured islands of Tinian, Saipan, and Guam but they were barley within the range of the long-range bombers.

(hope the bombadiers weren't on gluten-free diets)

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

"You Can't Drink My Blood Until After We're Married"

I confess I don't really understand the present vampire craze in books and movies. I've said before that, while a romantic version of Count Dracula began with Bela Lugosi in 1932 and continued with Frank Langella in 1980, the original Dracula as written by Bram Stoker was far from a hunk. Personally, I can only assume that matinee idols in the 1930s must have been considerably different from today's. No disrespect to Bela Lugosi intended, but a forty-something Hungarian with slicked- back hair, white pancake make-up and red lipstick is not the stuff of my romantic fantasies. Lugosi resembled my pediatrician (sans make-up) -- not such a good thing when you're getting your back-to-school shots. It just goes to show the impact of the vampire as a romantic figure, transcending youth and conventional good looks almost 90 years ago to spark an erotic fantasy that has not only lasted but burgeoned into the current literary/cinematic phenomenon taking over mortal women everywhere...an interesting paradox when you add the resurgence of Jane Austen's popularity.

Like everyone else who adored Pride and Prejudice , I hungered for more on the Misses Bennet and their dashing suitors. When Mr. Darcy's Daughters was released six years ago, I eagerly hunkered down with Mr. & Mrs. Darcy, still-wild Aunt Lydia Wickham, and the Bingleys. Author Elizabeth Ashton did an admirable job, but she had a tough act to follow and I felt a bit disappointed at the novel's end. I had experienced similar emotions 16-odd years ago when Scarlett, a much-touted sequel to Gone With the Wind came on the book scene. As movie sequels often fail to live up to their smash-hit predecessors, Scarlett did not hold me sway. There's just no substitute for the real thing.

So for years I contented myself with my high school English class paperback of Pride and Prejudice, reading and re-reading yellowed pages that fell apart from the ancient mass-market binding. Then came Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy by Sharon Lathan, covered with a beguiling portrait of an early-1800s young lady who might have been Elizabeth Bennet.

I put it down after 50 pages, unable to accept Elizabeth, for all her independence and forward thinking, having constant, steamy, and blatantly graphic sex with Mr. Darcy.

Don't get me wrong; a little well-written erotica is fine. And I always wondered where the Ingalls family went to the bathroom throughout the Little House books (did Pa build an outhouse or did they use chamber pots?). But I really feel there's a lot to be said for leaving certain things to the imagination. Besides, turning Pride and Prejudice into erotica reduces Jane Austen to a level that hardly does her justice. The societal formality of her era and her prose simply does not translate to the gothic romance genre. Elizabeth Bennet would never do those things; or if she did, I certainly don't want to know about it! It's like learning for the first time that your parents have sex: too much information.

Nor would Jane Austen have written about such things. Author of YA novel Funny How Things Change Melissa Wyatt, who shared my exhibit table at a recent NAIBA conference, also shared my opinion about these sequels. Jane Austen wouldn't have even hinted about a male member, much less invent so many euphemisms for it (Melissa said she stopped counting at 14 in Loving Mr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan).

But sex isn't the worst of it. I can understand the marketing strategy of combining hot trends in a single product but I mean, really: Vampire Darcy's Desire??? (check out Amazon, if you're as late to the party as I am and hadn't heard of these books) Forgive me, but even if Mr. Darcy is a vampire, he has servants to get the blood for him, probably presented in a silver goblet. He would never overstep the bounds of genteel society to bite a lady's neck, and he's no Mr. Wickham to have truck with common prostitutes. So the whole idea just doesn't work. Besides, how can we take poor, innocent Jane Austen into the horror genre? She must be turning in her grave...that is, if she hasn't risen from it to walk the earth as a Georgian zombie.

Cynthia Polansky
"Expect the Unexpected"

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