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Sexing Up the Classics: Why I Wouldn't Mind 50 Shades of Mr Darcy

Posted: 18/07/2012 21:42

A few too many drinks later and Elizabeth found herself face to face under the stairwell with Darcy himself. Clearly they had both thought this would be a good place to recover their spinning heads. She glanced nervously at him; he saw her eyes scan him quickly, hidden under the flicker of dark lashes. She felt herself drawn closer to him, to his warm, firm, masculine body... This was the Netherfield Ball, they couldn't! They shouldn't! But she felt his warm body pressing against her bodice and it was all she could do to give in, feeling his hot breath tickle her neck under her pearls...

"Oh, if only", I hear you sigh. You've got to page 250 and you could cut the sexual tension with a distinctly blunt knife, yet there's still not been a thigh brush in sight.

Of course, I wouldn't do HRH Ms Austen the injustice of suggesting Pride and Prej could do with a bit of sex to spice it up. Frankly, I get off much more on the lack thereof - explicit sex scenes wouldn't really fit with the deliciously enigmatic Mr Darcy. As I'm sure her genius knew.

However, it rather goes without saying that us bookworms often form particularly intense BUT DEFINITELY NOT UNHEALTHY OR OBSESSIVE relationships with protagonists of our favourite novels. Book clubs nationwide regularly turn into collective fantasy-exploration: women's knees jittering left right and centre just thinking of what Rochester could do to them on a cold, stormy night at Thornfield Hall, men dropping biscuits in tea at the very mention of Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker reclining on their sofas.

So what could be better than new adult 'Clandestine Classics' collection, a series of literary classics with naughty sex scenes added in? Dubbed the '50 Shades of Grey effect', some of the most revered of our literary heritage are being dusted off and heated up, including Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Sherlock Holmes. No longer does your mind have to multitask, reading the chapter whilst imagining Henry and Catherine in the throes of passion: the chapter will be Henry and Catherine in the throes of passion.

On principle, I can't say I have any particular issue with this enterprise. The company say they are "100% convinced" that there will be an audience for this collection, and I whole-heartedly agree with them. The unprecedented success of 50 Shades has done nothing if not demonstrate that what really does it for the Brits is combining two of our favourite things: books and sex. (What's that? "Speak for yourself", I hear you say?)

Grumbles against the project have suggested that "explosive sex with Mr Rochester" might cheapen Jane Eyre, and that it is sacrilege to deface the classics in this way. Firstly, I'd like to point out that we're being very British about this, and, just because it's sex, we're a lot more outraged about this than, say, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Which is effectively the same thing.

Secondly, I can't see any harm in upping the (sex) appeal of the classics to people who may not otherwise think to read them. Sexed up Austen is better than no Austen, in my opinion, particularly if her original prose remains intact. It may even turn heads to further exploration of literature's more traditional smash hits, and that can only be a good thing.

What will be particularly interesting is how they address the narrative style. They have been quoted as claiming the original prose will not be touched. However, it would take an accomplished writer indeed to achieve a smooth transition from the cutting witticisms of Ms Austen's social commentary into their own inserts, and it goes without saying that any prose lifted from the majority of the writings of the 'adult books' genre would jam a little awkwardly against such sparkling literary genius.

Furthermore, if readers of 50 Shades noted its grammatical inadequacies and distinct lack of stylistic flair when comparing it with nothing but its own sweet self, it would be entirely unreadable in comparison with the literary greats.

That said, this can only further the appeal of this collection to me. I enjoy sexy writing as much as the next person: the library scene in Atonement nearly got framed after I read it. And I enjoy watching people flail and thrash around in a whirlpool of grammatical faux-pas even more.

Put the two together, brew me a cup of tea and, hell, you'll have to pop my Out of Office reply on.

 

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