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Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters Paperback – Sep 1 2009
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“A fine addition to an international fiction collection.” (Booklist )
“Esterhazy’s prose is jumpy, allusive, and slangy. . . . There is vividness, an electric crackle. The sentences are active and concrete. Physical details leap from the murk of emotional ambivalence.” (John Updike, The New Yorker ) --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
About the Author
Jane Austen is coauthor of the New York Times best seller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which has been translated into 17 languages and optioned to become a major motion picture. She died in 1817. Ben H. Winters is a writer based in Brooklyn.
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The sea monster world was so graphic, gruesome and juicy, I almost broke out in hives from my seafood allergies. More than once I caught myself grimacing and wrinkling my nose at imagined fishy stink. Normally, the violence alone would be enough to make me abandon the book, but author Wilson only uses it to throw Regency cultural values into sharper and more satirical relief -- witness the scene of Elinor and Marianne earnestly engaging in prim introspection, concerned about social appropriateness and proper behavior, when (SPOILER ALERT) the entire underwater dome is about to crack at the onslaught of the sea monster rebellion and a servant has just been gruesomely murdered before their eyes (unnoticed).
Setting the main story and its sub-plots against such a background also served to emphasize what Austen herself was indeed emphasizing -- the ludicrousness of Regency-era polite society.
I did not fall off my chair laughing, but I did appreciate the skill and wit of the author. My only complaint: Colonel Brandon was a little *too* graphically repulsive. But I quite forgave this at the end of the book, when the author innocently explained the advantages of extra appendages (and I did teeter on the edge of my chair at that).
Ultimately, I consider this book a resounding success because (a) the author wrote quite as masterly a satire of social mores as did Austen herself (b) he wrote a satire of Austen's satire -- breathtaking (c) I not only found it darkly amusing -- I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Great job, Ben H. Winters.
Jane Austen's voice is practically lost in its entirety in this volume. That was one of the most delightful and humorous aspects of P&P&Z, but this author is either uninterested in, or unable to, pull off the same creative weaving here. In addition to which, there are already *significant* plot departures in the book by page 20. If the author wasn't intending to stay true to the original story in either dialogue or plot, then why bother writing a mash-up of this kind?
Perhaps I would feel differently about the lack of Austen's voice and the plot changes if the writing or story development of this version were sufficiently good in their own right. However, this is sadly not the case, particularly when compared to P&P&Z. The writing is wooden and functional. It's as if the author's interventions in the story are printed on the page in a different color ink, that's how much they clash with the original text.
I will probably wind up finishing the book (or at least attempting to), but I don't anticipate enjoying it very much. When I sat down to read P&P&Z, I was completely captivated, and read the whole thing in one marathon sitting. I doubt if I will be able to read more than 10 pages of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters at one time.
They were living on a barren island that turned out to be a sea creature's head! LOL!
Reading these reviews, I am reminded that readers approach a book from so many different perspectives. I think some good people, however open-minded, are just not going to "get" the whole mash-up phenomenon. My take on it is that anything that gives a new generation an "in" to the joys of the timeless classics has got to be a good thing.
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