Thanks in part to the “Fifty Shades of Grey” books (and that’s all the thanks they’ll get from me), we will now get sexed-up versions of classic literature.
A publisher of “erotic romance” that punfully refers to itself as Total-E-Bound has plans to add what it hypefully refers to as “explosive sex” scenes to such books as Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights,” Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet” and Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
Total-E-Bound can do this because the works I have mentioned are in the public domain and are, therefore, fair game.
It’s the publishing equivalent of enclosed-pen hunting – without the guilt!
I haven’t read any erotic romance in a while, so I can only assume that “explosive sex” scenes involve characters acquiring carnal knowledge of each other at munitions dumps and in fireworks warehouses while wearing kerosene cologne and flash paper underpants.
I haven’t read any Jane Austen in a while either, but it seems to me that adding explicit sex to “Pride and Prejudice” isn’t quite as benign an activity as adding zombies to “Pride and Prejudice” (even if the same motive is involved – namely, that pesky profit one).
It may be that Austen never gave a single thought to zombies and we who live in a zombie-rich world for which we give thanks daily to our voodoo deities shudder to think of the wan and unfulfilled life she must have lived as a result of that.
But Austen undoubtedly thought about sex – its significance in her society and its place in her works.
“(We) want to enhance the novels,” Claire Siemaszkiewicz, founder of Total-E-Bound Publishing, told the British newspaper the Independent several weeks back, “by adding the ‘missing’ scenes for readers to enjoy.”
It’s one thing to add sex scenes to classics; it’s another to suggest that they were missing in the first place and that their inclusion will enhance the original works.
Who, exactly, was missing them?
Was it Austen fans or people who won’t read anything unless a PR flunky has assured them that there’s “explosive sex” in it?
I am not sure there are many things in our sex-glutted society that are less explosive than “explosive sex.”
Whenever I read this overworked phrase in a press release from a publishing house, I always think, “Oh, that’s just a code name for ‘bad writing.’ ”
Now, I am no Austen scholar, although I would be willing to pretend to be one under certain circumstances. But I think I know enough about writers to be able to say that the great ones really don’t want bad writing to be inserted into their masterpieces after they die.
And if you don’t believe in the inevitable and unavoidable badness of all these new passages, then you clearly haven’t avoided the erotic romance genre for as long as I have.
Show me an author who is proud to say she works in the erotic romance genre, and I will show an author who is on the verge of breaking down and admitting she’s a hack.
Don’t take my word for it.
Here’s a passage from the new “Pride and Prejudice” in which Elizabeth appraises Darcy: “Her heart pounded as she breathed in the scents around her. The fresh, earthy smell of the forest, the pine trees, the grass beneath their bodies combined with the delicious scent of Darcy. Hot, spicy and all man.”
Now, I don’t doubt for a minute that some contemporary readers might be reassured to learn that Darcy is made up of 100 percent real man with no man byproducts.
In lower-grade men, fillers and extenders of inferior binding capacity are sometimes used, but it is generally understood that these components should not exceed 15 percent to 20 percent of man formulation.
Other readers, however, may be disappointed to see one of the most beloved romantic heroes in fiction described as if he is a Jalapeno Burger.
With all due respect to Total-E-Bound (not to mention the late author Alice Childress), some of us believe that a hero is a lot more than a sandwich.