Friday, April 24, 2009

New take on Pride and Prejudice

Seth Grahame-Smith, . Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Quirk $17 trade pbk).

I was getting ready to review this April drop-in title for the BookNews when this bulletin arrived. We can't give you first prints but put that aside and consider whether it would be fun to read. I bet it did lead at the outset into "skepticism in house" as nGrahame-Smithoted; I was hardly going to mention it. Read on....

"A tweaked version of Jane Austen's beloved classic--here flesh-eating undead monsters are thrown into the mix--the book has been defying expectations; Quirk is into its sixth printing after releasing the title on April 1 and has over 120,000 copies in print.

Quirk publicity manager Melissa Monachello, who said the house is scrambling to keep up with demand, admitted that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is somewhat unusual for the publisher. "This is the first time we've reworked a classic piece of literature," she said. "However, the irreverent nature of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies fits into our list well."

The book--lovingly referred to in-house as P&P&Z--was the brainchild of editorial director Jason Rekulak. Rekulak said he's long enjoyed the online mash-ups that recast existing media into new entities, and cited examples like DJ Dangermouse's Grey Album (which melded Jay Z's Black Album with the Beatles' White Album) and the swath of recut movie trailers , popular on YouTube, which manipulate movie themes. Confident the mash-up model could work for books, Rekulak started brainstorming potential projects.

"I knew we had to limit ourselves to public domain works, so I started a list of classic titles, everything from Oliver Twist to War and Peace." Rekulak took his classic lit list and paired it with another list he had made, of "things" he could insert into the novels. The latter included everything from werewolves to monkies. When he connected Austen's classic with zombies, he said, he "just knew" it was a fit.

Rekulak brought the idea to Quirk author Seth Grahame-Smith, who immediately warmed to the project and, some two months later, handed in a manuscript. (Rekulak said his biggest concern in the editing process was ensuring that "zombie people wouldn't feel like there was too much Pride & Prejudice in there.") The final result is a work in which Austen's text is slyly subverted. For example, a scene in which Elizabeth announces she's going to walk to a neighboring estate--an abhorrent idea to her mother, as ladies of the era didn't do such things--takes on new meaning in Grahame-Smith's version because, as Rekulak noted, "zombies happen to crawling the countryside."
P&P&Z, decidedly a pet project for Rekulak, was originally met with skepticism in-house. "I got a lot of blank stares when I presented this book to our staff and sales department," he recalled. Still, fans responded--and quickly. The buzz for the book picked up after a blogger who'd gotten a leaked image of the cover, along with a back cover blurb, ran an item about it. Once the premise of the book hit the Internet, interest in the title spread virally.

The week before Comic-Con, in February, news about the book had hit more than 1,000 Web sites. As a result, on Amazon, the book's ranking jumped from in the high millions to 72. The early buzz was so intense that Rekulak got an offer from another publisher to buy the rights; that house warned, according to Rekulak, that Quirk was "too small to publish the book successfully." Quirk declined the offer and, instead, bumped the book's pub date from July to April.

Although other publishers may now release titles with other ghouls inserted into Penguin Classics, Rekulak is planning to do another literary mash-up. Ideas, unsurprisingly, have been pouring in from would-be authors. For Rekulak it's now a matter of sifting through the proposals, which, if nothing else, are amusing; so far he's seen everything from A Farewell to Arms and Legs to The Corpse of Monte Cristo to As I Lay Bleeding.

- PS. Patrick, Will and I (Lorri) are much amused and are waiting for our copies!

Read more here! LA Times

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