Archives for the month of: May, 2009

When I heard about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I was beyond delighted and excited to indulge, but when I read the book’s back, containing such unsavory statements as, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read,” and “Jane Austen is the author of Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and other masterpieces of English literature. Seth Grahame-Smith once took a class in English literature,” my humour was indeed soiled, and my swords were drawn. My consummate love of anything zombie-related, however, bested my fierce defensiveness of Miss Austen; I turned the book over and opened the first page.

I loved this book and would highly recommend it to any Jane Austen fan who isn’t afraid of some inconsequential liberties and some unmentionable pandemonium.

My contemporaneous trip through the beautiful Russian River wine country, known for its Red Zinfandels, followed an uncanny parallel to Seth Grahame-Smith’s creation. Much to the chagrin of many a California wine taster, I’ve never liked the Zins that are so prominent in that area, and I have oft referred to the swill as the “soda pop” of wine, in private, of course.

Arista

My love of wine and wine tasting, though, subdued my prejudice toward the Red Zinfandel. I let down my guard and gave the Zinfandel grape a worthy shot at my palate. And eventually, I found one that led to a state of felicity. The 2007 Arista Zinfandel from Alexander Valley delivers a powerful punch if served immediately after opening the bottle. Once decanted, it delivers a wild torrent of berries and pepper. It’s a festive and frivolous wine, though not for the faint-hearted or prudish. More importantly, though, I found it a worthy companion, figuratively and literally, to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

A story of overcoming haughtiness, obstinacy, and discriminations, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies remains true to its source: Miss Elizabeth Bennet remains the strong-willed heroine determined not to succumb to societal pettiness and class-prejudice. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is the cold, proud, and very rich man resolute not to love or respect anyone of inferior breeding (and training) to himself. I’m sure most of you know the story from reading the original or watching any number of televised renderings of this clever and ageless tale.

The one trifling difference is that Miss Bennet, trained in the deadly arts by the Shaolin monks of China, and Mr. Darcy, trained by the ninjas of Kyoto, are both determined and equally capable to rid England of a most nasty plague: zombies. That, and any family containing a respectable warrior has a dojo on their estate grounds.

The narrative liberties are very clever and fit exceedingly well into Austen’s plot, and more importantly, “cling to those most English parts.” The impertinence between Miss Bennet and Mr. Darcy is magnified by some sparring, katana flashing, and fire pokers. And, the just-deserts to the objectionable characters are slightly more severe, if not more deserving.

One scene in particular gave me much guilty pleasure. It takes place when a perturbed Miss Bennet visits Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s vast estate, with her aunt and uncle. As a drove of zombies threatens to spoil their lovely afternoon, Darcy unexpectedly appears and offers an unarmed Miss Bennet his Brown Bess musket. Upon leaving his grounds, the two exchange civilities and Miss Bennet returns his gun and ammunition:

“She remembered the lead ammunition in her pocket and offered it to him. ‘Your balls, Mr. Darcy?’ He reached out and closed her hand around them, and offered, ‘They belong to you, Miss Bennet.’ Upon this, their colour changed, and they were forced to look away from one another, lest they laugh.”

HA! Sorry Jane, you set yourself up for that one!

So, in the end, we all conquered our shortcomings, whether they were snobbery, stubbornness, pride, or prejudice. No one, however, overcame her killer instincts.

YOURS, ECT

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Top 10 Books (which changes constantly):

P.S. You can click on the titles to go to Amazon.

1) About Grace by Anthony Doerr
2) Independent People by Halldor Laxness
3) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
4) The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories by Tim Burton
5) The Ice-Shirt (Seven Dreams) by William Vollman
6) The River King by Alice Hoffman
7) The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
8) Pharos: A Ghost Story by Alice Thompson
9) Breakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories by Truman Capote
10) Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch

I hear there is now a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. I’ll have to check that out—STAT! My two loves: Jane Austen and the zombie genre as a whole!

Ventura
Pinot Noir
Chili, Lontue Valley
(2008)

Ventura

Normally I avoid organic wines because when it comes to wine, it’s not just the thought that matters. This organic pinot noir, however, is one to savor. It’s fruit forward, with hints of wild raspberry that quickly melt into dark chocolate. The aftertaste is long but gentle: a little chewy and earthy. You can purchase this wine for $11.99 (on sale) at The Nature Stop on Grant Street in SF. This wine pairs extremely well with a movie, such as The Wrestler, or a historical fiction novel that reinterprets the mass confusion at the Battle of Gettysburg.

The Wrestler directed by Darren Aronofsky (2008)

The casting directors of this soul-stirring drama deserve many accolades, indeed; Suzanne Smith and Mary Vernieu’s casting decisions added even more depth to the movie’s effective and focal parallel between the wrestler and the stripper. Mickey Rourke, a steamy heart-throb of the 80’s and early 90’s, has returned to the scene radically altered from reconstructive surgery resulting from his boxing career in the 90’s. Twenty-five years ago, I’m sure he had his pick between many lovely ladies-in-waiting, but now he seems to find solace from his chihuahuas, one of whom is named Jaws (an examplary name for that particulary fiesty breed). So, it is no surprise that Rourke’s portrayal as former headlining professional wrestler, Randy the Ram, whose body and therefore life is breaking down, is stunningly accurate and heartbreakingly realistic. Additionally, Marisa Tomei’s depiction of the aging stripper is flawless. Tomei, still gorgeous, is an older actress who can steam-up the screen or sober her audience with a raw and candid performance such as this one. Her versatility as an actress compliments her role as Cassidy: the empathetic, single mother who strips for a living. Unlike Randy the Ram, she’s completely able to separate her stripper persona from her real life outside of the club. This is why the friendship and parallel between Randy and Cassidy is so integral to movie’s purpose: the relationship amplifies Randy’s tragic inability to divorce his wrestling career with his life. And, without giving too much away, that is where the ultimate tragedy lies.

Amazon: The Wrestler

 The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (1974)

*won the Pulitzer!

To be completely honest, I’m not into war novels. Battle strategies and other such war tactics don’t intrigue me. For years my father has been telling me to read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, and I finally did and loved it. This novel follows in the footsteps of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood; Capote, the inventor of the literary genre called literary non-fiction, expertly captured the heinous 1950 murder of the Clutter Family by writing not only of the factual events, but the inner thoughts of the main characters. Likewise, Shaara creates and showcases the inner dialogues of the main guys (i.e., Lee, Longstreet, Chamberlain, Armistead) at the Battle of Gettysburg. Not only does this humanize these historical figures, it illuminates the actual confusion at the battlefield and uncertainty about what the Civil War was about. These men were fighting against former friends and allies; some of the Rebels weren’t fighting for slavery but for their states and intangible “rights.”

I think that at times, we tend to think of these men as ideas or merely as two-dimensional figures. This novel, however, fleshes out all these wonderfully brilliant and loyal men and offers their morals, perplexities, and souls for the audience to savor, examine, and respect.

 Overall this book is paced perfectly, and it is accessible for someone who doesn’t know much about the Civil War.

Amazon: The Killer Angels

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