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Lev Raphael

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Pride and Prejudice and Hebrews

Posted: 07/26/11 09:21 AM ET

I've published twenty books in genres from memoir to mystery but I never thought of doing an Austen mashup until I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

While I enjoyed Zombies at first because it was surprising and funny, eventually it started to feel like a one-note protest against all the decorous PBS Austen series and all the die-hard Austen fans around the world. Dude, forget carriages and bonnets, gimme brains!

Zombies reads like graffiti, which can be ugly or beautiful depending on your point of view. You see that split on amazon.com, where half the reviewers give it four or five stars, and half give it from one to three stars. Did the author even like Austen? I wasn't sure. But he sure had fun taking a bite out of her.

I'd been reading and enjoying Austen since college, and analyzing Zombies technically got me thinking: why not do a mashup the opposite way? Instead of imposing a whole elaborate system onto one of her novels that turned her characters into caricatures, why not weave changes into the fabric of the book? What if I could do a Pride and Prejudice mashup which didn't call attention to how crazily it veered off from the original, but read as if the changes were organic? An alternative novel as much as an altered one; an appreciation, not a parody.

Given my publishing history, my immediate inspiration was to make the Bennet family Anglo-Jews, or "Hebrews" as they were often called in Regency England. This opened up one door after another, raising questions about many of the characters and their actions which I found logical answers to, once I posited Lizzy as proudly Jewish but assimilated. Prejudice takes on a whole new meaning in this book, as does the entail of the Bennet estate, Mr. Collins' hopes for marriage, Mr. Darcy's contempt, Mrs. Bennet's exuberance, and even Lady Catherine de Bourgh's fulminating.

There are no monsters in my novel Pride and Prejudice: The Jewess and the Gentile, except of course for anti-Semitism, which still stalks the earth today like the Undead.

 
 
 

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