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Bloody good

Gore, pop, and dogs take the page
By CLEA SIMON  |  April 22, 2009

SLY DEVIL: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is hyped as a remedy for Austen haters, but it's really a tonic for Austen fans.

It's the ultimate high-concept book idea. A Mad-Libs smash-up of social satire and "ultraviolent zombie mayhem," designed from the title inward. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains," it begins, broadly spoofing the rituals of the English gentry and, along the way, one of the English language's most beloved novels.

Dear readers, how could PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (Quirk, 320 pages, $12.95) be any good? The answer is simple: despite his decidedly lowbrow preoccupations (zombies, martial arts, and crude jokes about balls), author Seth Grahame-Smith is a sly devil, a parodist with as strong a sense of Austen's prose stylings as of her sharp observations. And he has used his rapier wit to insert his own story of England under attack into Austen's classic in a way that enhances the original.

Yes, enhances. Although much of the hype surrounding this bizarre pastiche has touted it as the remedy for those who found the original dull, its real audience is Austen fans. Only those of us who truly love her work can tell how well Grahame-Smith has fitted his gory bits into the original. Only those of us who appreciate the subtle growth of Lizzy and Darcy, as they turn from prejudice and pride, will truly value the social niceties needed during a more macabre transformation, as a once-beloved friend's increasing zombification causes Lizzy to "vomit ever so slightly into her handkerchief."

This is not a subtle book, but it does strike home with the force of Lizzy's Katana sword: bloody good fun.

It may be a truth universally acknowledged that all copy editors are aspiring authors, but few are as sure of their genius as Hobo Highbrow. Despite the constant distractions of his girlfriend Helle, his newspaper job, and the strange disappearance of his possessions, this Norwegian grammar cop is about to embark on his masterwork, a novel that may or may not be about nesting. Perched on the edge of greatness — just like his heroes, the Norwegian synth-pop band a-ha — Hobo is ready once again to be "a positive force in Norwegian and international culture."

Pal H. Christiansen's whimsical THE SCOUNDREL DAYS OF HOBO HIGHBROW (Fabula, 182 pages, $26.95), translated by Jon Buscall, follows Hobo as he tracks his favorite band's latest attempt at reinvention. Hobo lives in a dream state, unmindful of the life changes going on around him. But bouncing along in his perplexed fashion, he makes an enjoyably unreliable narrator, protected from the worst by his friends — and by the music of Morten Harket, Pal Waaktaar, and Magne Furuholmen.

Besides, what writer could not sympathize as Hobo expresses the joy of the project yet to be started. "Everything I'd written up to this point was like the work of a journeyman compared to that which I was now going to write," he thinks. "Even I had to admit that the Nordic Council's Literary Award was well within my grasp."

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  Topics: Books , Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith, Seth Grahame-Smith
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