This blog is basically about how good books are nice and bad books are the pits. And then I get grumpy.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

'Me and Mr Darcy' and I - comment, with possible spoilers, on new novel

And, now, an example of a good idea gone wrong...

Originally, when I heard the title to this new book by Alexandra Potter, I had a thought - Why isn't it called 'Mr.Darcy and I'? That's more musical, I thought, and more polite. One doesn't say, "Me and Darcy are going for a walk." One says,"Darcy and I are going for a walk," both for grammar reasons and for those of politeness. But I didn't realize that the title was the least impolite thing about this book.

Jane Austen brings to mind thoughts of elegance and good taste. And one would expect a novel which derives its story, its very existence, from the writings of Austen to have in its language, in its tone, a reflection of that elegance and good taste. Not here.

Vulgarity is on practically every page. It comes in the form of lewd references and swears, and the very un-Austen-like personality of the protagonist Emily Albright, whom the reader is meant at some moments to believe is prim and proper. For the rest of the novel she's got the mind, if not the mouth, of the proverbial sailor....Okay, that's harsh - but it was very discordant with the idea of Austen.

Everything from the sex-crazed assistant of bookstore manager Albright to the unnecessary bluntness of sexual references was cheap and gauche. All right, not everything....that's what's tragic about the book, if I'm not being too dramatic -'Me and Mr. Darcy'could have been good.

On that scale of 1 to 10 that everyone refers to, I give it a 4. And I'm not even that reluctant to do so despite the admittedly engaging storyline of woman meeting Mr. Darcy and her romantic adventures.

I can forgive the fact that the book is riddled with subtle Britishisms that an American would ordinarily not use and so are incongruous to the main character, supposedly a true New Yorker. That's minor. But the ugliness of some of the language just lingers and can not be waved away as if it were some unimportant detail. And then there is the superficiality of particularly the main character, putting down others, such as boyfriends, for tired and off-putting reasons like wearing pleated pants or living with one's mother. It's just not interesting and it's irritating. It would be so much more interesting to read of a protagonist that valued and reflected worthier feelings. So much less explored in literature today and, therefore, so much more apt to deliver an engaging and refreshing character.

There is a predictability in the story, as well, but then with which Austen-inspired novel today isn't there a predictability? One always knows there will be a Wickham, an Elizabeth, a Darcy. Nonetheless, the predictability here is pronounced. This novel does have the added dimension of a 'real' Darcy in it which makes the book,in at least one aspect, unique.

Ranting aside, there was, as I said before, an engaging side to 'Me and Mr. Darcy.' And this despite its meager 4 points perhaps, just perhaps, makes it a book worthy of reading. There is an enchanting end to one of the storylines which is charming. In the interest of not spoiling the ending for those who want to read the novel, I will not give away the ending.

In the middle of the book the protagonist Albright has a couple of occasions on which she describes certain foods as disgusting but delicious. Originally, it was a hard idea to get my mind around. But, now, I see....the same could sort of be said about this novel.

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