The book, which has become the fastest selling paperback of all time has inspired a publisher of adult fiction to revamp classic tales such as Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Bronte’s Jane Eyre, by giving them an erotic twist.
Total E-Bound Classics will be republishing some of the most famous 19th century novels, by giving them a 50 Shades makeover, which they have insisted, will not affect the plot. The decision is likely to upset the literati, with classics such as Wuthering Heights, Sherlock Holmes and Pride and Prejudice all expected to receive the racy treatment.
Clandestine Classics founder Claire Siemaszkiewicz said, “Some people will love this and some will hate it. We’re hoping we’ll change their minds or blow their minds.” The publishers are hoping to inspire a new generation to read the books, by capitalising on the success of James’ “mummy-porn” franchise.
Here is an extract from the ‘updated’ version of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which details the exploits of Catherine Morland – an avid reader of Gothic fiction who becomes so entranced by the novels she reads that she imagines herself to be living the life of a Gothic heroine, similar to the ones she reads about in Ann Radcliffe’s novels.
Austen wrote the novel as a parody of the Gothic genre and Catherine’s wild delusions of terror and threat are merely a figment of her imagination. She consumes books and fully believes that her life is a Gothic saga, but her visions of stern endangerment are hard to reconcile with a distinctly plain life in midland England. When she meets with Henry Tilney, she travels to Northanger Abbey with him – a place that fails to meet her Gothic delusions. Catherine ensues to create the Gothic amidst the banal and imagines a mother murdered, or at the very least immured. In this scene, as a wild storm rages outside Northanger Abbey, Henry Tilney enters here room: (the new parts are in bold)
The storm still raged, and various were the noises, more terrific even than the wind, which struck at intervals on her startled ear… She began to wish for Henry Tilney to find his way secretly to her room to help allay her nervousness.
When the door to her room opened she searched frantically for something with which to defend herself… “What are you doing here?” she whispered, noticing he had divested himself of all his clothes save a thin pair of breeches and a loose shirt.
“I feared the storm would disturb you and wanted to ease you through it… Open your mouth for me, sweet Catherine,” he urged. “Let me in.” She did and when his tongue swept inside it filled her with pleasure.
What I think:
As an English student, a love of books and reading comes with the territory, so in theory, anything that makes young people read should be encouraged. HOWEVER, these classics are already renowned for their sexuality, be it explicitly portrayed or implicitly suggested through clever narrative. Cathy and Heatcliff’s tempestuous relationship doesn’t need any additional sexualising. Apparently, the updated version is going to involve bondage? An obvious choice. And in my opinion, too obvious. These ‘updated’ versions seem to be playing on what already exists in the narrative. Writers such as Austen and Bronte were incredibly clever and in many ways avant-garde in their style. Their stories don’t need this cheap and commercial eroticism. They are sexy enough as they are. Creating stories about whips and chains, to capitalise on the success of 50 Shades of Grey might be an enterprising and smart business move and these books will probably sell in bucket loads, but it’s simply crediting readers as stupid. Austen didn’t spoon feed because she assumed intelligence on the part of the reader. If you want erotic classic literature, these writers have already created it, it’s just less brash and doesn’t come in an obvious 50 Shades.