By Hilary Davidson
Back in high school, when I read Jules Verne's classic novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, I remember thinking, "This book would be perfect if only Jules had added some Fifty Shades of Grey-style sex!" And now, a British press called Total-E-Bound Publishing has done it, launching a new imprint called Clandestine Classics. Thanks to Mr. Verne's new coauthor, Marie Sexton, there's a "sexy and temperamental harpooner" aboard to mix things up. Ahoy, matey!
Truth be told, it hurts my head to imagine classic novels being used — and abused — like this. I love it when someone reinterprets a classic novel in a fresh way — or even a twisted way — in film or theater. But the concept of having a new writer hack apart the original book, insert some sex scenes, and stitch the whole thing together feels like a literary Frankenstein monster. (What do you want to bet that Total-E-Bound Publishing has Mary Shelley's Frankenstein on deck next? Because what that book lacks is a solid monster-on-scientist spanking scene.)
According to the founder of Total-E-Bound Publishing, Claire Siemaszkiewicz, "We're not rewriting the classics. We're keeping the original prose and the author's voice. We're not changing any of that. But we want to enhance the novels by adding the 'missing' scenes for readers to enjoy."
Enhance? Enjoy? There are fine examples of writers taking works created by another author and doing something wonderful with them. Robert B. Parker took four chapters of an unfinished novel by Raymond Chandler and created a book, Poodle Springs, with them. More recently, Ace Atkins wrote an original novel based on Robert B. Parker's own immortal detective, Spenser. Hell, I'm still planning to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. But the idea of a publisher pawing at classic books, tarting them up and making them turn tricks, is downright creepy. Trading all of the sexual tension in Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice for a "sexy and temperamental harpooner" is as unsexy as it gets.
Huge, heartfelt congrats to two friends with new novels that are out today: Megan Abbott with Dare Me and Sean Chercover with The Trinity Game. Both books belong at the top of your must-read list!