Seth Grahame-Smith, who along with long dead Jane Austen co-authored the recent mash-up publishing phenom Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, signs copies, meets fans and ogles the costumed undead Saturday at Orange's Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Main Street and Town & Country.
Grahame-Smith began with the original text of Austen's Pride and Prejudice and added zombies and ninja elements that, surprisingly, lent themselves to the classic novel. "You have this fiercely independent heroine, you have this dashing heroic gentleman, you have a militia camped out for seemingly no reason whatsoever nearby, and people are always walking here and there and taking carriage rides here and there," he told The Daily Beast's Liz Goldwin in March. "It was just ripe for gore and senseless violence. From my perspective anyway."
Many agree. In an age when books are, well, dying, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies received so much pre-publication buzz from Internet bloggers, newspaper critics and public radio that Grahame-Smith's publisher Quirk delayed publication until April 1 so the initial run could be pumped up from 12,000 to 60,000 copies. Since then, it has reached No. 3 on the New York Times bestseller list, received raves everywhere from Literary Journal to Entertainment Weekly and was forced into a second printing before it could be published in the United Kingdom because interest was so keen.
Calling it perhaps "the most wacky by-product of the busy Jane Austen fan-fiction industry--at least among the spin-offs and pastiches that have made it into print," Booklist's Mary Ellen Quinn wrote of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, "For more than 50 years, we learn, England has been overrun by zombies, prompting people like the Bennets to send their daughters away to China for training in the art of deadly combat, and prompting others, like Lady Catherine de Bourgh, to employ armies of ninjas. Added to the familiar plot turns that bring Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy together is the fact that both are highly skilled killers, gleefully slaying zombies on the way to their happy ending.
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"Is nothing sacred? Well, no, and mash-ups using literary classics that are freely available on the Web may become a whole new genre. What's next? Wuthering Heights and Werewolves?"
"It's difficult to tell if critics' reactions to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies should be characterized as praise or astonishment," stated Bookmarks Magazine. "Some reviewers treated the book as a delightful gimmick. Others found that, beneath the surface, the book actually constituted an interesting way of looking at Austen's novel."
With such high interest, you just knew what was next: At an April 23 book-signing at Cal State Fullerton, Grahame-Smith revealed for the first time publicly that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies had been purchased by a major film company for feature-film production.
Games, readings and giveaways are promised at Barnes & Noble, where fans are encouraged to come in costumes. (Think Merchant and Ivory meet Michael Jackson's "Thriller.") The store is at 791 S. Main St. and the mayhem begins at 2 p.m.