After the success of E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, a book collection by Clandestine Classics is hitting the shelves to alter some of the world’s favorite classic novels – “complete with graphic sex and fetish scenes.”
On their website, CC explains:
There is no doubting the fact that the classics remain an inspiration to writers, even today, with many complex and thought-provoking storylines. But if we are honest to ourselves haven’t we heard the same reserved tale told time and time again?
Our collection of Clandestine Classics is about to change that. This is a collection of classics as they have never been seen before.
The old fashioned pleasantries and timidity have all been stripped away, quite literally. You didn’t really think that these much loved characters only held hands and pecked cheeks did you? Come with us, as we embark on a breathtaking experience—behind the closed bedroom doors of our favourite, most-beloved British characters. Learn what Sherlock really thought of Watson, what Mr Darcy really wanted to do to Miss Elizabeth Bennet, and unveil the sexy escapades of Mr Rochester and Jane Eyre. We’ll show you the scenes that you always wanted to see but were never allowed. Come on, you know you can’t resist…open the pages and delve inside.”
Please excuse my CAPS LOCK, Leakies, but WHY? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
Before you get up in arms: I do not have a problem with erotic fiction. If that is your cup of tea, great. Please understand that the genre itself is not under attack.
My problem is that the classic novels in question were written that way FOR A REASON. “You didn’t really think that these much loved characters only held hands and pecked cheeks did you?” Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. “But if we are honest to ourselves haven’t we heard the same reserved tale told time and time again?” YES AND I LIKE THAT TALE THANKS.
Take Pride and Prejudice as an example. The problem with adding “what Mr Darcy really wanted to do to Miss Elizabeth Bennet” is that this wasn’t the way society functioned in the early nineteenth-century. Clandestine Classics wants to “put the old-fashioned pleasantries to one side and enjoy the sensual scenes that were only ever alluded to in the original versions.” What? No! It’s not an old-fashioned pleasantry if it’s contemporary with social and temporal context. If you take that language and behavior away it destroys the social environment of the story.
For me, the relationship between Darcy and Lizzy Bennet is electrifying in its own right. The author of P&P‘s sexy times, Amy Armstrong, even notes, “What Jane Austen would think of the erotic element crossed my mind several times while writing the book, but I had to keep remembering that she lived in a completely different era.” YES. SHE DID. SO WHY?
When the creator of CC, Claire Siemaszkiewicz, observes that there’s a lot of underlying sexual tension in these novels, Huffington Post’s Sam Parker muses:
Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to Siemaszkiewicz that the sexual tension is ‘underlying’ for a reason, and that Emily Brontë decided not to have Catherine and Heathcliff ravish each other in a pile of hay for reasons of craft, rather than simply because she was living through less enlightened times than ours.
Siemaszkiewicz also explains that maybe CC will attract readers who would otherwise skip over the originals. I’m not entirely sure that this is the way to go about creating a new audience for classic novels. Mostly because with the additions created by CC, these are NO LONGER CLASSIC NOVELS.
There are plenty of re-tellings of P&P, including ones removed from their original settings and placed in contemporary time. Want to sexify those versions? I’m not bothered. Today’s society is (a bit) more open about sex. I’m not even bothered by sexy P&P fan-fiction. But at least fan-fiction writers have the decency to pen original text – instead of copy-pasting Austen’s writing and “enhancing” it, instead of publishing a book by authors “Jane Austen and Amy Armstrong.” No, false, Jane did not collaborate with Amy. THIS MAKES ME WANT TO THROW THINGS.
The placement of this sort of behavior in Austen’s era, in an imitation of Austen’s writing style, that sets my teeth on edge. CC clarifies that these new versions ”include the full text of the original books spiced with a series of specially written new scenes featuring adult content to provide a seamless reading experience.” Hmm. Does anyone really believe that Austen’s Elizabeth would describe Darcy as “hot, spicy and all man“? Really? So they’re taking Jane Austen’s writing and adding kinky bits in a weak attempt at early nineteenth-century prose? In my mind this is blasphemy.
The first books on CC’s list are Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and a Sherlock Holmes tale. These will be followed by Dracula, Treasure Island, Wuthering Heights, The Three Musketeers, and The Phantom of the Opera.
I’m going to look on the bright side. Maybe Siemaszkiewicz is right, and CC will attract a new set of readers. And maybe these books will be so ungodly awful that their readers will turn to the original novels for solace.
If you want to write an erotic novel, by all means write an (original) erotic novel. But please, and I ask this from the bottom of my reader’s heart, please leave the classics alone. They are classics for a reason, and I’d like to keep them that way.