Mitzi Szereto, |
Pride & Prejudice: Hidden Lusts
(Cleis Press, 2011)
Mitzi Szereto's controversial new take on Jane Austen's classic focuses on what goes on beneath the women's skirts and behind the men's breech flaps. Moreover, Pride & Prejudice: Hidden Lusts includes a range of erotic encounters spanning from homosexual indulgences and sado-masichistic desires to masturbation and oral sex.
In its favor, this novel uses Szereto's spicy additions to explore and elaborate on the character's motivations, thus legitimately reinterpreting Jane Austen's story rather than simply jamming in the erotica. In fact, Szereto's often humorous timing inserts itself throughout the book to include erotic flashbacks, as well as current sexual scenarios. The way Szereto's new material can completely revitalize a well-known scene when inserted in the middle of the dialogue is delightful.
On the other hand, Szereto worked to keep the individual characterizations close to the original, while neglecting to keep the dynamics between her more sexual versions consistent. Unfortunately, this lack of proportion keeps this work from really coming into its own. For example, while certain characters like Lydia have canon traits that make her a much easier target for additional raunchiness, capitalizing on that while keeping Lizzie's original modesty strong enough that it often affects her enjoyment of her pleasures creates an extreme distance between the two sisters' behavior that goes much further than the book. The result is that while the individual story lines keep a ring of validity, whenever they intersect things cease to make sense. Since a main plot point in any Pride & Prejudice adaptation hinges on Lydia performing an indiscretion that disgraces her entire family, it is necessary to keep her prior behavior within society's expectations, if just barely. To keep society's expectations, Lizzie's expectations, so much more conservative than Lydia's behavior for the majority of the book makes her "disgracing" action with Mr. Wickham insufficient for the effect it needs to have on the plot.
Also, when dealing with smaller and more trifling matters where people push the boundaries of acceptability, Szereto constantly apologizes for it. Either Miss Bingley's new, racy clothes are scandalous, or they are, like Lydia in Austen, tolerable, if rather shaming. To have frequent explanations for how things like Miss Bingley's clothes are actually scandalous, but there are reasons why people say nothing, seems like apologizing for taking the eroticism too far. These issues with consistency make it difficult to stay immersed in the story at times. Pride & Prejudice: Hidden Lusts should have either pushed as hard as it did against the breech flap of acceptable behavior as it did with Lydia, or it should have kept all its plot lines from thrusting too far. If the acceptable level of "hidden lusts" had been kept in proportion in this work, it would have really made an impact.
In short, Pride & Prejudice: Hidden Lusts is well worth the time, but is not as credible or engrossing as it could have been. Szereto's imagination will surprise, her interpretations will intrigue, and her continual focus on breech flaps will eventually bring into existence a band called Hot Cock and the Breech Flaps made up of guys who wear regency-style breeches and at the end of every show tear open their breech flaps to display things like plastic pineapples and harmonicas (at least in a perfect world). It's worth reading just to find out what else might pop up.
book review by
3 December 2011
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