Monday, August 9, 2010

Odd Couples: Marmaduke & Kafka, Jane Austen & the monster mash

Just bullet points today:

1. Marmaduke and Franz Kafka?

Why not? It’s the Internet, after all — the wonderland where Kanye West’s tweets and cartoons from The New Yorker can be juxtaposed.

The best thing about Keith Wilson’s Kafka and canine combination is that he has carefully matched the quote with the image. I’m amused by The Nietzsche Family Circus, also, but it only smashes together random Nietzsche quotes and Family Circus drawings. Yes, it’s good for a chuckle; but it is a coincidence if the final product reveals something new about Nietzsche or the Keane family.

2. Speaking of Kafka, lawyers have just opened four safety deposit boxes that are thought to be filled with unread Kafka manuscripts.

You may recall that Kafka instructed his friend, Max Brod, to burn all of his unfinished work when he died. If Brod had listened, nobody would have read The Trial, The Castle or Amerika.

This Guardian article details all the recent legal wrangling regarding Kafka’s still unread writings.

3. Jimmy Chen of HTMLGiant is so tired of birds on book covers.

4. Editor Janice Harayda tweeted the five most overused insults in book reviews.

They are “cardboard characters,” “thin plot,” “cookie-cutter characters,” “the book falls apart at the end,” and “I just didn’t care about the characters.”

Harayda’s not wrong, but she’d be better off just posting a link to Michelle Kerns’s monthly Reviewerspeak Awards.

5. Finally, Susan Miller of Salon asks why there can’t be more to these Jane Austen mash-ups than dropping some stock horror element in Hertfordshire.

“We couldn’t help noticing that the vast majority of the Austen mash-ups involve injecting some action element from contemporary pop culture into Austen’s stories in order to make the novels more interesting. This seems to work for quite a few readers, but those of us who find Austen’s books sufficiently interesting on their own are left to wonder when the favor will be returned. We’ve been shown what zombies and monsters and bare-knuckle brawlers can do for Jane — when do we get to see what Jane can do for them?” Miller asks.

Miller is asking, more eloquently, the same question I did when I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Why not use the zombies for something more than comedy? Why not make them a metaphor for socially solvent but intellectually bankrupt socialites?

However, I suspect it’s too late for this craze to beget anything more useful than a laugh. If nothing else, it probably coaxed some people into reading Jane Austen who might not have.

-Jason Lea,

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