Fifty Shades of Grey Effect: New S&M Versions of Classic Austen, Brontë, Sherlock Holmes Novels Planned

Fifty Shades of Grey, like literary phenomena before it, has spawned a new bevy of imitators. In bookstores, you'll see new books about S&M relationships whose steely grey covers bear an uncanny resemblance to the "mommy porn" bestseller which we've covered at AlterNet here and here.

Now, hoping to cash in on the sensation, several stalwart classics of English will get a Shades-inspired makeover with explicit sex scenes and bondage elements added in. From the Independent:

A publisher of adult fiction is giving literary classics such as Jane Eyre and Pride And Prejudice an erotic makeover.

The company said that it was "100% convinced" that there was a market for the racy versions of the 19th century novels by authors Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen and that the spicing up of the much-loved books will introduce the classics to "a new generation of readers".

Get me my smelling salts! In all seriousness, I have to say that the company has chosen well; almost all the books they are "enhancing" are popular and enduring because along with, you know, trenchant and lasting observations about human nature, society and relationships, they are also chock full of sublimated--or in the case of the Brontës, fairly overt--sexual tension.

Other titles to be published under the Clandestine Classics collection include Austen's Northanger Abbey and Arthur Conan Doyle's stories featuring Sherlock Holmes.

The announcement comes following the phenomenal success of EL James's "mummy porn" title Fifty Shades Of Grey, which is said to be the fastest-selling book of the year.

Some original fans of Jane Eyre might be unhappy to discover that the female protagonist has "explosive sex with Mr Rochester" in the publisher's erotic edition.

In Wuthering Heights, heroine Catherine Earnshaw "enjoys bondage sessions" with Heathcliff while sleuth Sherlock Holmes has a sexual relationship with his sidekick  Dr Watson in the new e-book.

As a passionate defender of the unadulterated value of classic BritLit, I might be expected to be indignant, but I'm more amused. (Mr. Darcy, on the other hand is not):

The Independent has posted some excerpts of the new "additions" and it strikes me immediately that this whole gambit reads as pure profit-driven fan fiction--and given the fact that 50 Shades of Grey itself began as Twilight fan-fiction, I feel dizzy with the full-circleness of it all. At bookstores a few summer back, I snapped photos versions of Austen and Bront​ë books made over to look like Twilight , clearly meant to reel in readers of the teen vampire romances. Ridiculous indeed, but if it created a new generation of lit-fanatics, then all the better.

Furthermore, adding sex scenes to these books is an age-old pastime. I happen to already own a copy of early-millennium classic "Pride and Promiscuity," which is a humorous novelty book full of the "lost sex scenes of Jane Austen" and at any bookstore right now you can probably find approximately one-zillion (that's an exact count) sequels to Pride and Prejudice, an entire subcategory of which are sexually explicit.

The desire to read--and then write--between the lines of these classic novels is as old as Mr. Darcy's family fortune. And that's fine: they are enduring novels, profound and perfect enough to withstand zombie mash-ups, modern re-writes, vampires, added-in sex scenes, S&M, misreadings galore (seriously guys, Austen was not about flowers and romance at all), and anything else culture has and will send their way. New mash-ups will get made long after theFifty Shades furor has died down--I hope!

So in sum and conclusion, if any publishers of "Total-E-Bound Publishing" are reading this: please send me as many review copies of this exciting new series as you can. My address is [email protected]. Thank you.

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at July 17, 2012, 7:11am

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