Friday, December 09, 2011

Top five recent novels that channel classics

At The Daily Beast Caryn James named five top recent novels that channel classics.

One book on the list:
Bridget Jones’s Diary
by Helen Fielding

The popularity of the novel and Renee Zellweger’s movie version may have obscured how smart and witty Fielding’s comedy of manners is. Her references to Pride and Prejudice are blatant and playful. Bridget loves Mark Darcy, although at first she finds him arrogant and self-absorbed, just as Elizabeth Bennet regards her Mr. Darcy. Fielding layers on the allusions by having Bridget swoon repeatedly over Colin Firth in the TV miniseries of P and P, a nod to how the romantic ideal of Darcy has morphed and persisted into the present.

Fielding’s more crucial inheritance from Jane Austen appears in her astute observations of courtship rituals and how women think about them, updated to include shags. When Bridget dresses for a date and worries about Daniel—her boss and the wrong man—lifting her skirt to find her industrial-strength tummy-controlling undies (which increase the odds he’ll want to seduce her at all) it’s a moment of familiarity and comic delight for us, just as Elizabeth’s being “obliged by the scarceness of gentlemen to sit down for two dances” must have sent a chill of recognition through Austen’s first readers.
Read about another entry on the list.

Bridget Jones's Diary also appears on Sean O'Hagan's list of the ten best fictional hangovers in print, film and song, Christina Koning's list of the best of chick-lit, and a list of eight books for the broken-hearted.

Also see John Mullan's list of ten of the best novels that retell a story previously told in a classic work of literature and twice-told tales.

--Marshal Zeringue