Monday, March 22, 2010

The Lexorcist

Back in his standup days, Woody Allen had a joke about a project supposedly undertaken by Noël Coward: "He had acquired the rights to My Fair Lady, and was removing the music and lyrics and making it back into Pygmalion."

I'm reminded of the line as I consider the ever-expanding library of monster mashups--classic works of literature that have been rejiggered with a fantasy or science fiction element in order to weave a thread of bloody horror through a familiar tale. The latest example is Dawn of the Dreadfuls, a prequel to the bestseller that started the trend, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

You'll also find Jane Slayre, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Mr. Darcy, Vampire, The Undead World of Oz, and so on. And coming soon: Android Karenina, Little Women and Werewolves, Little Vampire Women, Romeo & Juliet & Vampires. . .

It has become clear that our literary heritage is being overrun by the powers of darkness. What's needed is a literary or lexical exorcist—a lexorcist—who is willing to take on these mutant mashups armed only with garlic and holy water and a really big blue pencil. Just as Woody had Noël Coward saving Pygmalion by gutting My Fair Lady, this lexorcist must have the fortitude to cut and slash mercilessly until every vestige of evil has been excised from these classics and they are restored to their original condition and pronounced clean.

The danger, of course, is that the lexorcist will go too far, wading into the wrong books and exorcising monsters that rightfully belong there. Imagine Frankenstein without the Creature—it's just the story of a callow medical student with some kooky ideas. Take the Count out of Dracula and all you've got is a group of tedious Victorians hitting on each other. Eliminate the brutish Mr. Hyde and you're left with the bland Dr. Jekyll, who never does anything the least bit naughty.

For this reason, the lexorcist must have a keen eye, excellent editorial instincts, common sense and good judgment. As it turns out, I am known to possess all of these qualities—I'm sure I saw them listed on my résumé. I think I just created a new career for myself—unless the undead Noël Coward wants to take it on.

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