I’ve been reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles outloud to Brian this summer (his cataracts make it impossible to read in the sunlight) as it happened to be on my “classics to read before I die list”. We’re getting pretty close to the end of what has been a great read-aloud book – what with the melodrama and all – and I happened to mention to Brian that when I was a kid I thought that Tess was a book about a woman who was attacked by mad dogs. I had no idea why, figured it was my own quirky thing…..
Except that Brian had the same childhood confusion over the book! So we puzzled that one out until he figured out that the confusion had come from another classic book The Hounds of the Baskervilles – Baskerville seeming close enough to D’Urberville for a six-year-old to confuse the two. Made sense to me, and I “remembered” that this was probably where I had also gotten mixed up.
In any case, we’ve decided in the tradition of Pride, Prejudice and Zombies (a totally worthwhile read, btw) that Tess needs to be rewritten along these lines, since surely Brian and I weren’t the only kids who got Urberville and Baskerville mixed up – right? It seem that after the rape of Tess in the first bit of the book, rather than continuing along the path of bad treatment by men, Tess should adopt some magical power that attracts rabid dogs to her side. Not to attack her, mind you, but to snarlingly go after those sexist scoundrels of Victorian society. The dastardly Alec, the priggish Clare, the nasty landowner from Trantridge who works her near death – why should Tess suffer any of these abuses? Nothing a foaming pack of hounds wouldn’t fix eh? She’s a fair morbid character at the best of times throughout (wishing her own death from the very beginning of the book), it really does seem fitting that rather than living up to some ideal of purity she give herself over to the gothic darkside of revenge and bloodlust. Ah yes, I can see it now – our childhood confusions brought to life in modern satirical literature!
So if there’s any aspiring writer out there looking for a new take on Victoria literature – look no further – but make sure to give us credit if you write the book. We’d love to see such a thing in print!