Sunday 22 October 2017

Brontë's novel has got a saucy makeover -- Damian Corless imagines how some revamps of Irish classics would read

If she were alive today, Charlotte Brontë would be screaming down the phone to her high-powered lawyers. As it is, she'll just have to make do with turning furiously in her grave.

The second-most-famous Brontë sister's very prim and proper romance Jane Eyre has just been given a saucy makeover that's widely expected to dislodge the racy Fifty Shades series from the top of the bestsellers when it hits the stores in August.

It has been retitled Jane Eyre Laid Bare, and there is already strong betting on what bodice-ripping liberties will be taken with the famous line: "Reader, I married him."

Describing herself as a fan on a mission to tune in a modern audience to a good thing, the author Eve Sinclair insists: "I have changed very little of Brontë's original to retell the timeless story of a young girl falling for an unattainable older man and getting out of her depth in a sensual world she cannot control."

"The idea is genius," gushed a director at the publishers Pan Macmillan, as he would. Others might argue that by the same logic the movie porn industry has been a hotbed of genius for decades, churning out such 'reimaginings' as Flesh Gordon, Moby's Dick and a million more.

Believe it or not (but please do because it's true), there is at least one Irish precedent for this sort of racy reimagining of a serious text.

In 1994, the Beef Tribunal Report was published. Outlining dodgy goings-on in the meat trade, the report was the tipping point that toppled Albert Reynolds' tottering government from power.

At the same time, a parallel document called The Pork Tribunal began making the rounds. Its shockingly hilarious opening scene involved a fictional Fine Gael TD excitedly supporting a motion from a fellow deputy who was getting on his back in an otherwise deserted Dail chamber.

Unsurprisingly, The Pork Tribunal didn't find a publisher. But in these changed times, who knows.

Here are some other suggested guaranteed Irish reimaginings which might find a ready market.

Fifty Shades Of The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Plot: A young man, Dorian, spends all his time in the attic feeding his unhealthy obsession with a secret portrait.

Tweaked dialogue:

Dorian's stern Victorian father: "Dorian, what's all that huffing and puffing? You're looking at that picture again, aren't you? You've got your poor mother demented. Come down and have your tea. Now!"

Dorian: "Go away! I don't want any tea."

The Tired Policeman by Flann O'Brien

Plot: A man walks into a "false and unconvincing" rural police station.

Tweaked dialogue

Man: "Hello sergeant. I'd like to report that I seem to have lost my virginity."

Sgt Pluck: "That's very quare. Can you describe it?"

Man: "Eh, not really. It's just a thing."

Sgt Pluck: "Is it a thing like a bicycle pump?"

Man: "I'm not sure. It could be."

Sgt Pluck: "Could you have lost it behind the bicycle shed?"

Man: "It's possible. I was on the local bike last night."

Sgt Pluck: "Well my shift has just ended, so I'm off to bed."

Crumpet City by James Plunkett

Plot: A jaded old streetwalker Rashers Tierney sleeps around in 1913 Dublin.

Tweaked dialogue

Rich cruel employer: "Hey you, dirty tramp, stop starving to death in that gutter and tell me where I can find a saucy strumpet."

Rashers: "Sorry m'lord, but what's a strumpet? Do you mean a bit of crumpet?"

Employer: "Don't give me lip you cur! I said strumpet."

Rashers (as the cruel boss strides into the distance): "I still don't know what's a strumpet sir, but I know lots of prostitutes if that's what you're after."

The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien

Plot: Convent girls Kate and Baba head for the big smoke seeking different things.

Tweaked dialogue

Kate: "Baba, you're not going out in that skirt! I can see your knees."

Baba: "Relax, this is the 1960s. I want to experience everything today's permissive society has to offer, like dropping out and blowing my mind and wearing condoms."

Kate: "Oh, that all sounds very dirty!"

Baba: "It probably is! But sure, if it doesn't work out we can always settle down as a priest's housekeeper."

Collected Limericks by WB Yeats

There was a young woman called Maud,

I wrote poems about her great bod,

But she'd flirt like a flapper,

So I called her a slapper,

And now I'm alone cos Maud's Gonne.

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