Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ann Herendeen GuestBlog: Darcy/Bingly Love Affair: A Truth Universally Acknowledged?

From Michelle: Ann Herendeen is delightful and intelligent and loves to talk about sexy stuff, especially the hotness that is boy-on-boy. Her groundbreaking "Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander" redefined for us the term Regency Alpha/Corinthian. Ann's new riff on the iconic Austen Classic is as erotic and brash as a romance that includes hot guys acting out our naughtiest English-class fantasies should be -- and the writing'll knock your socks off.Please offer Ann your warmest "And what of Knightly?" Bella buongiorno...

From Ann: Good morning, Michelle, Bellas and Bellos! It's a pleasure to be back here, chatting about my new novel, "Pride/Prejudice."

As Michelle has mentioned, many of us have long suspected that Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley were more than just good friends. When Mr. Bingley says that “if Darcy were not such a great tall fellow, in comparison with myself, I should not pay him half so much deference;” and when Mr. Darcy goes to such lengths to prevent Mr. Bingley from marrying, you have to wonder if there might be the teensiest hint of jealousy or possessiveness in their relationship.

Well, I decided the answer to all that speculation was a resounding Yes! And I wanted to see what this relationship would be like if we could read about it explicitly, not just between the lines. My first novel, "Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander," was a bisexual m/m/f ménage, so writing P/P came very naturally to me.

Still, I know not everybody will be as excited as I am. In the interest of sparing the sensibilities of the fans of Colin Firth and his perfect tall, dark and handsome Mr. Darcy, I imagined my bisexual Darcy as tall, handsome and—“fair.” Jane Austen didn't go in for description; all we know of Mr. Darcy's appearance is “his fine, tall person, handsome features and noble mien.” Why shouldn't he have, as I've written him, dark blond or light brown hair, gray eyes, a muscular build and a very large...intellect? Think Russell Crowe or a more sophisticated Albert Finney in Tom Jones. He's still clever and proud, still looking for that one person, man or woman, who can satisfy his greatest desire: intelligent conversation.

I see Darcy and Bingley as “married” to each other, while having passionate affairs—with their wives. These men complement each other, one dominant, one submissive, and they're comfortable together, like longtime domestic partners. But the women they eventually marry—spirited, witty Elizabeth and sweet, gentle Jane—are too much like their husbands for comfort. Like most of us, these men want both, passion and comfort. Once they've worked out their petty jealousies, I think they'll live, all four of them, as Austen implies, in an unusual, but very happy ever after.

My idea for Pride/Prejudice was to expand Austen's novel, not change it. Do you think portraying the main characters as bisexual changes the story, or, as I thought of it, simply shows us previously hidden aspects of the characters?

In the story of P/P, Jane Bennet tells Elizabeth that Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy believe that "loving" each other is different from "being in love with" a woman (their wives)--and that this allows the men to go on loving each other after marriage. Do you think this kind of distinction is or can be valid in some cases?


David B. said...

The distinction seems to be a bit of a stretch, although if a personal situation works for everyone involved, then I don't have a problem with it.


Gossip Cowgirl said...

I definitely have had a thought about Darcy/Elizabeth and Bingley/Jane being too similar to last for long. I do think that eventually, Elizabeth would drive Darcy more crazy than make him happy. But then again, if he always has Bingley to complement him, maybe he and Elizabeth truly can live happily ever after.

amy kennedy said...

Ann, I think I have never been happier than thinking of Darcy and Bingley kissing and...other things. Thank you. I don't know if it 'changes' the story, perhaps, enhances the story. Although the more I think of it, it sort of changes everything...certainly our thinking.

I never have a problem with re-imagining a story, in fact it makes me think of other classics that would lend themselves to this. Which is fun too.

ann herendeen said...

Well, I thought I'd better check in and say hi--and thanks for re-imagining along with me;)

One of the most difficult things about writing P/P was the fact that I really didn't see it as changing the story. Yes, "enhancing" is exactly how I saw it.

When I had the idea of how Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley make this distinction between "loving" and "being in love with," I wondered if other people in real life ever did something similar. But most real people I know feel, like David B., that "it's a bit of a stretch." Exactly! My thought was that both these men live in a time and a place and a social class where monogamous marriage to each other is not a possibility, even if they wanted it--which they don't. They very much want a wife and children and a traditional household. And they very much want to marry for love. So this distinction is more about working it out in their own minds, a way to feel right about loving two partners, than it is any kind of judgment about whether loving a woman is "different" from loving a man.

And Rebecca Lynn's thoughts on the Darcy/Elizabeth marriage are right on target. I've read discussions--maybe you have too--where people seriously suggest that Mr. Darcy would have been better off married to Jane because she would be sweet and deferential, never challenging him.

Let me just say now that I can't go along with that. Yes, Elizabeth is always going to be "driving Mr. Darcy crazy." I see him as a man who needs to be driven crazy. It's a turn-on for him, what really gets his motor running, even though, being human and aristocratic and trying to hold onto his dignity, he resists. I've given him a casual partner of each sex in the backstory of P/P who appeal to him for precisely this reason. At one point he thinks to himself "one doesn't have to like a person to engage in 'sport' " (as he calls casual sex).

So, yes--I see the Darcy/Bingley ongoing relationship after their marriages as a way to provide the needed balance in their lives.

amy kennedy said...

Ann, I think the love that lasts is loving someone, so I can see D & B as being the marrieds, where as being 'in love' is more of an infatuation, so the wives would be the affairs. Makes perfect sense to me.

Unknown said...

I think that the Western conception of love is so hard to find because you look for so many qualities in just one person. Don't get me wrong, I think like that as well, even though I'm not Western, as such.
So, I can kind of believe why Anne's bisexual romances would work.

However, having said that, I never though Bingley was Darcy's equal. Perhaps, Darcy may desire him, physically only, but, surely, that kind of lust without love is not the kind of thing Darcy would do? Elizabeth is perfect for him and he for her, simply because they are each other's equal.

I hope that made sense, and sorry for all the commas. One of my uni lecturers once told that she thought I was obsessed with them!

ann herendeen said...

Oh, that's hilarious, Mohammed, about the commas! I'm the opposite--both times when I was done with the copy editing process, I felt that the editor had dumped an enormous bag of loose commas over my pristine manuscript :) Either way they're a bitch to figure out!

But back to the hot stuff. I totally agree with Mohammed that Elizabeth is Mr. Darcy's equal and that's why they are perfect for each other and why their marriage really is a marriage (even though I also see it as having elements of a passionate affair).

It is to do with our Western ideas of looking for everything in one partner, an almost impossible quest. Mr. Darcy finds many of his own qualities, good and bad, in Elizabeth; but the complementary ones that he lacks he finds in Mr. Bingley.

However: no, what Mr. Darcy sees in Mr. Bingley isn't just lust. As you say, he wouldn't do that--or, perhaps he would pursue casual sex on occasion, but he would never base a relationship purely on the physical. Bingley isn't Darcy's equal, but he's more than just a cute body. Darcy sees appealing qualities in him, the things that make Austen describe him as "gentlemanly:" decency, honesty, sweetness of character. The relationship between these two men, at least for Darcy, is a version of the idealized, mentor/pupil, man/youth pairings (also idealized) of ancient Greece.

Bingley isn't as clever or as sophisticated as Darcy--but that's his charm. Darcy likes having someone he can teach or guide, someone with whom he'll always be the "top." Let's face it--Lizzy is going to give Darcy a real contest for the top position in their marriage--and they'll both enjoy that struggle. Each one will be the "loser" and the "winner."

But with Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy can take the occasional break from the contest and relax in a less demanding but comfortable, passionate friendship.

Unknown said...

I was reading through your reply and thinking "OK, Ann has me almost convinced", ands so, I went back and read it again! I think I'd like to think that there is one person in whom one can find everything one desires. For Darcy, that person is Elizabeth. For Elizabeth, that person is Darcy. I think I'll probably always rather naively think that two people are destined for each other.

Nevertheless, have ordered the book from Amazon UK!

ann herendeen said...

Mohammed says:
I think I'll probably always rather naively think that two people are destined for each other.

Naive or not, I think it's what most of us feel about Elizabeth and Darcy at the end of P&P. I might say "right for each other," but the sense of these two as soul mates (or whatever you want to call it) is something that I think Austen worked hard to show us and wanted us to believe. She certainly succeeded with me.

In writing P/P, I worried that people would assume I was rejecting this ending or changing it, denying the primacy of this great love. That's one reason I always wanted the subtitle to be "The Hidden Story," because I felt it implied the familiar story was still there, unchanged.

But I also believed there was this other love, between the two men, that found a way to continue without hurting their marriages. And that was why I wanted to write P/P, despite the risk. That was the challenge, to see if the men could truly love each other while being true, emotionally, to their soul mates--their wives. Most writers don't really know how their book turns out until they've written it, so I couldn't be sure how this would all work until I wrote it.

So...I'm delighted you've ordered the book, Mohammed. I hope you enjoy it, but please write to me whatever you think, if you feel like it, or just want to ask a question. That goes for all of you.

Thank you so much for checking in to chat with me. I've been saying for some time that the only thing scarier than Zombies and Sea Monsters is a bisexual Mr. Darcy. It looks like he might have scared away some of the RBtB fans too :D

A big kiss and many thanks to you, the few, the brave.

And Amy--it seems like we are definitely on the same wavelength.

Jackie said...

I believe wholeheartedly in the concept of "soul mates" whether this means two people of the same sex or people of the opposite sex is entirely relevant to the couple at hand. Austen made a good convincing argument for myself as well that Darcy and Elizabeth were as you say Ann "right for each other". I am a true down to earth person who has always lived by the life philosophy of if let others live their lives and I will live mine. So if Darcy and Bingley were truly "in love" with each other in your re-imagining of the original story than who am I to throw stones. Art means expression and you expressed yourself in a book that combines the modern sensibility with old fashioned logic and good for you!

ann herendeen said...

"modern sensibility" combined with "old-fashioned logic."

That's a lovely compliment, jacabur1, and I thank you for it.

Jackie said...

You are very welcome Ann, I was afraid of scaring you off with my loooong comments post. I am open to new ideas from any author it is what keeps creativity alive and well in our wonderful reading and writing community!!!

jackie b central texas

PG said...

I've been saying for some time that the only thing scarier than Zombies and Sea Monsters is a bisexual Mr. Darcy.

Ha -- this reminds me of the troubles Pat Conroy had when he was going to write a prequel to "Gone with the Wind." The Margaret Mitchell estate told him it couldn't have anything about miscegenation or homosexuality, and he sent them back his supposed opening line: 'After they made love, Rhett turned to Ashley Wilkes and said, ''Ashley, have I ever told you that my grandmother was black?'''

Thank goodness Pride & Prejudice predates copyright restrictions, and we can re-tell the story in all kinds of ways that might have astonished Jane Austen.