The Adventures of Mr Harley and Mr Davidson
|The Adventures of Mr Harley and Mr Davidson|
|Cover artist||Mr David Weaver, RA|
|Publisher||Reynolds (501 Whitehall, London)|
The Adventures of Mr Harley and Mr Davidson is a science fiction novel by the English novelist Jane Austen. Published in 1805, it was Austen's first published novel. Set in the near future, the book has been cited as the first English "road novel" as well as an early example of the popular "zombie" genre. Austen has been credited with considerable foresight in anticipating the invention of the bicycle, although her "wheeled ponies" are not contraptions that we would recognise on our roads today. However, she is recognised as having had a considerable influence on other authors such as Robert M Pirsig and Richard Ballantine.
The story describes a bicycle trip through the lanes of Hampshire undertaken by two friends, Mr Harley and Mr Davidson, in the course of which they discuss pre-Socratic philosophy, how to fix a puncture and why women don't understand them. Halfway through the second day of their trip, however, they are attacked by a band of marauding zombies just outside Winchester. The remainder of the book describes how they outwit and finally kill the zombies before returning home, sadder and wiser men.
This book has largely been ignored by film-makers and there have only been two adaptations of any note, neither of which is regarded with any affection by Austenologists. The first of these, Harley and Davidson Go To New Orleans (1967), stars Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper and deviates quite considerably from Austen's original plot, involving as it does copious scenes of group sex and drug-taking. No director is credited, or indeed evident. More recently, Peter Greenaway's 1992 film The Gear, the Chain, the Cyclist and his Zombie relocates the action to a velodrome in Tromsø, casting a pair of naked twins as Harley and Davidson. Under its Norwegian name of Sådl Sør, it was nominated for a Golden Antler at the 1993 Stavanger Festival.
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