How to Take a Classic and Tell the Story – News
For a long time, the classics have been reinvented and reinterpreted. Sometimes the stories are advanced or changed. Sometimes the built-in characters are extrapolated and given new life. Why do writers feel the need to fall back on books that were written in a different time – and that upheld different value systems?
Art is vulnerable because its success depends entirely on its acceptance by others. Art is powerful because, when accepted, it can be a catalyst for inspiration and change. This is why creators are often on edge: the tug of war between the need for acceptance and the desire to express one’s own ideas is endless. This is part of the reason why “remixes” are so popular, especially in film and music. We can rely on the familiar, while retaining the freedom to say something new, something unique.
And even though the adjective “remixed” has traditionally not often been associated with books, “remixed books” are now taking on a life of their own.
One of the most remixed books in the world is the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice. There’s Linda Berdoll’s version, Mr Darcy Takes a Wife: Pride and Prejudice Continues, which drives the story forward. Elizabeth and Darcy are thrilled to discover that their compatibility extends far beyond their matched minds, as they navigate new twists in an all-new plot. Another is Abigail Reynolds’ Last Man in the World. He imagines what would have happened if Elizabeth Bennet had accepted Darcy’s proposal the first time around, instead of telling him she wouldn’t marry him if he was the last man in the world.
An ethnically revamped remix would be Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – amid Toronto’s Muslim community. “Although I didn’t set out to write a simple narrative, I think the themes of Pride and Prejudice are echoed in my book, namely class differences, family expectations and the search for identity mixed with looking for love,” Uzma said. said about his book to indulgexpress.com. One could estimate at least a hundred of these retellings of the famous novel by Jane Austen.
Uzma also wrote a book inspired by Meg Ryan’s film You’ve Got Mail – written and directed by Nora Ephron – titled Hana Khan Carries On. The whole idea of renaming characters, placing their outspokenness and courage in a more conservative ethnic milieu has its own place in social relevance and feminism.
Sometimes all it takes is a matter of perspective – a new
Margaret Atwood’s account of Homer’s Odyssey from Penelope’s perspective is called The Penelopiad. Now Homer is not easy to read. The original features Odysseus, his faithful wife Penelope and his cousin, the beautiful Helen of Troy. Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after Helen’s kidnapping (he was one of Helen’s first suitors after all!).
Atwood looks past Helen and Ulysses to begin with. In Homer’s original, when Penelope is left all alone for 20 years, she proves to be quite resourceful. Not only does she raise her wayward son, but she also manages to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca. Atwood focuses on Penelope and her 12 maids who were murdered when Odysseus returns. In La Pénélope, Pénélope speaks to us after her death, to tell her version of the story with hindsight.
Atwood also gives voice to the 12 maids who were killed because they were treated unfairly in the original. Vulnerable and speechless, many of them suffer rape and abuse from suitors who come together to woo Penelope during her husband’s absence. In this sense, The Penelopiad is perhaps a significant narrative.
Atwood also remixed Shakespeare’s The Tempest with Hag-Seed. Which brings us to the indisputable fact that, overall, there’s no doubt that the great Bard is the most remixed songwriter of all time. Lisa Klein’s Lady Macbeth’s Daughter is probably a good place to start. In Shakespeare’s original tragedy, the Macbeths are childless. The premise of Lisa’s book is that Lady Macbeth gave birth to a daughter, who was rejected by Macbeth because he desired a son. The girl, named Albia, is raised by the three Wyrd sisters and eventually returns to court. Specific lines from the original play feature in the novel, whenever Albia is in the presence of her parents. It is written with such conviction and research that it seems impossible that Albia is not part of the Bard’s original story.
In another book called Ophelia, Klein chooses her favorite character from Hamlet and talks about her. She openly maintained that she worshiped Shakespeare as a hero. “My own rewriting of Shakespeare’s stories is an effort to understand and participate in his creativity…I want to tell the play from the perspective of female characters that I don’t think Shakespeare understood very well – or who cared that much , except as they unleashed his tragic heroes,” she was quoted by www.thecompulsivereader.com.
Remixes: making them appeal to another generation
Shakespeare has been reimagined and retold for teenagers as well as small children. There’s Michelle Ray’s Falling for Hamlet, which is really light. In this cheerful teeny-bopper remix, Ophelia’s vodka-loving ringtone for her dad Polonius is “Papa Don’t Preach.”
There’s also Mal Peet’s Exposure, in which Othello becomes the “soccer star Otello”, who lives in South America. The book won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2009.
Addressing evergreen pride and prejudice again, in Vanessa King’s 2021 book A Certain Appeal, its female protagonist Liz Bennet works for a living and the story is set in modern-day New York. Liz Bennet has a day job at a local office and performs “Kitten Caboodle” at night, at Meryton, Manhattan’s most prestigious burlesque venue. Her colleague at the club is Jane Okogu (in the original they are sisters).
are you still with me?
Will Darcy attends one of Liz’s burlesque shows and the sparks fly. Darcy’s job? Wealth manager, of course, and he’s advising his friend (you guessed it right – Mr. Bingley) on buying that Meryton club, which is for sale. That’s why he’s here so often, got it?
Vanessa said during promotions for her book, “The biggest challenge in this project was deciding which story beats Pride and Prejudice to keep and which to leave unexplored. In the end, I picked the ones that would best advance the relationship between Darcy and Bennet.
There’s also Elizabeth Eulberg’s Prom & Prejudice, which, as the name suggests, is set among teenagers in high school and is extremely light and breezy. Purists may shudder at the inadequacy and childishness of some of these remixes, but the truth is that art tends to find its own audience… or not! Arguably, the credit for the most successful reimagining of a book for successive generations must go to the many storylines based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s four novels and 56 short stories, featuring his character Sherlock Holmes. In fact, Benedict Cumberbatch nearly turned down the opportunity to play detective in one of the more recent adaptations of Sherlock Holmes because “I heard about it and thought it sounded like an idea for re- postage something to make money. Might be a bit cheap and cheesy.
It is true that some remixes could be just that. However, each new adaptation with an experimental approach to the basic story expands its audience and its legend more and more.
And then there are authors who remix their own books…
Ben Okri’s 2008 lyrical masterpiece Starbook tells the story of a prince and a young girl, who is a sculptor in a mythical land. He said he felt the need to rewrite it because certain themes—particularly the one on the slave trade—had not been picked up well enough, by readers and critics alike.
A brand new version, with a new title and cover, is to be published as The Last Gift of the Master Artists and is due out in August 2022. Okri won the Booker Prize for his novel The Famished Road in 1991.
He is not the first to engage in a rewrite of his own work. Mary Shelley first published Frankenstein in 1818. However, she created a much darker version of the original book and reprinted it in 1831. During this period Shelley was plagued with personal tragedies: she lost her daughter, her son and her husband. This impacted how she visualized her main character, Dr. Victor Frankenstein. In the new version that we know today, which is very successful, Dr. Frankenstein is fatalistic, he feels that fate weighs heavily on him. Universal Pictures made Frankenstein a movie in 1931 and followed it up with The Bride of Frankenstein in 1935 – which, at the time, was more of a new way to remix a book into a movie.
Is it hard to remix a book?
Himanjali Sankar, Editorial Director of Simon & Schuster India, says: “I don’t think it’s as daunting as an exciting and innovative exercise and ultimately the end result will be a book that should be judged for itself rather than by comparing. with the original. I don’t think I can name a classic that deserves to be rewritten… it’s really up to an author to choose a book they love and reinvent it in a way that has never been done before.
Himanjali’s favorites are Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth, Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key, Samhita Arni’s The Missing Queen and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea which offers a fascinating postcolonial prequel to Jane Eyre.
Sequels might be by far the easiest solution when writing a remix, as they provide considerable freedom to set up a whole new plot. For example, in After the Death of Don Juan by Sylvia Townsend Warner, the story opens in Seville, Spain. Don Juan was kidnapped by demons, in retaliation for his attack on Dona Ana’s father. Don Juan’s own servant witnessed the event. Grieving for her father, Dona Ana eventually marries her fiancé Don Ottavio – though her mind seems more preoccupied with Don Juan’s fate.
The book explores whether Don Juan was really taken by demons or fled to pursue his notorious ways elsewhere! (Don Juan is of course originally Lord Byron’s legendary libertine.)
The weirdest of the remix tribe would be books that only borrow the name of a very popular character. Cinderella goes to the Nancy morgue Spain has nothing to do with Cinderella. Ali McNamara’s Breakfast at Darcy’s has nothing to do with Will Darcy; in fact, Darcy McCall is the female protagonist of this book. However, such headlines cleverly capture the reader’s interest with a popular character as a hook.
The bottom line seems to be that remixing is a great way to cut through the clutter and get noticed… and maybe there are plenty more waiting in the wings.