“Remakes” and “retellings” seem to be in style. Especially in romance and YA. I haven’t read any of these, but here’s a laundry list of favorably reviewed current fiction based on classics.
Gordon Korman’s _Jake Reinvented_ is based on _The Great Gatsby._ Jake plays the Jay Gatsby character who arrives in town and starts throwing killer parties every Friday night that make him the coolest guy. He has eyes for Didi, the hot cheerleader. Her boyfriend, Todd, isn’t too happy about it. Rick (the Nick Carraway character) narrates the tale.
Alan Gratz has “reshaped” (to use the words of the reviewers) Shakespeare’s plays into modern mysteries starring teenaged characters. SOMETHING ROTTEN is a twist on Hamlet and SOMETHING WICKED is Macbeth reimagined.
_The Loser’s Guide to Life and Love_ by A. E. Cannon is a pastiche of _A Midsummer Night’s Dream_.
_Enthusiasm_ by Polly Shulman is a take on Jane Austen. Of course, the ’80s film “Clueless” was supposed to be like _Emma_.
Eileen Cook’s YA _What Would Emma Do?_ is said to be a modern version of The Crucible, and her _Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood_ is being called the modern-day version of _The Count of Monte Cristo_.
The YA novel _Troy High_ is a modern-day retelling of the Trojan War, based mostly on the Iliad.
Terry Pratchett’s _Masquerade_ is a spoof of _Phantom of the Opera_. Terry Prachett’s _Eric_ is a rewrite of Faust, with the Faust character being 15 years old.
Holly Black’s VALIANT is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, as is Alex Flinn’s BEASTLY. Jackson Pearce retells Shakespeare’s Tempest in AS YOU WISH, and the Cinderella retelling titled ASH is by Malinda Lo. RADIANT DARKNESS, by Emily Whitman, is a retelling of the story of Persephone and Hades. A CURSE DARK AS GOLD is a feminist industrial age retelling of “Rumpelstiltskin” done by Elizabeth Bunce.
Huckleberry Finn itself is a sort of retelling of The Odyssey. (That one I’ve read.)
So why is it that if I say my Pundit novel is loosely based on or is a homage to the Tracy-Hepburn film DESK SET (updated), or I mention that I’d like to do a retelling of some other film classic such as TEACHER’S PET, editors fall apart, having a cow? If Hollyweird can try remaking THE WOMEN (and screw up royally in the attempt), why can’t I update or spoof DESK SET (without stealing the dialogue, of course)?
Why is it that when Chevy Chase’s character in “Fletch” uses false names out of classic films or fiction it’s OK, but when one of my characters does it in a funny novel, everyone yells, “That pulled me out of the story”? And why am I not allowed to reply with, “Well, then, increase your reading comprehension! Don’t read Benchley, Thurber, P. G. Wodehouse, or anyone clever until you do.”??
I looked at the paperback fiction in the supermarket today. I browsed the racks at Target and Wal-Mart this past weekend. You know what the problem is? I simply don’t like any of those popular or best-selling books. The style doesn’t appeal to me (based on the first page and a random page or two), the plots don’t appeal to me, the Muses don’t sing. The books I like are at least several years old. I am out of step with what is considered The Grail of fiction today. This is the basic problem with my trying to publish.
Something’s gotta give. I suspect it won’t be my sensibilities and proclivities. (They gave at the office.)
The Faust retelling that I love best is Dudley Moore and Peter Cook’s original version of the movie “Bedazzled.” It’s a witty, cerebral take on the Faust legend that has at least one literary allusion per film minute (it seems). Of course I figure most people who watch this 1967 version nowadays won’t get all of the asides; a lot of the Faust references might be lost on them. (The bit about “he who sups with the devil should use a long spoon” is very subtle.) Still, they’d probably laugh. This movie came before most of the Monty Python humor, but epitomizes that kind of British sensibility. It’s well worth catching the next time it’s on cable. Note that I am NOT talking about the Brendan Frazier remake, which went for the slapstick.
Reviews of the film over at Amazon mention that “it’s slow” and “it’s too talky.” Well . . . that’s exactly the kind of thing I like. Out of step. Knew it already. Don’t really care. Must be hopeless.
And speaking of remaking THE WOMEN (which I was, upstairs–try to keep up), I always wanted to. I hate the ending of the original, of course, where the heroine crawls back to the stupid man who cheated. I’ve always wanted her to push him OFF the roof of the hotel instead of running into his sticky old arms. But the basic IDEA and premise is still really cool and would fly today. Here’s how I would steal it:
A woman’s friends are a bunch of jealous, meddling cats who want to break up her marriage. A few believe it’s “for her own good,” but others are just destroyers of anything they touch. They believe the husband is cheating, and they try every way in the world to have the woman “run across evidence” of this. Finally they send her to a talky manicurist who gossips about him without realizing she’s the wife with the “horns.” The heroine resolves not to let the cats know that she was clued in, but to investigate it. Pretty soon the mistress (or purported mistress) is practically in her face in public, and she snaps and confronts the husband. In the original, he’s guilty. In my version, he wouldn’t be, but it would sure LOOK that way. And the purported mistress would be a woman who WANTS to get him, and therefore she plays along and pretends to already be cheating with him. This way, there could be a reconciliation that wouldn’t be a total turnoff. The various women who manipulated the situation would get their comeuppances, but in different ways from the original.
I think I could make that work, but I’m not going to do it, at least for a while. I should watch that remake before I get too carried away. Heard it was worthy of going straight to DVD at best. But I ought to see for myself (and see what I could steal and twist, of course!)
My version would be all talky, ideally.
If you like talky stuff, let’s talk. We can have our own club. So there!