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On Remakes

You know what I can't stop thinking about? Book remakes and what if they started happening as often as they are with movies?

The idea makes me feel itchy, in that way where the scratching both hurts and feels wonderful. 

Why can't I stop thinking about this? No clue. Maybe because after the blog on genre fiction a few weeks ago, Icouldn't stop thinking about the monstrosities (no pun intended, because I totally mean that to be a dig at the series) from Quirk Books where an author takes a classic book and rewrites it to include monsters, robots, or fantasy elements. There's something about these novelty books that makes me all grumpy. 

However, having said that, the idea of book remakes puts me in a good mood, because in theory, and sometimes in practice, it can be totally awesome. 

Admitting this makes me really embarrassed, especially because every time a movie remake happens, I take to the internet to type in all caps my robust thoughts on the matter, punctuated with a WTF typed brutally and mightily into my little keyboard. So, why should I feel differently about book remakes?

I came across a blog post similar to this one over at The New Dork Review of Books where it is noted that tons of stories are retold over and over and over again throughout the course of history. A few examples the author includes are The Odyssey, as retold by James Joyce, Hamlet as retold by David Wroblewski, and Howard's End as reimagined by Zadie Smith

In terms of the Quirk Books offerings, I get so mad because the authors aren't alive to give the go-ahead, to see their years of work and subtle comments on social issues get washed away by bloody humor and grisly gags. Kids who grew up hating to read the classics and getting their revenge and making fucking bank doing it. Maybe I'm jealous, because as far as cold dishes go, the authors at Quirk Books are serving up a pretty icy one, the high school me is all, "Mad respect, bitches."

But, as an adult who wants to respect interesting endeavors over novel ones, I see book remakes as fertile ground for writerly sparring. The examples given by New Dork represent times in which the authors of the remakes respectfully expanded on and retold the story in terms of the things about the original that spoke to them and excited them. These examples, in their own amazing ways, make the stories new again. Think of it as Urban Outfitter's Urban Renweal line, but for books. 

I will conceede that remaking a book, no matter how an author intends on doing it is ballsy has hell. It's almost delusional in a way—which is part of what excites me and horrifies me about it. 

Books are so different from movies in that books—the finest novels, and most classic stories—can take years to write. Often authors are so sensetive and protective of their work that it almost makes the remake sacreligious, or taboo. I mean, in the most basic terms, what Zadie Smith did and what Seth Grahame-Smith did are exactly the same, but why view them so differently? 

If I'm being honest, maybe I need to consider it's because Zadie Smith remade Howard's End with a more literary bent, while Seth Grahame-Smith plunged that classic deep into the bowels of genre fiction. Ugh, that's an ugly thing to realize about myself. Sorry you had to witness that. But seriously, can anyone vouch for the Pride, Prejudice and Zombies series?

Anyway, wouldn't it be fun to see The Outsiders retold by Chuck Palahniuk, or The Lord of the Flies retold by Bret Easton Ellis? Maybe Clan of the Cave Bear remade as only David Sedaris could remake it. This seems like a McSweeney's Internet Tendancy piece just waiting to happen (don't steal my idea, dudes).

They're great books already, but damn if it wouldn't be fun to see another literary perspective on them. 

I've really got to dive into some of this so-called genre fiction and get over my apparent fear and disapproval of it. Can someone suggest a good place to start?

Minneapolis Indie Xpo

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