May 29, 2014

Gone Girl Goes Hamlet

Following my dismal experience with Gone Girl (read here) all I can say about this somewhat alarming announcement on today's BBC News that the author is about to rewrite Hamlet, is that clearly I am totally out of touch with some of the ideas in publishing these days - and why on earth does Shakespeare have to be constantly messed about with, rewritten and reinvented anyhow? 

It seems nobody is happy to leave well alone when it comes to classic literature. Is slapping the name of Shakespeare in tandem with a current trendy author guaranteed to make a lot of money for both publisher and author? As a reader, it's more likely to put me off to be honest and to question the author's motivation in getting involved with the idea.

To me it smacks of - can't think of anything fresh or new so let's mess with something old - or - we modern authors have smarter brains than you old guys and we can write better than you.  Whichever, it can result in yet more cases of annoying CDW or, "clever d**k writing", as discussed in my previous post here.


It has me thinking generally about all those sequels or prequels to classic books. Far too many people have tinkered with Sherlock Holmes - TV and Hollywood are particularly guilty - so that those fantastic original books are in danger of being trampled into the dust.

And as for Jane Austen, like Shakespeare, the poor woman is never left alone in peace and to detail all the pastiches including zombies, vampires and blatant derivations of just one of her novels such as Pride & Prejudice would take up too much of my energy to research.  OK, you seriously need to know?  Just start with this Goodreads list. Even respected crime writer P D James was sucked in with her Death Comes to Pemberley. Why on earth did she have to get on the bandwagon as well? 

Then there is the oh-so-boring reinvention of James Bond by Sebastian Faulks with Devil May Care and William Boyd with Solo. I can't understand why Bond must now be re-churned in literature as well as on the screen - some sentimental hankering by men of a certain age for the good old days I suspect. I freely admit that I enjoyed most of Ian Fleming's books back in the swinging sixties when Bond's sexist character was tres cool, but times have changed. Bond belongs to his era and should stay buried there. Why didn't Faulks or Boyd give us a fresh and exciting new spy for our different age instead? 


In the early 1990s, I deliberately avoided Scarlett , a sequel to Gone with the Wind, because the original book had the absolute perfect ending and it should never have been messed with. Readers had their own imagined future life for Scarlett O'Hara and that was the best thing about it. I recall that for some years after the sequel came out, ceiling-high piles of hardback Scarlett were to be found in remainder bookstores and even the charity shops today still can't seem to get rid of them. There was also a film starring someone who had been an ill choice for Bond as well, but the less said about that, the better.


Literary reinvention always creates a media stir, even if some sequels have been sanctioned by descendants, executors, or other authorised representatives of long-deceased authors. 

But many of the revivals remain little-known (what does that tell you?) even those by highly accomplished authors. The only one that truly stands out for me is in this list is Geraldine Brooks' March which was brilliantly conceived and written and well deserving of her Pulitzer Prize. 

In no particular order:

Wide Sargasso Sea. The prequel featuring the first Mrs Rochester in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.

Peter Pan in Scarlet. An officially sanctioned sequel to J M Barrie's Peter Pan.

March. The father of the March girls from Louisa M. Alcott's Little Women.

Dracula: The Un-dead.  A dubious exploitative exercise using the Stoker surname.

Silver: Return to Treasure Island. Ahoy, me hearties, off to the Spanish Main etc. Again.

Wicked. The sequel to The Wizard of Oz is probably now better known as a Broadway musical.

Cosette: The Time of Illusion. An infamous sequel to Les Miserables that caused trouble.

60 Years Later. A sequel to a certain book that can't be mentioned some places due to a court ruling.

The Hours. Another Pulitzer and Hollywood winning effort derived from Mrs Dalloway.

and there are probably many more, but enough for now!

From Bo's Cafe Life

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