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  • Brian Boone 2:00 pm on 2017/11/02 Permalink
    Tags: , ana of california, andi teran, , , don quixote, dorian an imitation, going bovine, , , , , , maya lang, , , page to page, , the sixteenth of june, , will self,   

    5 Books You Didn’t Know Were Remakes 

    Many standup comedians have made the amusing joke/observation that us creative humans in the Western world don’t hesitate to remake movies or songs but we never remake books. The most famous variation on the gag—after expressing that sentiment, the comedian mentions that they’re writing a word-for-word remake of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. The thing is, authors remake other authors’ material all the time. It’s just that in the world of books they’re called “adaptations” or “re-imaginings.” Here are some books that offer a brand new take on pre-existing works.

    A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley is a remake of Shakespeare’s King Lear
    One of big reasons why Shakespeare is regarded as the greatest author, or playwright, of all time, is because his stories and characters continue to resonate through the centuries. The Bard wrote his stuff 400 years ago, and it’s still solid, because his themes are universal and his characters are relatable. Once in a while, an author will use one of Shakespeare’s plays as a jumping-off point—they just need to update the language. And the settings. And the plots. And into prose from dialogue. Perhaps the best example of Shakespeare 2.0 is Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres. Because a king deciding which daughter to bequeath his kingdom to is a little irrelevant to the modern United States, Smiley made it about three daughters up to inherit their aging father’s farm. Smiley won a Pulitzer Prize for the novel.

    Going Bovine by Libba Bray is a remake of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote
    Miguel de Cervantes’ epic comedy Don Quixote is about a man with both mental illness and delusions of grandeur—it’s pretty modern and sophisticated for having been published four centuries ago. But hey, funny is funny, and comedy is eternal. Libba Bray deftly reworked the vast, complicated classic into a digestible modern tale set in high school. A regular guy named Cameron contracts Mad Cow Disease, as one does, and suffers from all kinds of delightful hallucinations.

    The Sixteenth of June by Maya Lang is a remake of James Joyce’s Ulysses
    James Joyce’s crowning achievement is Ulysses, an astonishingly detailed, hyper-realistic look at a single day in Dublin, Ireland—June 16, 1904. Commemorations of that day are now known as Bloomsday, after one the book’s many, many characters, Leo Bloom. Almost as real as Joyce’s physical descriptions are the richly rendered characters. “A day in the life” is a repeatable formula, but difficult to do well. Author Maya Lang pulls it off with The Sixteenth of June. It’s a cutting, insightful, emotional look at the good people of Philadelphia on June 16, 2004. A couple of people even throw a Bloomsday party! (Of course, if you want to get technical, Ulysses itself is a remake of the ancient Greek epic The Odyssey.)

    Ana of California by Andi Teran is a remake of L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables
    You can’t improve on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s moving story of plucky, idiosyncratic red-headed orphan Anne Shirley charming the once crusty townsfolk of Avonlea. You can only re-create it in another time and place. At its core, Anne of Green Gables is a story about how hard it is to a new place, and fit in while maintaining your identity and integrity, and Andi Teran maintains all of Montgomery’s themes in her Anne reimagining, Ana of California. And she does it quite well, telling the tale of a teenage orphan named Ana Cortez who leaves the foster care system and East L.A. for a farm work program in Northern California.

    Dorian by Will Self is a remake of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
    What if Oscar Wilde were Bret Easton Ellis? Then he’d write Dorian. Of course, Will Self already wrote this book in 2002. Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray story of a fresh-faced man and his grotesquely aging portrait called out and satirized the superficial. Self logically adapted the novel to take place in the equally hollow and image-conscious world of the 1980s London art scene.

    What are your favorite literary remakes?

    The post 5 Books You Didn’t Know Were Remakes appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 3:55 pm on 2015/07/28 Permalink
    Tags: , being there, , don quixote, , ,   

    Let’s Celebrate the Best Morons in Literature 

    It’s easy to celebrate smart people—detectives who figure out mysteries just by observing clues, evil geniuses who devise horrific ways of ending the world and the sullen brainiacs who defeat them, anyone who figures out how to game the system and come out on top. But let’s put aside the hero-worship, because we all know that in literature at least, it’s the morons we enjoy the most. They deliver chaos and stupidity right when a plot needs them, and lend otherwise incredible actions credible by dint of their obtuse idiocy. Forget the smart heroes, and take a moment to celebrate some of the greatest, dumbest characters in literary history.

    Chauncey Gardiner, Being There, by Jerzy Kosinski
    Chance the Gardener is without question an empty vessel—a moron who has known nothing but the garden he tends for the wealthy “Old Man,” and what he sees on television. When the Old Man dies, a series of chance meetings and coincidences convinces a group of wealthy, connected people, including the president of the United States himself, that Chance (whose name has been misheard as Chauncey Gardiner) is a genius of few words and immense vision. Mocking the modern world of soundbites and instant celebrity, this prescient novel is still hilarious today. There is a chewy center of despair in Chance, who remains completely unchanged and unaffected by everything he experiences, ending the story back in a garden, where he finally feels at home.

    Benjy Compson, The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
    Benjy is easily one of the most complex, challenging characters in literature. His lyrical, time-jumping, emotionally inarticulate narration at the start of Faulkner’s novel has caused more than one reader to admit defeat and back away from the book slowly, as one would from a hungry bear that has crashed your campsite. Benjy is never a figure of fun—he is a tragic, almost a force of nature, a person who cannot speak or communicate with those around him, a character who clings to the few stable aspects of his life like a drowning man to a log. Seeing the world from Benjy’s point of view is incredibly challenging, but in the end, his tragic life is the one we get to know best, lending The Sound and the Fury an elegant sadness.

    Ignatius J. Reilly, A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
    The smartest, best-read moron in literary history, Ignatius J. Reilly is a comical figure of contrasts. He’s a man who disdains the modern world, yet enjoys many of its comforts. He’s completely incompetent in almost everything he tries (even selling hot dogs turns into an Epic Fail), yet looks down on almost everyone he encounters. He believes himself to be open-minded and worldly, despite never having left his home city of New Orleans—in fact, his one attempt to travel a modest distance remains a story of deep psychological horror he repeats often. Reilly’s attempts to wriggle free of society’s requirements only lead him to work far harder and live deeper in squalor than he otherwise would. He is a lesson to anyone who has railed against the fact that we all have to “fit in” somehow to society.

    Lennie Small, Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
    One of the most tragic figures in literature, Lennie Small is a huge, powerful man who loves animals, his friend George, and their shared dream of living a simple life on their own farm. The Lennie/George dynamic is so well-known today, it’s a cliché that’s often used humorously, but Lennie himself is tragic; incredibly strong, but lacking the brains needed to use his strength constructively, Lennie kills the things he loves by accident. His charming innocence endears him to the reader, and we wish for a happy ending—but the version of “happy” that Lennie receives heaps tragedy upon tragedy.

    Don Quixote, Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes
    One of the few literary characters whose name coined an adjective, Don Quixote is a marvelous creation, a man driven mad by reading too many romantic stories of medieval chivalry who sets out to be a knight, to set things right, and to find his “lady love.” Although more insane than actually stupid, Don Quixote’s misadventures always harm the people he attempts to help, and always leave in their wake more chaos than anything else. He’s a remarkably dumb, albeit charming, character who has come to define the crazy, stupid passion that inspires people to make poor decisions, waste resources, and ultimately fail in their stated endeavors. Of all the morons on this list, the world would truly be a dimmer place without this one.

    Shop all fiction >
  • Nicole Hill 7:00 pm on 2014/06/18 Permalink
    Tags: don quixote, , , , john watson, , ,   

    6 Fictional Sorta-Superpowers That Would Make Life a Lot More Fun 

    L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

    You might have noticed that superheroes are having a bit of a prolonged moment. There’s much to be said for their commentary on society’s outcasts, but their appeal also includes wish fulfillment. We can’t yet fly or move things with our minds (or can we?), we can read and watch really good-looking people do it.

    But really, how passé. Been there, done that with the superheroic abilities. It’s time for a new age: that of the pseudopower. You know them, these sorta-superpowers, the incredible knacks your favorite fictional characters possess. Looking at you, Ms. Nancy “Oh, Gosh, Another Mystery” Drew. Here are some of the fictional semi-powers we most covet:

    Stumbling Upon Mysteries (Nancy Drew)
    It’s fortuitous Nancy checked “detective” on her career-day wish list, because mysteries are falling all over themselves to find her. Like the time she’s saved in a lake by an orphan girl with a backstory straight out of The Rescuers. There’s also the fact that her social circle can’t seem to hold on to their heirloom jewels, or keep their grand estates unburnt. Enigmatic happenings are drawn to her like moths to flame, which is how you could describe Ned Nickerson, too, if he could ever summon that much passion.

    Making Everyone Love You Despite Your Sour Personality (Bella Swan, Katniss Everdeen)
    One sulky, one surly, both beloved by the public at large in their respective universes. Not that Katniss doesn’t rightfully possess all that righteous malice (and it rains a lot in Forks, I’d be in a funk, too), but typically when I’m in a foul temper, people aren’t quite as indulgent—or lovestruck. Where are my muscular, brooding love triangles?

    Migrating Wounds (John Watson)
    Follow the bouncing bullet hole. Is it in his leg? Is it in his shoulder? The world may never know. But it could be a convenient talent, shifting your physical impediments. Tetherball tournament? Best move that aching injury farther south. Time to sprint away from some baddies? Shoulder marks the spot. Skeptical malcontents like Holmes might explain it away as narrative inconsistency, but I think he’s just too proud to admit his sidekick’s got his own special claim.

    Magnetic Eccentricity (Don Quixote)
    Anyone else think they’d have the magnetism to pull off this level of delusion so endearingly, while involving accommodating members of the public? Not every knight-errant can so charm a group of goatherds, and Sancho Panzas don’t exactly grow on trees.

    Nurturing Archenemies Who Care About Academics (Harry Potter)
    Whatever Voldemort’s murderous intentions, he really did care about Harry’s education. True, there were all those times he could have been killed, or worse, expelled. But he really kept the pinnacle of his dastardly schemes confined to the end of term. Either Harry inspired in his nemesis a desire to preserve the sanctity of academia, or Voldy really hated standardized testing.

    Attracting the Right Crowd (Dorothy)
    When I board a plane I have a certain helpless magnetism that sends people running to assist my insignificant upper-arm muscles in hoisting a carry-on bag into the overhead bin. This is not unlike Dorothy Gale in Oz, who attracts followers with the ease of a charismatic cult leader. What with the witches, munchkins, scarecrows, tin persons, lions, monkeys, etc., etc., there’s no more room on this helpless foreigner’s bandwagon to the Emerald City. She’s got 99 problems, but her charm ensures followers that can help her solve them.

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