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  • Brian Boone 2:00 pm on 2017/11/02 Permalink
    Tags: a thousand acres, ana of california, andi teran, , , , dorian an imitation, going bovine, , , king lear, , , 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.

     
  • Jenny Shank 4:00 pm on 2016/05/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , , king lear, , , , shakespeare-iversary, the merry wives of windsor   

    Quiz: Which Shakespearean Character Are You? 

    2016 marks 400 years since the death of the world’s most famous playwright, William Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s 1623 First Folio, the book that preserved the Bard’s plays for us to enjoy, will be touring all fifty states and Puerto Rico, while Shakespeare companies across the globe are planning special events. Join the festivities by taking this quiz to determine which of Shakespeare’s characters you most resemble.

    How do you prefer to spend your free time?

    A. Hatching nefarious plots.

    B. Eating, drinking, and being merry.

    C. Trying to avoid your evil sisters.

    D. Traipsing through the forest with your servants.

    In an online dating profile, how would you describe your physique?

    A. Unctuous

    B. Festively Plump

    C. Honestly

    D. Elfin

    What is your ideal night out?

    A. First, trick your friend into thinking his significant other cheated on him and then wait for the fun to begin.

    B. First, make big plans. Next, hit up your friends for money. Finally, hit the pub and eat and drink yourself under the table before you can enact any of those plans.

    C. One spent far, far away from your family. Except for your dad, maybe. He’s a’ight.

    D. First, pick a fight with your spouse. Next, spite him by taking off with the handyman.

    What’s your claim to fame?

    A. You wanted a promotion so you got a coworker so drunk that he got into a brawl. Then you ratted on him to your boss.

    B. You once sailed down the river Thames in a laundry basket.

    C. You could have inherited a kingdom if you’d flattered your dad a bit. Instead, you chose a good, honest banishment.

    D. You once made out with a donkey.

    In response to a crisis, you:

    A. Make sure somebody else takes the blame while figuring out how to turn this situation to your advantage.

    B. Hide under a table and hope nobody notices and asks you to help.

    C. Refuse to sugarcoat the situation.

    D. Hold your ground and insist that you know what’s best to do.

    Which Prince lyric fits you best?

    A. “I could never take the place of your man.” (“I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man,” Sign ‘O’ the Times.)

    B. “Tonight I’m going to party like it’s 1999.” (“1999,” 1999.)

    C. “Nothing compares 2 U.” (“Nothing Compares 2 U, The Family.)

    D. “Honey you’ve got to slow down.” (“Raspberry Beret,” Around the World in A Day.)

    What is your ideal profession?

    A. Politician

    B. Gadabout

    C. Judge

    D. Queen

    If you got mostly A’s, you’re Iago from Othello. You are a straight-up psychopath and don’t think that people don’t notice! You leave a wake of destruction wherever you tread. When the First Folio comes to your town, whatever you do, don’t touch it!

    If you got mostly B’s, you’re Falstaff, who appeared in Henry IV, Part I, Henry IV, Part II, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. You’re the life of the party and you’re not ashamed of it. Give your belly an affectionate pat.

    If you got mostly C’s, you’re Cordelia from King Lear. You are honest to a fault, and while that may make people chafe at your blunt assessments, they’ll eventually realize that you’re the only person who makes sense in this madcap world.

    If you got mostly D’s, you’re Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. You are a fun-loving fairy queen who practices open marriage and can perceive beauty even in farm animals. Treat yourself to a night out at an interspecies swingers’ club.

    If you couldn’t decide what to answer, You’re Hamlet from Hamlet. You are famously indecisive, sensitive, and tortured. The next time you’re stressed by decision-making, it’s okay to just flip a coin.

     
  • Nicole Hill 7:00 pm on 2014/09/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , king lear, , , ,   

    Station Eleven: Dispatches From the End of the World 

    Station ElevenJust when you thought you’d tired of postapocalyptic fiction, someone comes along and dazzles you with an intimate portrait of life after the end of the world, and you’re ready to pry open the old Y2K shelter again.

    Dazzling is the only way to describe Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, detailing the outbreak of the spectacularly deadly Georgian Flu, which decimates the population worldwide. Twenty years after the virus brought down modern civilization as we know it, the villages and outposts of America still struggle to regain what they’ve lost—not only the people, but the knowledge base.

    In this grim landscape, we catch a ride with a traveling troupe of Shakespearean actors. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

    First thing’s first, the outbreak. On the night that the world crashes down, we readers are attending a performance of King Lear in Toronto, starring the famous (and infamous, to a degree) actor Arthur Leander. What a delight he is on the stage! Until he collapses mid-performance and dies of an apparent heart attack.

    It’s a bummer to be sure, but Arthur’s death and the lives he touched form the prism through which we view the demise of civilization. It is through him that Mandel draws together her cast of characters: Jeevan, the aspiring paramedic who rushes to Arthur when he falters on stage; Kirsten, a young Lear actress; Miranda, Arthur’s first wife and author of the titular graphic novel Station Eleven; and Arthur’s oldest friend, Clark.

    All of them will become important to one another in some way, a ripple effect of love and loss over decades.

    Flashing between pre-outbreak life, the night the Georgian Flu begins its wildfire spread, and the future 20 years later, Mandel tells more than just an apocalypse story, she weaves an incredibly human one, with no individual tale left underdeveloped.

    As important as Kirsten’s post-outbreak existence with the Traveling Symphony, performing Much Ado About Nothing for entertainment-starved audiences around the Great Lakes, is the night that Miranda, fed up with his infidelity, leaves Arthur and their Hollywood life. Of equal meaning to the moment Arthur Leander gives a young actress a graphic novel, are the frantic seconds during which Jeevan tends to her in a crisis.

    Juggling so many disparate yet intermingled plotlines could—and by all means, should—be a challenge, but the story never ceases its flow. The pacing never stoops to anything less than spectacular.

    What could easily have been a perfectly pleasant dystopic exploration of a society undone is heightened by its probing focus on the continued importance of the world left behind. To use the Star Trek: Voyager credo repurposed for the Traveling Symphony: “survival is insufficient.”

    Thus, we are treated to reflections on fame and the isolation of celebrity, as well as a keen look at the preciousness of remembrance, seen in Kirsten’s scavenging of abandoned homes, and the lovingly curated Museum of Civilization, with its defunct laptops and high-heeled shoes.

    Elegant, yet approachable, Station Eleven will compel you to conquer it in one sitting, and then linger with you as you go about your business. As you hoard water bottles, you’ll also ponder your own reservoir of resilience. Perhaps that is sufficient.

    Do you enjoy dystopian fiction?

     
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