12 July 2010
Day 107: Little Women and Werewolves
The subject matter of the following post was specifically requested by regular guest blogger Dayna Ingram. If you would like to request a book/topic for me to discuss, hop over to the Contact Me page. I will prioritize requests from readers (sorry authors/publishers, the little people matter more to me).
I am a big fan and supporter of reimagining the classics. In some ways I view it as satire, not necessarily of the adapted literature, but of the people who praise the original too highly. Anyone who believes that certain things are off limits to mockery, satire, or ribbing of any kind is a dangerous person. Not in the sense that they will commit a violent crime, but in the way that they are promoting censorship.
Yes, censorship. It should be a dirty word to anyone who loves to read. To me, censorship is a far dirtier concept than anything any of the Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television represent.
I actually think that Austen might enjoy the new renditions of her work. It was after all, a commentary on the behavior of high society during her time. She would probably be tickled with the idea of her works being "modernized" for current times, with new commentary on society (because zombies actually are a representation of our modern societal attitudes). I'm not sure she would appreciate the fact that men were the ones who had a hand in it. In fact, I think she'd be downright livid at that point. Because men already have their greedy paws on everything.
That being said, I am concerned for the well-being of the classics. My hopes is that people will read the originals along with the reCULTured Classics (see that, I just coined a phrase there). The classics are beloved or hated across generations of readers. This is a positive thing regardless of the reaction because it becomes a shared cornerstone. We can use it to judge our intellectual equals, friends, potential mates and spouses, and conversation sparring partners. For instance, I love telling people I hate Hemingway. And Faulkner. And Salinger. And F. Scott Fitzgerald. Then I love seeing their faces when I tell them one of my favorite classics is the love-to-be-hated The Scarlet Letter. Good conversation usually follows.
I am concerned that the only conversation regarding the classics will be between those who have read the originals (possibly along with the new ones) versus those who have only read the reCULTured versions. It worries me because, when it comes down to it, the people who have read the originals will be better informed. It's the same principle as knowing your Bible stories, regardless of your religion. It's a major foundation of our culture, so the more/better you know the easier it is to put important literature into context.
It's part of the reason I think Literature and History should be taught together. Why the hell would anyone care about the huge chunks of whaling in Moby Dick until they realize that what Herman Melville is doing is preserving the history and culture of whaling in New England for future generations. That is why it is the first American novel, because it so well demonstrates a facet of uniquely American life.
Still, I'm wondering when when we'll start seeing The Tell-tale Heart of Kittens. Poe would be pissed. What reCULTured classic would you like to see? Even if it's not in public domain yet.