Art imitates art

Herman Melville’s pompous dictum, “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation,” notwithstanding, I love retellings of great stories.  From Marion Zimmer Bradley’s wonderful The Mists of Avalon to Michael Cunningham’s The Hours to Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (some of my favorites) it’s hard for me not to see the possibilities for retelling in a book or play or television series or film that I especially enjoyed.  Of course, the closer a work is to classic status, the easier it is to imagine a modern spin—in part because the author is probably long dead and unable to complain that zombies and werewolves have been inserted into their 19th century storyline.

This  Flavorwire post got me thinking about what books would benefit from a new retelling.  Madame Bovary as a Real Housewife of New Jersey, anyone?  Moby Dick with spaceships and a lot less talk about whale fat rendering?  A Tale of Two Cities set in the present-day Middle East?

What are your favorite retellings and which stories would you like to see retold?

4 Responses to Art imitates art

  1. Ciara says:

    I recently really enjoyed Ash by Malinda Lo, but I can’t think of a classic story that hasn’t been retold in some way.

  2. Sarah Ahiers says:

    ooh i LOVE me some Mists Of Avalon! And also, i’d read all of those classics retold.
    I’d be totally down with a 3 Musketeers retelling as well

  3. When I was a bit younger–well, and still continuing to the modern day–I really enjoyed Robin McKinley’s retellings of fairy tales. She didn’t really update them so much as delve deeper into the characters’ heads and try to strengthen the women. But come to think of it, I love most retellings of fairy tales. There’s something about taking archetypes and stock characters and fleshing them out that appeals to me.

  4. Laura Irrgang says:

    I’d enjoy seeing a modern day interpretation of Shakespeare’s “Tempest”. I would like to see it told from Ariel’s perspective, but with him/her as a somewhat unreliable narrator. Ariel’s gender could be played with, also. I think portraying the piece as a psychological thriller would be fun. Questioning Prospero’s sanity and examining Ariel’s motives would be fascinating. Think of it as unholy mix of Chuck Palahniuk’s “Invisible Monsters” and Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” and the original “Tempest”. I’d buy it.

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