Stories Retold

I’ve been busy lately writing/working on the yard now that it’s warm outside/reading research books, but I just finished reading an absolutely terrific new novel, The Great Night, Chris Adrian’s San Francisco-set, modern retelling of Midsummer Night’s Dream. (I knew I had to read it when I came across a review that said “Events turn ever wackier, ever more sinister and seductive, as Adrian’s narrative spins outward from its Bard-based core to its near-hard-core bawdy apogee, in which both the mortals and the underworld fairies engage in phantasmagorically depicted sexual, familial, ancient, childhood, professional, and political debaucheries-cum-memories-cum-dreams-run-amok.” Also, that the modern “rude mechanicals” stage a musical-theater version of the movie Soylent Green. I was not disappointed.

Reading this book (and Diane’s classic-lit post yesterday) had me wondering what other modern-day retellings are out there. There are tons of movie reworkings, of course (like Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, the wonderful BBC “Shakespeare Re-Told” films, Bride and Prejudice, and, er, Gnomeo and Juliet), and I’m sure there are far more books out there than I can thinkof. But here are a few I found:

Jane Austen is big for this sort of thing. I really enjoyed Paula Marantz Cohen’s Jane Austen in Boca (P&P in the retirement community, where Lizzy is a retired librarian) and Jane Austen in Scarsdale (Peruasion in the suburbs, where the Anne character is a high school guidance counselor reunited with her girlhood sweetheart). There is Cathleen Schine’s The Three Weissmanns of Westport (Sense and Sensibility), and the YA novel by Kristina Springer, The Esperessologist (Emma as barista, who can match people up according to the coffeees they drink).

YA actually seems to have a lot of adaptation titles. There is (among many others) Troy High by Shana Norris (The Iliad as football rivalry), and many Shakespeare stories, especially ones based on Romeo and Juliet.

And there’s always Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, Virginia Woolfe’s Mrs. Dalloway in 3 interlocking stories.

What is your favorite adaptation, either book or movie? What story would you like to see adaptated to a modern setting–or what would you definitely not like to see??

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11 years ago

Jean Rhys’ “Wide Sargasso Sea”, the story told from the POV of Mr. Rochester’s wife before she wound up in that attic is a classic of the “classic stories retold” genre.

11 years ago

I adore retellings of older stories. My favorite is Persuading Annie by Melissa Nathan. It is obviously Persuasion and I simply adore it.

Recently I watched Aisha which is the Bollywood version of Emma. You have to watch it with subtitles, but it is charming. It made me realize that out of all Austen’s heroines I’m actually Emma, which I would have never guessed. Unfortunately I don’t have a Mr. Knightly waiting in the wings for me.

As for stories I’d like to see in a modern setting….well I have a thing for the 12 Dancing Princesses and would love to see more modern tellings. I know they exist. I have a few, but I’m always up for more.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
11 years ago

One of my favorites is of course, Bridget Jone’s Diary, although I wish she had stopped after the first one. I too love Paula Maratz-Cohen’s retelling of Jane Austen, and I love both Persuading Annie and her first book which takes on P&P. Bride & Prejudice definitely in film. Also Wide Sargasso Sea but I’ve only seen the 2 film adaptations.

Janet Mullany
11 years ago

I’ve just read The Three Weissmans of Westport, wonderful book!

I reread Wide Sargosso Sea a year or so ago and was disappointed in it–author’s voice throughout, and although it was a lovely voice I wanted to “hear” Bertha/Rochester. Great idea, though!

Chris Adrian’s book sounds great.

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

How about O Brother Where Art Thou? starring George Clooney?

When it came out I was talking about it with my son, a high school student at the time and no great reader. He said, “Well, Mom, you know it is the Odyssey.”

Duh. After he said it, I could see. The sirens. The cyclops. The oracle. EverettUlysses McGill

(I did read the Odyssey in my day, by the way)

Jane George
11 years ago

Clueless! The movie follows Austen’s Emma pretty faithfully, well, in essentials, lol.

Louisa Cornell
11 years ago

I LOVED O Brother Where Art Thou ! Thoroughly enjoyed it. And I have a real soft spot in my heart for West Side Story as it was one of my very first performances in musical theater in high school.

And Ever After is one of my favorite adaptations of the Cinderella story.

Ten Things I Hate About You is another favorite. Heath Ledger was so good in it!

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

I remember reading “Wide Sargasso Sea” in high school, when I was on a “feminist lit” reading fit, and I remember liking it but not much about it (though I did like the movie version a lot!). I was mostly thinking of “classic lit in modern settings” but maybe next week I should do “sequels and minor characters”…

Rachel, I adore Bollywood movies! And they do seem to use Jane Austen a lot, don’t they? I guess it shows the universality of her themes

11 years ago

A very recent adaptation in YA is BEASTLY. I was interested in the book and it hit the movies before I got to it. It looks interesting. The Beauty And The Beast is my favorite story line, so I am always looking for variations.

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Librarypat, I read “Beastly” and really enjoyed it! (I’ve been on a YA reading fit for the last several months). Didn’t see the movie, it looked–weird (in the book he actually turns into a real beast, hairy, claws, the works. In the movie he has tattoos all over his face and that’s supposed to make him beastly???).

I also did enjoy “The Espressologist”–I loved the idea that the Emma character could match people up according to their favorite coffees…

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