Writers needlessly recreate literary classics
It often feels as if the heads of the media empire spend the majority of their afternoons lounging languidly in their plush office chairs, staring out a window while remembering the good ol’ days. After all, the entertainment business reached its height many years ago. Right?
How else can we explain this unrelenting surge in the creation of mediocre remakes and sequels to beloved classics? Bad sequels are nothing new in Hollywood. Hello, Terminator: Salvation, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and just about every other film with a long-winded title released in the tired months of summer.
We all expect the overpaid executives in Hollywood to dig desperately around in our pockets to extract our loose change. What was not anticipated, however, was that the titans of the book industry would take drastic and sudden moves to follow suit.
Sequels of novels are to be expected; in fact, many series require multiple books to tell their sweeping tales. But when a series is raised from the dead many years after the passing of its original author, the fresh creativity that made the original so popular begins to sour.
Recently, many beloved and critically acclaimed book series have been given new life by those seeking to profit from the original author’s brilliance.
Many readers in our generation are familiar with Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Eight years after Adams’ death, author Eoin Colfer of the Artemis Fowl series has been given permission by Adams’ estate to write And Another Thing… Why bother? No matter how good the book is, it is simply not the same.
In addition, the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker, Dacre Stoker, has teamed up with Ian Holt (a Dracula documentarian) to create a sequel to Bram’s timeless novel Dracula, titled Dracula the Un-Dead.
The timing of the book’s release is suspiciously convenient, considering our current cultural obsession with vampires made popular by Twilight and True Blood.
There seems to be no reason to create a sequel to this literary staple, except perhaps to capitalize on the appeal of vampires and turn a predictably hefty profit. After all, Stoker’s last name automatically lends the novel the weight of authority, whether the book is any good or not.
Perhaps the most upsetting sequel rip-off arrived just a couple weeks ago. Dutton Children’s Books released the first authorized sequel to A.A. Milne’s iconic Winnie the Pooh series, which were first published in the 1920s. The book is titled, Return to the Hundred Acre Wood.
There is an inherent sanctity in classic works such as the stories of beloved little Pooh bear, and they should not be tampered with. The series was a symbol of its time, the imaginings of an individual author who sought to capture a spirit of his culture that ending up resonating with millions.
Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but no matter how eager new scribe David Benedictus may be in his attempt to recreate Milne’s tone, it will never be the same. Lightning does not strike the same place twice.
The fact that the new book tries so desperately to recreate the spirit of the original is what makes it so unpalatable. Benedictus, you are not Milne. Go back to writing your own books.
Artists should not be striving to benefit from the work of others. They should be seeking out new stories, new concepts and new ways of expressing them. Our culture cannot hope to reach new heights by running through the same material over and over, hoping that it will somehow achieve timely artistic influence by rehashing the works of those before us.
Real artists do not recycle. They create. These books became icons because of their authors’ originality – we need to make sure we will have new influential works of our own to pass down future generations.
Amy Baack is a senior majoring in cinema-television production.