Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Classic Rewrites for a Modern Reader

The American novelist Gillian Flynn has been signed up to rewrite Shakespeare's Hamlet. This comes courtesy of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, in which modern writers are being commissioned to re-write classic works. They claim the series is "for contemporary readers." You know, I always thought that the joy of Shakespeare was in the depth, complexity and beauty of his writing. Wanting to simplify it for modern-day readers, supposedly so much better educated than any other generation since the year dot, seems ludicrous.
Are publishers so desperate for revenue that they will stoop to this?

So far, this is the list of re-writes:
Scandinavian bestseller Jo Nesbo ~ Macbeth
Margaret Atwood ~ The Tempest 
Tracy Chevalier ~ Othello
Howard Jacobson ~ The Merchant of Venice
Anne Tyler ~ The Taming of the Shrew
Jeanette Winterson ~ The Winter's Tale.
It follows a trend set by The Austen Project which paired six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works: Sense & Sensibility ~ Joanna Trollope; Northanger Abbey ~ Val McDermid; Pride & Prejudice ~ Curtis Sittenfeld; Emma ~ Alexander McCall Smith. 

The new Shakespeare series will launch in 2016 to mark the 400th anniversary of his death. I understand Shakespeare himself is believed to have drawn from retellings of the Norse legend of Amleth, from around the 13th century) so maybe he won't mind if someone rewrites his play, but I can't help feeling that these long-dead authors - if they feel anything like authors today - will be searching for their scalping knives and planning a mass, if ghostly, visitation.


Jen Black said...

Margaret Scott Chrisawn said: As I have said ad nauseam--the alleged "modern reader" has the attention span of a gnat and the intellect of a fruit fly, or so publishers would have us believe. On the other hand, judging by glowing reviews of some books in their generally worthless and historically incorrect brevity, they may be right., Since I never bothered with the Austen Project, I'll be sitting this one out as well. Pablum for the masses

Jen Black said...

Sad, though, don't you think?

Jen Black said...

Sarah Lingle said: Hmm.

Amelia Pasch said: They may do as they please but I won't be reading it and I'll bet I'm not the only one. What the f.... was wrong with the original?

Michael Brain said: in the same manner I never wanted to read Digests.
1 hr · Like

Jen Black said...

People comment on this blog when it appears on Facebook, so I transfer the comments here if I have time. Just in case anyone is wondering what is going on....