Here's an interesting response to yesterday's post:
Am I wrong in calling some of these hints “parasites”? I kind of resent the pieces that couldn’t exist without someone else’s work. Without the Gorgon myth, “Before Perseus” is meaningless, but okay, a myth has no author. The worst is the Mamatas piece which creates nothing on its own, but trades entirely on Beckett’s play. He’s got no story of his own, just Beckett’s, which he trivializes.
I never heard of the term "parasites" before but I guess it makes sense, in a way. Not that I agree that the stories in the collection are in fact parasites. They, like all good literary re-imaginings, bring something new and unique to the table. Yes, Nick Mamatas's piece relies solely on Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, but so what? Yes, some fun is had in the piece at Beckett's expense, but I don't think it trivializes the play. If anything, I think Beckett would have gotten a good chuckle out of the story if he were alive today and read it. Either that or become insanely angry and order a fatwa on the author's head.
Still, the term "parasites" got me thinking about other books that rely on famous literary classics. Like Grendal by John Gardner, or March by Geraldine Brooks, or Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, or, most recently, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. The list goes on and on. Are they, to an extent, being parasitic? Each, I believe, brings something new and unique to the table. Each uses a famous literary work as a starting off point and builds from there.
But what about other books that exist merely to capitalize on literary classics?
The most recent is the unauthorized Catcher in the Rye sequel which has once again found its way back into the spotlight. The author's intent, in my opinion at least, was to simply make some money off an already famous classic (though, let's be honest here, fewer and fewer people are reading Catcher in the Rye anymore). It's like someone writing a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, telling the story of Scout forty years later, where she, no doubt, lives in an top-floor apartment in a big city with two dozen cats and shoots at mockingbirds with a BB gun for sport.
Of course, the most parasitic trend going on right now are the zombie mashups. Look, while I have no desire to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I have to hand it to Seth Grahame-Smith and the people at Quirk Books for coming up with a brillant concept. But it should have just been left at that. Except no, we have to beat a dead horse (or zombie horse) because why the hell not? That's why now it seems nearly every public domain novel is fodder for a zombie retelling. The worst of the bunch are those that don't even understand the concept of a mashup. The idea here is to take two completely different genres and put them together, but now you have books in the same genre mashed up (one in particular was released in bookstores not so long ago). It's like the author thought, Hmm, this is already a horror story, but maybe if I added zombies, it would make it even more horrorer (sic).
No, numbskull, it makes it boring and unoriginal and makes you nothing more than a hack.
P.S. With all this hoopla over the "cleansed" version of Huckleberry Finn, someone should write a novel from Jim's point of view, maybe his life years later, and call it N-word Jim ... but, you know, actually use the real word. Now that title there, that will sell books. Anybody want to take the ball and run with it, go right ahead. Just make sure you mention me in the acknowledgements.