Remastering Classic Literature


In many of my blog writings I tend to, not always intentionally, compare aspects of books with those of movies and music. For me, these three mediums interweave themselves in most of my daily activities. I enjoy reading not only books but also reviews of books, as well as those of films and music.

Now as no one in Hollywood seems to have any original ideas anymore, many of the recent releases are either remakes of classics, or films that are ‘re-loaded’ (what does that even mean, anyway??) or are blatantly ripping off others with no shame whatsoever.

The same is true with music, especially pop music. As a kid growing up I was always hearing how the latest no.1 was ‘nowhere near as good as the original’ or ‘how can they cover that?’ or ‘that is sacrilege’. I never really agreed, though, the originals didn’t seem much better, if anything they just sounded a little more old fashioned. But this is still going on these days, and although I’d never say I prefer that 80s pop classic to a recent boy band’s rendition of it, I appreciate where my relatives were coming from back then.

If they don’t full-on cover the song, there’s hundreds of examples of riffs and melodies stolen and sampled to make a sing-along hit for the kids en masse. But I’m not complaining about this, in fact I find it entertaining as my music (metal, mellow to brutal, if you’re asking) seems to still be going to strength beyond strength (that’s a Pantera reference there, by the way). Anyway, I digress.

So on to books. You don’t see authors remaking classic books, or ‘re-loading’ them (ugh, why do I keep saying that?), or stealing an idea and repeating it over and over again, do you? What’s the difference with books? I suppose it’s because the written word has been enjoyed for far longer than any other forms of entertainment. Well, entertainment you can own I mean, I know theatre’s been going on for a while, too.

But could things ever change, and not in a detrimental way? What am I talking about?

In the last 20 years or so (I think?), the art of recording music has changed dramatically thanks to the digital age. There are hundreds of great sounds and records that could have sounded much better had those musicians had access to the technology so readily available now. How many albums have been remastered with more emphasis on the drums, or the bass turned up, or the guitar sound tinkered with to bring the tunes more to the forefront in the mix? Loads, that’s how many. There are albums from my youth that I still love to this day that I wish would be remastered so I could enjoy them all over again, in a different way. And if I didn’t like the new sound? It’s OK, I still have the original.

How about this same principle with books? Woah, OK I know what it sounds like, but hear me out. I’m not saying this should be done, but I’m just putting it out there.

A band will never produce what they feel is a ‘perfect’ album, a photographer will never take the ‘perfect’ picture, so can an author ever write a ‘perfect’ book? No, of course not. I’m sure many a successful author flicks through that first edition copy of their latest bestseller and cringes at the scene that they remembered having to rush through when writing it. If only they could go back and do it again.

If only they could re-do that character’s backstory to make the final scene more harrowing, or more emotionally-exhilarating, or whatever. Maybe they held back on aspects of the story that, once published, they realised they should have gone with their gut and included them. But once it’s out there, it’s too late.

OK, so Chuck Palahniuk sort did this with his novel Invisible Monsters Remix, granted. But how about classic books where the writer is now dead? Would it be a disgraceful dis-service to broach the subject of re-writing, say, Dracula, for example? NO NO NOOOO!!! I hear you cry, and I do sort of agree. But using the Dracula example, come on, it does get kind of boring towards the end as they chase that dastardly vampire across Europe. When Van Helsing gets involved and Dracula visits Lucy, I honestly wanted the book to never end. But a bit later on? Meh.


So how about the ending of this novel was re-done, or remastered as it were? There are many superb writers out there who could do a more than decent job creating a new twist to the ending. Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Carlton Mellick III, what could they do to the classic Dracula, whilst still leaving it as Dracula, just a new age cover version of it?

And that’s what I’m sort of getting at. I don’t mean writing a ‘…For Dummies’ version, just a literary re-working, or re-mastering. It’s like a new band covering a classic song or album and putting their own unique twist on it. Not like a band who blatantly rip off an older band, without the decency to admit it.

Classic books will forever be remembered as such, but with a bit of tinkering could they be improved and enjoyed afresh. I’m sure that purists will be enraged at this sacrilege, though. Even me. I suppose if someone tried to do this to my favourite books I too may be screaming at their lack of respect and heading straight to the nearest review section to tell the world how disgusted I am with it. Surely it would be more productive and pleasing for the readers to read a story inspired by a classic?

So now I’m disagreeing with my earlier sentiments, which shows how divisive this whole idea could be. Or maybe I’m more closed-minded than I thought when I began writing this.

Oh well, it’s something to think about, I suppose. Or something to blog about. Yeah, probably that last one.


Photo credit: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: Marxchivist via Visualhunt / CC BY

Categories: writing

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3 replies

  1. I think this would be a great idea! CMIII re-imagining one of the “classics” would be something I’d definitely buy! Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I admire the classics because of their beautiful (sometimes overly flamboyant) language but I must admit that they are getting irrelevant in some aspects. I mean, women these days don’t faint as much as the books of old claimed nor are they as submissive as they used to be. And every book does not have to include the church and high minded ideals these days. Even fairytales are getting old and only generating stereotypes. So rewriting them, at least to make them seem relevant to us, would not be a bad idea. Anyway, the original versions could be, rather should be preserved for those who wish to read them.

    Liked by 1 person

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