Books · Movies

The same old story?

Have you ever had to read the same book over and over again?

I must have been assigned Hamlet at least 3 times before I graduated from college…not that it isn’t worth revisiting the classics.  I just prefer new spins and variations on a theme.grendel

Take for example Beowulf.  I love it, really, I’m probably the only one who never complained about having to read it AGAIN. But isn’t it always a little more interesting to hear the story from another perspective?  And a lot of times villains are much more interesting characters than heroes.  John Gardner’s Grendel is not the dark, scary, one-note monster you remember.  This Grendel (although still a monster) is a fully developed character with thoughts and reasons to fuel his actions.  If you didn’t have to read it for school you should check it out.


King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies–it’s a good play and also ranks high on the tragedy-meter.  There’s not much funny about a King dividing his kingdom based on which daughter loves him most and the ensuing calamity of the decision.

Or is there?

Enter Christopher Moore.  Moore’s latest novel, Fool, retells King Lear using the same  warped sense of humor you might remember from such novels as You Suck: A Love Story.  In this version King Lear’s jester, Pocket, takes over the duty of narrator.  Tragedy has never been this funny.

And of course the list goes on once you take into account new settings for old stories.
Jane Smiley’s Pultizer Prize winning A Thousand Acres is King Lear set on an Iowa Farm.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski is Hamlet set in Wisconsin, with a dog.
And my personal favorite:
West Side Story is really Romeo & Juliet, only with better dance numbers.

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