(For Writer's Island, ABC Wednesday and Sunday Scribblings)
“R” is for “Rewrite”
I always enjoyed reading “Winnie the Pooh” to my kids; it gave me a chance to act out the parts.
They’ve grown past Winnie the Pooh age now and would no longer be interested, but when they were small they got a kick out of such readings. Eeyore was easy; you just dropped your voice an octave or so and added overtones of melancholia and weltschmerz. Pooh, humble and naïve, wasn’t difficult either. Piglet’s lines were delivered in a higher register as he was lively and full of spirit.
So I was interested indeed to read that A A Milne has published a new book of the series: “Return to the Hundred Acre Wood.”
Seemed a bit odd since A A Milne died a half-century or so ago.
Turns out that it’s a new book in the series all right, but it’s by someone else, David Benedictus. If you’ve got to do a rewrite of a classic, his is the way to do it. He has done a remarkable job of capturing the tone, the voice, the spirit of the original work; he doesn't try to jazz it up or put some sizzle into the style. And the new illustrator does the same. You’d swear the pictures in the new book are by Ernest Shepard, the original artist who turned Milne’s creatures into world-famous icons.
But there’s a question.
Does a great classic need a rewrite? Why? After all, the original stories are available to today’s youngest generation. True, today's kids get interested early on in all kinds of digital gadgets and gizmos; they probably get around to the real Pooh characters a little later than we did, but better late than never, ss the saying goes.
The only change in the new version is this: there’s a Pooh Corner newcomer. Lottie the Otter tries to fit in with the other critters.
They’ve done all kinds of rewrites over the years. “Peter Pan” was recreated in this way, and of course there was a kerfuffle when a rewrite of “Gone With the Wind” was published.
What’s your opinion? Should they have left the “Hundred-Acre Wood” alone, or is it a good idea to come up with a new, well-done rewrite of the stories?
1 year ago