Tuesday, May 17, 2011

(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?

32 comments:

kris... said...

Love Pooh bear, love the hundred acre woods story. I didn't know there was a rewrite, though. If it's not broken, why fix it? Kind of like Charlie Brown, the new ones just aren't the same.

Jane and Chris said...

Leave well alone!
Jane x

Leckeres für Mensch und Katze - Goodies for a pleasant life said...

Few weeks ago Winnie the Pooh was in cinema here :) I saw the preview. It must have been a nice film.

EG Wow said...

I'm against rewrites by anyone other than the original author. It reminds me of when I was a little girl and my made my bed. Then my mother came along and made it better. I was hurt and insulted.

Roger Owen Green said...

It REALLY depends on the quality of the rewrite. Most of the Grimm fairy tales are far less GRIM (toes cut off to fit in the glass slipper, e.g.)

I'm not a purist, but it seems some works (Gone with the Wind) should have been left alone. Yet, even the Disneyfication of, say Pinnochio can direct people to the source material.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Kay L. Davies said...

No doubt of the answer here. No, leave the Hundred Acre Wood alone. No telling what trouble otters (much as I love otters) might do to AA Milne's balance of nature.
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Berowne said...

kris: "Kind of like Charlie Brown, the new ones just aren't the same."
The same could be said of Charlie Sheen. :-)

Berowne said...

"Leckeres für Mensch und Katze"
You translate the name of your blog as "Goodies for a pleasant life."
I'd prefer a more literal translation: "Delicacies for Man and Cat," a terrific blog title. :-)

Berowne said...

K L Davies: "No telling what trouble otters (much as I love otters) might do."
So your message is, "You otter leave it alone"?

Joy said...

Once read never forgotten. There seems to be a trend for writing new versions of long dead authors works in recent years. I say don't do it, there are new voices to be discovered out there.

helenmac said...

I think this would have been called plagiarism if we had submitted it to an English professor, once upon a time!

hocam said...

I agree. Leave well enough alone. I used to love reading my mum's old books. Different langauge used in the 30's only added to the fun.

Meryl said...

Great post and great question. I agree that it depends on the rewrite. What I like though are rewrites with clever twists and takes. Not a continuation and not a re-telling as much as a clever retwisting with a very different lens.

That's my opinion.

Hildred and Charles said...

Pooh's corner is new to each generation that comes along, - delightful when first written and delightful still.

Tumblewords: said...

At this moment, I'm of the opinion the old can stand on their own. Tomorrow I may change my mind. I have some old originals and a few rewrites and seem to prefer the originals, but they are threadbare.

HyperCRYPTICal said...

I'm in agreement with ROG in that Disneyfication, etc does lead a child to the wonderful book. As for rewrites - No - leave well alone.

Anna :o]

jane said...

In my opinion it is sheer 'sacrilege' to rewrite any classic book - ok remake into a film is ok for me - but I love books so I would always prefer the original story

Jarvis said...

Winnie the Pooh was huge. My kid brother was obsessed.

Berowne said...

Meryl: "Great post and great question."
Thanks for the encouraging comment, Meryl.

sharplittlepencil said...

Interestingly enough, J.K. Rowling already does two "Harry Potter" volumes - one with lots of Brit vernacular, the other with more American language. She does her best to put in "you lot" and other expressions to help American kids "get their Brit on," though. Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/twofer-damp-laundry-haiku-rank/

Berowne said...

s l pencil: ...two "Harry Potter" volumes - one with lots of Brit vernacular, the other with more American language.
I hadn't realized there was a "limejuice" version and an "orange juice" version. :-)
Interesting.

jabblog said...

There's no point in rewriting a well-written classic - it simply shows that the author can write in the same 'voice' as the original author. However, I do think 'prequels' (horrible word) and sequels can be quite illuminating.

Elizabeth said...

No, No, No...other creatures and writers just confuse Christopher and Eeyore and as we all know that Pooh is a bear of 'very little brain' such action could send him down a hole too small in search of a little something and then where will we be, Tiddley Pom. Need to go on a heffalump and woozle hunt to clear the ridiculous notion out of my head now... x

Sue J said...

I don't think they need rewrites, but they do need explaining. I read some poems of AA Milne to my granddaughter's class and the teacher wanted to know why King John wanted 'a big, red, India rubber ball' for Christmas. Plastic had not been invented when the poem was written! I had to explain some of the language used too. Nice Magpie.

vivinfrance said...

Sacrilege, and unnecessary to boot. AA must be squirming in his grave. The timeless originals are part of the childhood memories of 4 generations of children.

kaykuala said...

I'm all for the original that remains pure and 'undisturbed'. Rewrites are bland and can't stand on their own.

Stafford Ray said...

Bringing an author 'back to life' is a crass way to squeeze a few more bucks out of his readers. Recently I bought what was touted as John Grisham. The first sentence: "Pumpkin head took six slugs to the brain" or something similar and the whole book went on in the same vein... clearly written by someone else to cash in on J G's amazing reputation! And as far as I know he is not dead yet! Mmmmm.. seems he is must have commissioned it, being too busy to do it himself. A pox on both their houses.

ds said...

I trust that when you read the Pooh stories to your children you kept the Capital Letters intact; it is of Utmost Importance (just ask Owl):)

No, they should leave the Hundred Acre Wood just the way Milne did, "where a Boy and his Bear will always be playing."

Kathe W. said...

oh my gosh- oh bother...no one should touch a hair on Pooh's head let alone re-write what is already wonderful.
Bah! Off with his head...oops wrong book. I'll just go eat some more Hunny.

oldegg said...

You didn't mention copyright and whether we have some let's get rich people are making money out of an established author. Writing is supposed to be creative and enriching both for the writer and the reader. I agree with amendments to the original words to make them relevant or politically correct but to introduce new characters is unforgivable. Great post.

Old Altonian said...

I do not agree with re-writes in any shape or form - period!

Olive Tree said...

I have mixed feelings about re-writes too, but here's a thought, we re-make old, classic songs all the time. I'm not a fictional writer or a song maker, so I'm mentioning this just for a thought.

 
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