Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Book Sacrifice Tag

     I saw this tag a little while ago and thought it was a really interesting idea...but I was busy and wasn't sure I wanted to tackle an entire post flambéing my most-hated novels because, let's face it, people get vicious when books they love are under attack. Did I really want to be open to a deluge of hate in the comment section? (By the way...I am not against book-burning on principle. There are terrible books that deserve a flaming death of judgment and punishment. Rotten stories are not somehow sacred just because someone typed them up on a piece of paper.) Anyway, then Suzannah did it and she seemed to survive the experience, so I stole the tag from her.

#1: An Over-Hyped Book

Situation: You are in a bookstore when the zombies attack.  Over the loudspeakers you hear the military announce that over-hyped books are the zombies' only weakness.  What over-hyped book will you chuck at the zombies?

Wuthering Heights

     I'm not sure if this book is over-hyped, exactly (the phrase makes me think more of a million-dollar book franchise that's become a household name and spawned a series of badly acted but high budget movies) but it's definitely well-known in the classic novel arena. It's well loved by many, which I find difficult to understand, and held up by some as the perfect stormy romance with the epitome of the tortured hero, which I find even harder to grasp. (In the novel's defense, I don't think that's the meaning of the book at all). I tried to appreciate it and the story it had to tell because sometimes books use unlikable characters and bad situations in a way that works, but I hated nearly every moment of this reading experience. Steam was perpetually coming out of my ears and fists were occasionally clenched. If there was a way to reach through the pages and commit literary murder, I would have strangled Heathcliff before we'd gotten 1/4 of the way through.The only thing that made this book bearable was that it was told from a story-within-a-story format, so I imagined that I was being told a horror story on a cold and dreary night, with wind howling in the distance.

*SPOILER* And also I cheered when Heathcliff died *END OF SPOILER*

#2: A Sequel

Situation: You are caught in a torrential downpour and you're probably the type who melts when you get wet.  What sequel are you willing to use as an umbrella to protect yourself?


    Little Women and Me

    So maybe this book shouldn't count on a number of levels because it's not a sequel, exactly, and I also haven't exactly read it (or at least, the whole thing- I picked it up in the library and ended up skimming it until the end). Basically it's about a girl named Emily  who gets an assignment to write about one thing she would change in a classic novel. She picks Little Women, and somehow gets magically transported into the novel where she tries to prevent Beth from dying and make sure Jo ends up with Laurie.

     Yes, I understand there are people who think Laurie and Jo should have ended up together. I do not count among the number. I could write an essay on why the two of them are completely wrong for each other, why Jo made the right decision, and why Professor Bhaer is actually awesome, but I'll save it for another time. I assumed from the beginning that Emily would come to realize that Lousia May Alcott knew what she was doing when she ended the book the way she did. BUT NO. After her experience wrecking havoc throughout 1860s Concord, Emily comes back to our world and writes her paper and explains why she thinks the two of them should end up together and gets a bad grade because, SURPRISE Jo and Laurie *do* end up together because she "fixed" the book while she was in it or something. ??? I'm sorry, the book wasn't broken in the first place. UGH I GET ENRAGED JUST THINKING ABOUT IT.

#3: A Classic

Situation: You're in English class and your professor won't stop going on about a classic that "revolutionized literature". Personally you think the classic is garbage and you decide to express your opinion by hurling the book at his head.  What classic is that?


The Call of the Wild

     I slugged through this one either in late middle school or early high school, and I don't remember much of it because I may have been half asleep from boredom. I've heard a lot of Christians don't like Jack London because of his worldview. Is this true? I don't know. I was more turned off due to the fact it was about a dog.

#4: A Least Favorite Book

Situation: You're hanging out at a bookstore (where else would you be?) when global warming somehow manages to to turn the whole world into a frozen wasteland.  Naturally, your only hope of survival is to burn a book.  Which book would you not regret tossing into the fire?



     I am especially bitter about this one because the first couple of chapters are actually well-written and they tricked me into thinking the book was going to be good.

     It wasn't.

     Supposedly Pride and Prejudice told from the servants point of view, this had the potential of being a really great book. Unfortunately, the original novel's characters were shown in a constantly negative light, it's littered with crude references and a postmodern view of history, and WHY DO YOU HATE ON MY FAV CHARACTERS, JO BAKER? WHY? I was so disgusted with this one that I didn't even finish it.

#5: A Series

Situation: There's a flooded stream you have to cross on your quest and you can't get your feet wet. Which series (oh yeah, btw, you brought your whole bookshelf and also probably the local library with you) will you use as stepping stones?


The Austen Project (mainly Sense and Sensibility)

     I didn't know how to answer this question, because generally if a book is bad, why would I read the rest of the series? There are definitely duds in the many series that I've read, but not enough to chuck out the whole lot of them. And I've read plenty of mediocre series that were insipid but not maddening enough to really fit on here.

     And then I remembered.

     The Austen Project is a series of Austen re-writes by different authors, setting Jane Austen's novels in the present day. A little iffy in concept, I admit, but I was willing to give it a chance. So I read Sense and Sensibility. Nope-ety nope nope nope. From its strange adherence to plot points that didn't work in the modern day and disregard of the moral core of the original, to its unlikable characters and in-your-face inclusion of technology, it was a disaster. I haven' read the other subsequent books in the series, but just from their blurbs and the reviews I've read, I don't think they are any better. The Pride and Prejudice rewrite, Eligible, looks particularly appalling. In our world, apparently modern = steeped in sin. If you believe in ghosts, don't. Because if they truly existed, then Jane Austen would have risen from her grave by now and hit all of these authors with her reticule. Or maybe stabbed them with her pen.


     I answered each question on this tag as it came, but now looking over it, there is a definite pattern. If you learn anything from this post, let it be that you should not attempt to "fix" beloved classic literature. IT'S A BAD IDEA. DON'T DO IT.

     That's all.


Emily Chapman said...

I appreciate this to the core, because yes - YOU DO NOT REWRITE CLASSIC LITERATURE. And I completely agree with you when it comes to Jo and Laurie. Louisa May Alcott thoroughly understood that Laurie and Jo just were NOT right for each other.

Speaking of typical responses to Little Women ... I am hugely passionate about Amy's character and how she grows, and it bothers me when I find her portrayed in negative or childish lights. Amy grew into a gentle, wise woman, and oftentimes play adaptions or discussions tend to forget or ignore that.

As you can see, I get really passionate about Little Women too. Anyway. This tag was so good, and now I'm all fired up about defending the classics. ;)

Hamlette said...

Oh my goodness, yes -- I read Longbourn, and I wished I owned the copy so I could burn it. But it belonged to the library, so I didn't.

Abbey said...

I have a really funny picture in my head of someone in a zombie attack chucking Wuthering Heights at the offenders. I enjoyed that book, but my copy of it is hefty enough to kill a zombie, so I would probably sacrifice it, too.
Goodness, that Little Women book sounds awful. Professor Bhaer is one of my favorite characters!

mistycorners said...

YES about Little Women and Me. It's funny, that's how I came across it too. I was in a library killing time and there was a familiar sounding name, so I read the first couple chapters, then skimmed, then put it down. I liked the idea, because entering a book world would be AWESOME, but messing with the :(

I really enjoyed reading through this post!


Suzannah said...

Ha! I love it. Yes, I'm noticing a theme as well :D

Lady Nefertankh said...

These questions (and your answers!) are hilarious :D I am definitely going to have do this meme in the near future.

Let's see...
1. Wuthering Heights is a book on my to-read list, so no opinions yet but I have heard that viewing it as a "romance" is not a wise idea.

2. Though I know a lot of people "expect" Jo and Laurie to wind up together, in a way...I think it's good they didn't, I think it mirrors real life, how the person that people "expect" they will marry, might even date and like romantically at one point, isn't the one they're meant to spend their life with. Yes it can be a bit disappointing, but that's how life IS sometimes.

3. I liked Call of the Wild when I was a little girl (elementary school) because I was going through a phase of life where animals seemed more fun to read about than humans! But if I had been expecting a novel centering on human characters, then yes, perhaps I would have been disappointed as well. Never heard anything strong either way about Jack London's religious views before now!

4. Oh no, I actually started reading the first chapter of this at the library and thought it was really interesting! Though yes, the servants' view of our much loved literary characters was a bit unflattering! But if it's going to be excessively negative...then maybe I won't waste my time :( . The Bennets aren't perfect, but nothing in the novel indicates they're especially cruel people. (Life for servants back then could be HORRIBLE under a cruel master or mistress, some were beaten, refused pay, sexually harrassed/assaulted, accused of thievery etc; ) Why write about Jane Austen's famous characters if you apparently dislike them so much?

5. Uh-oh, I hate most "retellings" of literary classics. I can understand fairytale retellings, because those exist in many versions. Same thing with stories inspired by plays or poems, because those exist in such a different formats, or a retelling of something like Don Quixote, because it's both so old and in a foreign language, so reading the original would be difficult for the modern reader. I can even understand novels that are openly "inspired by" Jane Austen and other great writers, and borrow an element or two. Because these amazing storytellers often DO inspire us to go forth and start writing our own stories. But I really don't see the point in "rewriting" some of the greatest novels in the English language which can be still be read by the modern reader with little effort.

That said, I don't think the ghost of Jane Austen would stab any of these foolish scribblers. I think she'd do something far worse, like mock them in scathing verse!

Lissy said...

WUTHERING HEIGHTS MUST DIE IN A HOLE!!! I do not particularly enjoy any of the books written by the Bronte sisters.

Never read Little Women and Me, thank goodness. I was oh so very disappointed with the real Little Women though. I didn't want Laurie to marry Jo, but I absolutely 206% did not want him to marry Amy. He wasn't any fun after that. Laurie was my favorite character and it broke my little ten-year-old heart when he married Amy. He was too good for her.

I also don't like Jo and professor Bhaer, but it was an easier pill to swallow than Laurie+Amy. My personal "fixed" version would have Amy finding some society airhead to marry, Jo never marries and remains Jo (I couldn't get very far into Jo's Boys because Jo didn't seem like Jo!) or at the very least she doesn't marry Professor Bhaer. Laurie goes off to India and when he comes back upon occasion he is on good terms with the March girls--and tells wild stories about hunting tigers or something--but doesn't marry any of 'em. Yes?

I liked call of the wild. I must have read it seven or eight times between the ages of nine and eleven. I loved animal stories back then. Still enjoy them, but I don't actively seek them out anymore.

Hayden said...

Emily: OH MY WORD YES. I love Amy's character growth, too! She's probably my favorite March sister after Jo, and I'm disappointed she has such an unfavorable reputation:( One day I'm going to write a big long monstrous post on all of my Little Women opinions. :)

Hamlette: haha! I had the same issue. At least it was a book neither of us had to pay for!

Abbey: Now I'm laughing at that mental picture, too! I do know a lot of people enjoy that book; it just wasn't for me. (and I love the professor, too.)

Mary: thanks! Yes, I've skimmed many a book in the library I wish I hadn't!

Suzannah: haha. I guess I just, as an author, get really upset when I think writers have ruined other author's books? It just makes me so mad!

Lady Nefertankh: thanks! I agree about classic novel rewrites. I have seen a few done well (mainly in modern-set screen adaptions) but generally they turn out pretty horribly.

Lissy: Me either! I've tried to love the Brontes, but I just can't. They are a little too emotional for me, I think. I'll have to disagree on the Little Women point though- I actually love how the story wraps up, and I think Amy turns out better in the end than a lot of people give her credit for. I will agree I never cared for the sequels as much, though. They lost something of the original, and I was always upset that they killed off John Brooke. It just seemed really unfair to poor Meg.

Lissy said...

Well, yes, I can see your point. I actually like Amy. But I don't like Laurie and Amy as a couple. Laurie's bad taste lost him his "favorite character" status. However, odd as it may seem, my favorite character, once I'd discarded poor Theodore, was Amy. It seems rather hypocritical of me to cast off my favorite character for marrying my second favorite character, but there you go. Compare me to Mrs. Ferrars if you like. I just never liked them together. I'd have to read the book again to pinpoint my reasons and explain why...but my to-read list is a mile long. Ah well. (It's nice to read this comment section and find so many other people liked Amy. I thought I was the only one in the whole world who did!)

Hayden said...

Lissy: I understand! And it is great to find people who like Amy!

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