Great literature leaves its impression upon us, and some characters have haunted authors enough to be reincarnated in new works. These reinterpretations show just how little control an artist has over his or her work once it has been released, and they give some hope to writers of fan fiction.
by Angela Carter
Who said adults had to stop reading fairy tales? In this volume of short stories, Angela Carter restores the dark edge to fables but with a feminine touch. The women in these stories are victims, but they are also capable of taking charge of their own fate. Carter’s words are as carefully selected as the figures she brings to life: Beauty and the Beast, Puss in Boots, the Erl-King, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood.
by John Connolly
John Connolly is known for his detective novels and thrillers, and his knack for suspense makes The Book of Lost Things a compelling read as well as my favorite book of 2006. Following the death of his mother, 12-year-old David seeks a comforting distraction in the pages until he finds himself in a land of knights, wolves, monsters, and seven “comrades.”
by Tom Stoppard
This play turns the tables on Hamlet, bringing into focus two characters who are minor in Shakespeare’s play. The confused duo struggle to remember their own identities as they stumble their way toward their doom with no real way to help themselves. While Hamlet is more tragedy than comedy, this existential play is more comedy than tragedy, presenting two hopeless characters who are doomed in the title alone. Whether you laugh at Rosencrantz and Guildenstern or feel sympathy for them, their questions about fate and free will are powerful.
by John Gardner
If you thought your teen years were filled with angst, try growing up as a descendant of Cain. John Gardner’s inventive novel, narrated by one of literature’s great villains, gives voice and personality to Beowulf’s foe while confounding the reader’s views of good and evil.
by J. M. Coetzee
Coetzee enhances Defoe’s novel by introducing his own protagonist, Susan Barton, who stumbles across the island inhabited by Cruso and his companion Friday during her search for her kidnapped daughter. Through this character, Coetzee is able to approach gender and race issues raised by storytelling – whose voices are we interested in hearing, and how much of our own preconceptions do we project on the voiceless? Particularly haunting is Friday, whose tongue has been removed.
by Jasper Fforde
Fforde is no stranger to invoking literary characters in his successful Thursday Next series, but this novel is a departure as he embarks upon a different venture: Nursery Crimes. Jack Spratt (who ate no fat) and Mary Mary (quite contrary) investigate the death of Humpty Dumpty. Did he fall, or was he pushed? Or was it something far more sinister? I enjoyed the character development, the dialogue, and picking out as many characters I could recognize as possible. This novel is an amusing start to a series I hope Fforde continues.
by Seth Grahame-Smith, Jane Austen
For some reason, I’ve always enjoyed discussing Jane Austen’s novels more than reading them. Her parody of her contemporaries was never quite my cup of tea. However, I am a sucker for a good, trashy zombie film, so when I found out this book would combine classical literature and zombies, I was excited. Austen purists might be upset to see limbs strewn upon the beloved landscape of this novel, but for me, this light-hearted work was like reading Austen for the first time without English classes spoiling the experience. Grahame-Smith’s work proves that some tales are timeless and universal, even if you add zombies.
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About Casey Hicks
Casey Hicks knew she wanted to be a writer since first grade, when she had to write a paragraph about Halloween. In high school, she realized that she didn’t have fiction ideas often enough to justify being a starving artist, but journalism seemed like a decent field since it involved daily writing prompts. She writes non-fiction daily, fiction rarely, and poetry only when threatened.
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