Riffs on the classics: The Odyssey (Part 1)

What makes a classic a classic? A lot of definitions have been offered, but one that resonates with me is the influence a work exerts on other works that follow. How have other authors responded to it with their own versions, counter-versions, sequels, prequels, and completely alternate takes on the original? The more responses there are, the more influential the original, the more we can say definitively it is a classic.

One of my favorite stories ever is the Odyssey, an ancient Greek epic poem composed by a figure or figures known as Homer, traveling bards who would relate the long tale to paying audiences as they roamed the Mediterranean. There are of course two parts to the full tale of Odysseus: The Iliad and The Odyssey. While the Iliad is a fairly straightforward story of an awful war, the Odyssey is a unique homecoming, depicting the wandering path of Odysseus and his encounters with various nymphs, witches, Cyclops, Sirens, and more. Continue reading “Riffs on the classics: The Odyssey (Part 1)”

Inspired by Darcy: Characterizations of Jane Austen’s proudest hero

Jane Austen's character Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice
Mr. Darcy

Have you noticed how many novels are based on or inspired by classics, especially novels by Jane Austen? First there are the retellings of stories, like Emma and the Vampires, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, in which an author takes the original classic and adds exciting paranormal characters. Sequels to Pride and Prejudice, from the efforts of Emma Tenant, Joan Aiken and Jane Gillespie to more recent novels like Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma by Diana Birchall and Letters from Pemberley by Jane Dawkins prove that Austen’s popularity is still going strong.

Novelists seeking good characters for their stories often insert Austen herself into their books, like Jane and the Canterbury Tale by Stephanie Barron, the newest in a mystery series featuring Jane Austen. Other examples are According to Jane by Marilyn Brant, Cassandra and Jane by Jill Pitkeathly and Just Jane by Nancy Moser.

What astonishes me is the sheer volume of fiction about Mr. Darcy.
I can understand a crush on Edward Cullen (Twilight) or even Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, whose “half-civilised ferocity lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes full of black fire…” But Continue reading “Inspired by Darcy: Characterizations of Jane Austen’s proudest hero”