Friday, February 15, 2013

The Whole Story

A different post than usual today because it takes a bit of listing rather than conversational writing to make the point, so hang in there. I read two things this week that got me thinking about the journey a story takes throughout time...mostly beloved classics, which is why they are classics I guess. How is it that one story can become so much to generation after generation? What? You don't think it happens? Ok, let's start with the first item I read. It was an article on a new book that is Pride and Prejudice from a servant's point of view. I have no idea what to expect, but I'm not getting my hopes up! Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813) is still wildly popular 200 years later. There have been a number of movies made off of this one book, one of the most popular being the 1995 BBC version starring Colin Firth (my favorite). On Goodreads I found a list of at least 100 books written off of the character of Mr. Darcy!

Need more than one example of the power of one story? Consider Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). Huck Finn itself is a spin off of Tom Sawyer. Besides the movies made, as recent as one that should be released this year(!), there have been spin off books such as Becky: The Life and Loves of Becky Thatcher (Lenore Hart, 2008).  In this book Becky, once Tom Sawyer's love, sets out to set her story straight...a story that she claims Mark Twain had all wrong. Another spin off is Finn (Jon Clinch, 2008). This is the story of Huck's father, which we all know will end with Finn's dead body floating down the Mississippi in an abandoned house.

And what about Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell, 1936)? Besides the very well known 1939 movie starring Clark Gable,  Alice Randall wrote the servant's perspective, called The Wind Done Gone (2001), where she gives the most likely view the black servant would have taken in the antebellum South. There was even a lawsuit that tried to prevent Houghton Mifflin from publishing the book. Another spin off written by Donald McCaig in 2007 was Rhett Butler's People. The book is a parallel to the events of Gone With the Wind, but from Rhett's point of view. This book was fully supported as an official companion novel by the Margaret Mitchell estate, although I have not heard good things about it from my circle of reader friends.

So what? A couple movies, a random spin off here and there? Not convinced? Let's look at, and really break down, the second reading that brought this all to my mind this week.

As we've seen, all you need is one original story as a starting point, for example The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series (14+ books) by L. Frank Baum. I read a post from The Paperback Princess today (Out of Oz) where she talks about her take on the many books Gregory Maguire has written off of Baum's world. Let's consider the whole body of work.

Let's start with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and subsequent books, written by Baum between the years of 1900-1920, with an additional book in 1972 (a few of the books were written but not published). In 1939 the original movie, The Wizard of Oz, was released starring Judy Garland as Dorothy. Subsequent movies are: The Wiz (1978), Return to Oz (1985), Tin Man (2007) and The Witches of Oz (2011) were both mini series, Dorothy and the Witches of Oz (2012), and a TV series called Wicked (2012).

Between the 1985 and 2007 TV versions came Gregory Maguire's books. It's a set of four books called "The Wicked Years": Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (1995), Son of a Witch (2005), A Lion Among Men (2008), and Out of Oz (2011). There was also a musical titled Wicked (2003), which was based off of Maguire's first book.

This year sees a few more Oz stories on the way: Oz the Great and Powerful comes out in March. Others listed for 2013 release are Dorothy of Oz and Oz Wars. And within the next couple years another slate of movies will release. In 2014 the musical based movie of Wicked will release. I am personally excited about this one! They did a great job with the movie version of Phantom of the Opera. Also, a remake of the original 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz...this one will have me on the edge of my seat, as very little can usually compare with the sentimentality and nostalgia of the original. As of yet undated releases are Oz, Oz: Return to Emerald City, and Surrender Dorothy.

See what I mean? Look at the sheer amount of work put into one original story 100+ years after the fact. What is it about a set of characters, a place, and the events that unfold that keep us coming back for more? I don't know if I can explain it, but I feel it. People from different generations over time have felt something deep enough for these stories to create their own interpretations. Good or bad, all pieces add to the original story, making it larger than life.

I love to read books with many renditions. Do you know of any other novels with spin offs? I'm interested!


  1. There are a whole series of Sherlock spinoffs. I'll find you the list.

    On another note, I nominated you for best book blog of the year but you need two nominations. I hope and request that some of your other readers nominate you, too. Here's the link: :)

    1. Thank you! Hey maybe at the very least I'll get a few new readers to talk with! All I really want are people to talk reading and writing with!

  2. My favorite spin-off (aside from Agatha's cozy mysteries) is Rosamunde Pilcher's September, which follows The Shell Seekers and shares a couple of the same characters. Also, Maeve Binchy has a whole series of books with interrelated characters and stories; Scarlet Feather is my favorite of those. Or Evening Class. Or Quentins. . . Okay, maybe I don't have a favorite!

    1. The spin offs and interrelatedness of books can get pretty crazy, but that's what I love about it! The challenge of keeping the characters, their situations and relationships, and all other story aspects straight - especially when it spans across different writers and movies - is the ultimate fun for me! I think that's also why i like series of books. Yea, nerdy, I know. And it is so hard to pick a favorite.