Thursday, June 19, 2008

What does "modernizing" mean?

When the judges of the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger wrote that Martin Suter's novel A Deal With the Devil "pays literary homage which modernises Glauser’s plot and setting, while extending it into an original conception of [its] own," I sat up and took notice. Glauser was one of the greatest of crime writers, and if his name is on it, I'll buy it.

I wondered, though, how Suter had modernized the book, and I wondered further about the variety of ways an author can modernize or update a favorite book or story. My copy of A Deal With the Devil arrived this week, and the rear-cover blurb describes a woman, Sonia Frey, tormented by synaesthesia: She feels smells, and she sees sounds.

Glauser notably empathized with downtrodden characters in his novels. Perhaps Suter's deeper exploration of Sonia Frey's consciousness is an extension of Glauser's empathy. Perhaps the CWA judges had this in mind when they spoke of Suter's having modernized his illustrious countryman's plot and setting.

If you've read Glauser and Suter, what do you think? If you haven't, tell me some of the more interesting ways authors can update older stories.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

Technorati tags:

Labels: , ,

17 Comments:

Blogger Sucharita Sarkar said...

Maybe some of Poe's strange tales can be modernized. I've forgotten the exact title, but there was this story by POE where a monster comes out of a mirror in an empty house. With online games becoming an addiction, maybe someone can write about a virtual monster that turns real.

June 19, 2008  
Blogger Serendipity said...

Hi Peter,

Hope you're doing well. Just stopping by to say hello. Congrats on the 9.0 from blogged.

Grace

June 19, 2008  
Blogger The Clandestine Samurai said...

As far as I know, modernizing means exploring themes that are popular with today's generation.

Perhaps "Dracula" could be written through blog posts instead of letters.

Perhaps "Frankenstein" will go beyond focusing on the monster's horrific rampage and, instead, be about adapting to urban life and figuring out whether he'll vote for McCain or Obama.

Sherlock Holmes will end up back on cocaine, since forensic labs, fingerprint analysis, DNA analysis and AFIS in addition to his intelligence will leave no crime unsolved for more than a day or two and he'll be bored out of his mind.

These are terrible ideas, but illustrate the point no less.

June 19, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

S.S., I don't recognize the story, which is no big deal, since I'm no Poe expert, but my local Poe scholar is stumped, too. But a monster materializing from someone's imagination -- or that person's thinking a monster materializes -- could be plausible material for a contemporary story.

June 19, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the high-five over my nine. You should know, by the way, that you have already inspired me to begin reducing my coffee intake.

June 19, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

C.S., your ideas might not be that terrible. I like the idea of Sherlock Holmes winding up back on cocaine and ending up in a rehab center, where he solves a murder. Or perhaps you could build your Frankenstein conceit into a story about a politician made up from spare parts of others. A new Democrat made up of disinterred Republican body parts suggests itself, as does a creature assembled into something resembling Barack Obama that has Robert Kennedy's vocabulary, but they just could not find Kennedy's heart.

The movie You've Got Mail (unseen by me) updated the old classic The Shop Around the Corner (seen by me), substituting e-mail for anonymous letters, so there could be something in your Dracula suggestion as well.

June 19, 2008  
Blogger GJG said...

you use the phrase "modernize stories", when it would have been more appropriate to say modernize the old plot. There are only seven basic plots, and all stories are of those seven basic plots or combinations of them---thats why we have literary Genre's, ----variatons on a theme (aka plots).

June 19, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have also seen the number given as greater than seven, but your point is well-taken. Still, I wanted to leave the question open to changes other than just the plots of stories.

June 19, 2008  
Blogger Lauren said...

Well, the TV show House is in many ways an updated version of Sherlock Holmes. (Character's hobbies, address, addiction...)

June 19, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sounds as if it may be worth a look. I've been out of things as far as television since the days of, oh, say, Space Ghost on Saturday morning. Do the House characters live at 221B Baker Street?

June 19, 2008  
Blogger 2KoP said...

Modernizing old stories is nothing new. Think Romeo and Juliet meets West Side Story; or The Odyssey meets Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? Fairy tales are updated and retold all the time: Cinderella is transformed into Pretty Woman. I'd much rather see a creative retelling of a classic plot line than a stale remake of an old movie or, worse, TV show (although I did kind of like Iron Man).

June 20, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or even a not-so-creative one. West Side Story argiably didn't do much with its source material, but the music was good. A movie called The Warriors is another pretty straightforward remake (of The Odyssey) in a modern setting that I thought worked as campy entertainment.

What caught my eye about A Deal With the Devil is the possibility that it may have done more than just take an old plot and dress it up with new clothes and a new setting. Searching for tributes to, deviations from, and clever takes and advances on Glauser will be an additional challenge or pleasure as I read.

June 20, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

"A new Democrat made up of disinterred Republican body parts"

Been done. That's Steny Hoyer.

(Not that I'm angry about today's FISA capitulation, you understand. No, no, not at all.)

June 20, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Quite a number of Democrats joined him, apparently. One wonders how much money they take from telecommunications companies.

A real conservative might be uneasy with a measure that does away with the notion of taking responsibility for one's own acts.

June 20, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Not to mention defanging the 4th Amendment. What is it about "unlawful search and seizure" that's hard to understand?

I'll take the rest of my political fury over to my own blog and stop cluttering up yours.

June 20, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I read some of the articles to which you linked. In this case, I'd say, your venting is warranted.

And doesn't this retroactive immunity seem a bit ex post-facto?

June 20, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Absolutely. And monarchist.

June 20, 2008  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home