f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Source Material

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Monday, September 27, 2004

Source Material

There are some stories whose framework is so timeless that different artists in different generations can pick it up and take the material for a spin.

I just finished the book The Food of Love by Anthony Capella. This fun book, chock full of food and sex and Italian countrysides, is Cyrano, except word-smithing has been traded in for cooking. I watched a movie recently, The Shape of Things by Neil LaBute, that turns the Pygmalion story in upon itself to for an emotionally and morally bankrupt look at the ways we let people change us. Jane Smiley’s Thousand Acres moved King Lear to the plains. Bridget Jones moved Austen to the 20th century.

Every once in a while Christian novels take a Biblical story and retell it in a modern setting, but we haven’t much explored classic set-ups to underpin our stories. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing that change.

I think somebody could do something with the sexual politics of Lysistrata. Or the lunatic satire religious hypocrisy of Moliere in Tartuffe. Or Chekhov’s dour poignancy in something like The Sea Gull or The Cherry Orchard revamped to explore Christian themes.

You have to know your source pretty well and the connections between the original and the new creation need to have a point. Plus, you should have some tricks up your sleeve in terms of the ending because otherwise you’ll simply be leading readers down a well-tred path they’ve walked before.

Any reinterpretations you care to mention? Any you'd like to see?