Total Recall. For the love of God, wasn't Total Recall practically perfect the first time?! To me, this trend is a travesty of the same order as the epic bombing of the new 3D Clash of the Titans'.
In the literary world, thankfully, the remake/retelling is a rarity. But luckily, when a writer does endeavor to retell a tried-and-true story, it actually seems to work pretty well.
Let's take a look at a few examples. The story that has been retold most frequently in a variety of forms is Homer's The Odyssey. And the most famous retelling is James Joyce's Ulysses. That novel, often considered one of the greatest (and most difficult) novels of all time, parallels Homer's epic through the eyes of character Leopold Bloom over the course of one day. I've never read the thing, and I've never met anyone who has who's really, really liked it. Most people who have read it discuss it more as a war wound than a rewarding literary experience — which, incidentally, is how I'll feel about Gravity's Rainbow when I finish it.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski, is a retelling of what many consider to be the best story ever written in the English language: Shakespeare's Hamlet. Wroblewski sets his novel in rural Wisconsin and follows a family of dog breeders through all the Hamlet-ey twists and turns. The novel sold really well, despite its lukewarm reviews, partly due to the Oprah Effect, partly due to the fact that it has dogs in it, and partly because people really wanted to see what the Wisconsin Hamlet might be like. I thought it was solid, if a little longer than necessary.
And, finally, Zadie Smith's third novel On Beauty is a contemporary reimagining of E.M. Forster's classic Howards End. Smith has mentioned in several interviews and essays how much of an influence Forster's been on not just her own fiction but her love of literature. And she points out in her author's note: "My largest structural debt should be obvious to any E.M. Forster fan; suffice it to say he gave me a classy old frame, which I covered with new material as best I could." Both novels, which I actually read back-to-back a few years ago, include inter- and intra-family political and social friction that sets up some delicious conflict. On Beauty isn't a great book — definitely not on par with her debut White Teeth — but it's still very good. And, much to my surprise, I actually really enjoyed Howards End.
What did I miss? What are your favorite novels that are retellings of others? Anyone else hate the Hollywood-IS-out-of-ideas remake trend as much as me?