Saturday, July 18, 2015

Will Classic Books Avoid Cosmetic Surgery?

Hollywood is famous for not only milking a story and a single idea by issuing diluted sequels, it also remakes classics for newer generations to enjoy. Roots, the all-time made for-for-TV miniseries is being redone. Spiderman has been rebooted.  Terminator and Jurassic Park have sequels out this summer. Rocky VII will splash across the big screen in the fall.  Do we do the same with books?

Certainly when it comes to fact-filled books, like an almanac, annual editions are published. Other non-fiction books may be reprinted as second and third editions when content is updated or added.  When it comes to novels, there are endless series and trilogies floating around.

But do we go back to a classic, perhaps one by a dead author, such as George Orwell’s 1984, and tinker with it, reissuing it for a modern readership?

Legal issues aside, is this what the reading consumer would want, and is this a good idea?

Books that seem significant, great, or unique at the time they are published eventually lose their luster.  As time goes by some words lose their meaning or relevance. Sometimes, so much time passes that we need help in translating all of the references being conveyed by the writer, such as the works of Shakespeare or Chaucer.  Would we be better served if these books are revised, updated, and made relevant to the concerns, needs and desires of a new society?

As a purist, the answer is unequivocally no!  A book, like a person, is created and lives out a certain lifespan.  Eventually we all die – and all books eventually lose their shelf space.  But while we live and books breathe, we make our mark.  Eventually, new books and people come along, but we shouldn’t alter the books that were written.

Perhaps the discussion is not needed.  There’s no movement to edit classics and publish them anew, but we do see signs that some classics are being toyed with.  A few years ago Huckleberry Finn was being scrubbed for racist language.  Of late, people are saying Gone With The Wind should be relegated to the scrap heap because of its pro-South civil war message.  We can’t let the PC police rewrite publishing history, no matter how well-intentioned. 

Every book could be improved upon, from the minute it’s published to centuries later when we still read them, but that doesn’t mean that we should.  It’s human nature to tinker with everything.  We want to build the tallest, fastest, smartest, strongest things.  We want to alter our foods, bodies, and minds.  We’ll change the planet or even the seeds of life.  But we must keep a hands-off policy to our classic books – and apply the pen to creating new books rather than revising old ones.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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