In amongst all these reimaginings, rebootings, continuations and adaptations that modern authors use to achieve “success” are the original stories themselves. How do the originals hold up when there’s when so many people are eagerly seeking a way to tell it in a new way?
For a merrily nerdy book club that my wife put together we recently read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a book that I had already read twice. I went into it, happy that we had a book I knew so well and glad that I could just trot out some old ideas and call it a contribution. But on my way back over the book I had to stop and look at the pages again.
Surely I had more to say than the few phrases that were already circling the drain in my head. Surely, I could make better points than my half-formed conjectures from my senior year of high school and sophomore year of college. Surely, I had noticed how the creature, the doctor and the captain of the ship all exhibit the same human doubts and fears, how they each crave community to give their individuality meaning, how they tell stories as their primary mode of communication.
But no, I had missed it all. And so, there I sat, reading it through for a third time, and what should have taken five minutes of refreshing took five hours. I couldn’t help but sit, amazed at the depth that I had missed twice before. Suddenly things that were old seemed new again. Proof that the classics can do just as well at inspiring us, as the retellings.