Nothing New Under the Sun by Nick

I’m currently reading Ben Ehrenreich’s debut novel The Suitors, which uses Homer’s Odyssey as a sort of back story. Ehrenreich uses Odysseus’s wife Penelope as the focus, what became of her when Odysseus left for war. Although this book is much more than a retelling of perhaps the greatest epic ever told, it got me thinking on how many great, unique books have used someone else’s work as an entry point. And while we love to roll our eyes at anybody that uses the word in casual conversation, I really can’t help but think that these retellings, these template-borrowing novels are but another characteristic the literary postmodern tradition.

Here are some other works that probably should use the words ‘loosely based on’ or ‘inspired by’ as a disclaimer:

Doh!; or, Thank you, Homer : -The Following use the Odyssey

Ulysses- A novel by James Joyce. A notoriously ‘difficult’ yet brilliant book. O Brother Where Art Thou -A Film by the Coen Brothers. Cold Mountain -A Novel by Charles Frazier and a movie adaptation starring Jude Law. 2001 A Space Odyssey : A film that uses many parallels to Homer’s epic, adapted from the novel by Arthur C. Clarke.

Ahoy!; or I am Ahab: -The Following use Moby Dick

Ahab’s Wife; or the Star-Gazer: A Novel : A book by Sena Jeter Naslund that spins a tale from the perspective of Captain Ahab’s wife. Leviathan : A concept album based on Melville’s masterpiece by the band Mastodon. Bone : A graphic novel series by Jeff Smith. The main character’s favorite book is Moby Dick. Allusions and references litter the long running series. Leviathan ’99 : A spinoff by Ray Bradbury that takes place in space.

To Sit in the Shade; or, A Woman’s Influence: -The following use Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance—Now with Ultraviolent Mayhem : (I think the title says it all. And yes, that is the title). Bridget Jones’s Diary : A novel and film that use a serious Mr. Darcy, a meddling matchmaking mother, and a humorous detached father. Bride and Prejudice : A Bollywood version of the classic novel. Pemberley; or, Pride and Prejudice Continued : A novel by Emma Tennant. (Note: There are numerous ‘Mr.Darcy’ and ‘Pemberley’ novels by different authors.)

Abandon All Hope; or, Drag me to Hell!: -The following use Dante’s Divine Comedy

What Dreams May Come : A film starring Robin Williams that uses Dante’s concept of different l evels of hell for different mortal transgressions. The Amber Spyglass : A novel by Phillip Pullman contains many allusions and even has scenes that parallel those of the Divine Comedy. Master of Verona : A book by David Blixt has Dante himself as a character and also borrows extensively from Shakespeare. Dante XXI : An album by heavy metal band Sepultura is loosely based on Inferno (Note: Also, see works by Geoffrey Chaucer and John Milton)

To Be or Not to Be; or, Call me Will: The following use Shakespeare’s works…

(Note: Open your eyes, turn on your TV, read ANY book, and I guarantee you’ll find dozens!)


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