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Great Books That Could Use A Rewrite

November 3, 2013
English: Readers own scan of the PD document

This book might not be a surprise, but the second choice will SHOCK you!!! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it’s arrogant to suggest that a great book be rewritten.  For one thing, it’s not going to happen.  A great book is never going to be rewritten, so making the suggestion is a waste of time.  Plus, a great book is usually written by a great author, and I’ve never written a great book, so therefore I probably have no business suggesting that a great book be rewritten.  Those are both fair points. 

However, some great books have qualities that make them tough for me to read.   I know these criticisms are more of a reflection of me as a reader than on the authors who wrote the great books.  But sometimes I wish a great book could be rewritten just to help me enjoy it more (or make it easier for me to read).

 War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 

I’m not going to complain about the length.  I’ve done that before, and others have too.  My problem is the Russian names.  For some reason, I have a tough time keeping track of Russian names.  Epics with American or English names are difficult enough for me to follow.  But Russian names give me a headache, except for Vladimir Putin.  I don’t care for him too much, but I like his name.  If War and Peace were to be rewritten, maybe the translator could start by Americanizing all the names. 

Before he died, I was hoping Tom Clancy would do his own rewrite of War and Peace in his Clancyesque style.  Pierre Bezhukov could have been renamed Peter Ryan.  Prince Andrei Nikolayevich Bolkonsky would be renamed Prince Andy Brewer.  The characters would still be Russian, but the names would be Americanized to help someone like me keep up.  Every weapon from the early 19th century could be described with intricate detail.  A bunch of ironically dismissive comments about the growing United States could have been made by both French and Russian characters.  The book could have been called Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace by Tom Clancy.  I might have been able to read that, but I wouldn’t have bragged about it afterward.  Maybe somebody else can do it now. 

I don’t really want an abridged version of War and Peace because that would just be a shorter version with the same Russian names that give me a headache (maybe the headache wouldn’t hurt so much).  I can read long books (I currently choose not to).  I used to read long books.  If there had been an Americanized version of War and Peace when I read long books, I might have finished it. 

The Fault in our Stars by John Green 

DISCLAIMER:  I haven’t finished this book yet, but I’m reading it now and plan on finishing it. 

I’m not sure The Fault in our Stars is a great book, but it has a lot of really passionate fans, and to them it’s a great book, and I can understand why.  For a YA book (if you agree with that classification), it’s pretty deep, and its emotional scenes are intense.  Some of the dialogue and narration is very… I’m not sure what the word for it is.  Trying too hard to be clever? 

I know lots of teenagers (most of them are smart with pretty good vocabularies), but nobody I know (even adults) talk like characters in this book.  Some readers love this book for that.  I find it distracting.  In its defense, some scenes are emotionally difficult to read, and the distracting style made it easier to detach myself from the characters, making the emotionally difficult scenes easier for me to read, but I’m not sure that was the author’s intent. 

Also, I’m probably not the author’s intended audience.  I’m almost 50, and the book was written for an audience slightly younger than that. 

Maybe John Green could write an old fart’s version of The Fault in our Stars, but if he did, I’d probably cry when I read it, and I don’t like to cry when I read.  Maybe John Green did me a favor.  Still, I’d kind of like a different version with the same characters where I didn’t feel like they were trying so hard.  But that’s probably not going to happen, so I’ll finish the version that I have.

 ***** 

I’ve struggled with a lot of books in my life, but I wasn’t interested in them enough to want a rewrite.  Asking for a rewrite is a sign of respect.  I really want to enjoy every aspect of these books that I want to read, but there’s something keeping me from doing that.  With that in mind, what great book do you think could use a rewrite?  What kept you from enjoying the great book that you’d like to be rewritten?  What do you think of my choices? Or is this just a bad topic?  It happens sometimes.

9 Comments
  1. Changing the names in War and Peace won’t shorten it. I recall, though, there was genealogical stuff in or at the beginning of Russian novels, and that could be deleted.

  2. Crime And Punishment needs to be rewritten so that Raskolnikov gets eaten by rats, preferably in the first chapter. Then Sonya can move to America and become a back up singer for a Vegas lounge act. And Porfiry goes to work for Alyona Ivanovna (who didn’t die because Raskonlikov was eaten by rats in the first chapter, remember) doing collections because it pays much better than being a cop in Russia. Everybody is much happier, particularly the readers who don’t have to wade through pages and pages of “waaaaa! I feel so unclean!”

  3. I agree with you on TFioS, kind of. The big words didn’t bother me when I was reading them; only weeks later when I looked back at it and thought, ‘No teenager ever says that.” If I was ever hanging out with a bunch of my friends (I’m fifteen, I should point out) and said something along the lines of “My thoughts are stars I can’t possible fathom into constellations,” they would not hesitate to beat the shit out of me, take my money, and leave me unconscious in a dumpster somewhere as punishment. And I wouldn’t blame them.

    While I loved TFioS, I prefer John Green’s other works like Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska, where teens talk mostly normal.

  4. Maybe Portrait of a Lady could be re-written by John Greene because Henry James could use a more interesting dialogue.

  5. Never see Les Miserables on stage before reading the book – you will never go to the theater. I thought the political stuff was way too didactic.

  6. I find most Russian novels hard for the names, since they all seem to have about 3 names and then other things they’re called. I think my wife wishes Twilight was in the public domain so it could be rewritten by a competent writer.

  7. 06cedmuho permalink

    Reblogged this on 06cedmuho.

  8. bdallmann permalink

    I think some books could stand to have their language updated as to better reach new generations of readers. My only concern would be that changing the language would tarnish the book too much. I suppose it depends on the book, huh?

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