Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.

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Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hairballs: A Sequel

Lucky, lucky American public: the second sequel to Gone With the Wind is on the way. Life as we know it--in all its denatured, ParishiltonAnnaNicole glory, can continue.

America, we need a sequel to Gone with the Wind. After all, don't all perfect books demand encores? Specifically, sequels?

From the article:

"Most of all, readers will get inside Rhett’s head as he meets and courts Scarlett O’Hara in one of the most famous love affairs of all time."

I don't know about you, but I've been just dying to know what Rhett was thinking. And I don't care, nosiree, not a whit, that the person telling me what Rhett thought is not Margaret Mitchell, but one Donald McCaig, an advertising exec/sheep farmer/civil war writer, found after a desperate editor wandered into a bookstore.

More from Motoko Rich, who must write this stuff:

"But the new book is also, in some senses, a bid for redemption by the estate of Margaret Mitchell, who died in 1949 and steadfastly refused to write a sequel to 'Gone With the Wind' herself."

Gee, why'd Mitchell have to go and leave perfection alone? The nerve! Maggie, your estate needs the money! C'mon!

"Mr. McCaig took on the commission, he said, out of 'six parts hubris and four parts poverty.' He declined to disclose how much the estate was paying him."

Uh-huh. At least he's being honest about the money, though he leaves out the getting-real-famous part. As for hubris, I'd feel pretty weird taking on a sequel to, oh, A Farewell to Arms, or Oliver Twist. Real weird. As in weird enough to refuse.

Yeah, it's easy to sit here in obscurity, railing. But I did have a comparable experience. I wrote erotica, of all things, for a popular, well-known publisher. Not only did I make a fair amount of money, I received fan mail and numerous offers to write more. Had I kept it up, I probably could have earned quite the living. Only there were a couple problems. One was how strange I felt penning graphic sex. I have nothing against erotica or the writers who create it. The genre just wasn't for me. And while some of the industry folk were friendly and professional, many were not. So I stopped. The fame, letters, offers, and money dried up. But I felt much better in my mostly unpublished, literary wannabe state.

And this never happened to me:

"He delivered chapters to his editors as he finished them. Occasionally the lawyers for the Mitchell estate would be invited to weigh in as well."

Writing by committee. Writing sequels to a book you didn't write by committee.

To borrow a line from Miss Snark, dear dog in heaven.

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I have trouble with the entire sequel business. That is, sequels akin to Labradoodles: forms never intended by their orignial authors. Imagine what Jane Austen would think of the industry grown round her books. Margaret Mitchell is on the record saying she didn't want a sequel to Wind. As for Sylvia Plath, if she knew of all the books falsifying, analyzing, and fictionalizing her short life, she'd likely gas herself all over again.

And I wouldn't blame her. Certainly the lives of our fellow humans are rich fodder for imagination. Take The Sun Also Rises. Brett Ashly is based on Lady Duff Twysden, but you don't need to know that to enjoy the novel. And we all know that unlike the besotted Jake Barnes, Hem was, ah, intact. See, he made some stuff up. And wrote a great book. See also Kathryn Harrison's Exposure, about a woman who must survive the legacy of her father's famous photographs (Sally Mann, anybody?), or Susan Choi's American Woman, which turns the Patricia Hearst story sideways.

My point is while people succumb to herd mentality, writing up sequels or barely fictional versions of real life events, they could be writing fiction. Or non-fiction. Whatever. Just not taking up a dead writer's leavings and making money off them because publishers think Sylvia, Margaret, and Jane are safe bets.

I can't stop this idiocy. None of us can. What we can do is vote with our buying dollars, and leave this derivative stuff on store shelves, virtual or otherwise.

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On that note, BK, Hockeyman, and kitty will be off the air for a week, giving public discourse an opportunity to resume its former stratospheric heights.

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