This Chicks Sunday Commentary: Should author’s ever take a Do-Over?

Most book bloggers started reading as children and have a huge catalog of books that are favorites, or struck a chord for a certain time in our lives. Have you ever gone back and re-read a novel that you just loved when you were younger but now you see all of it’s faults and frailties through eyes that have lived a little. Or you notice how women, ethnic people, or children may have been treated poorly even though at the time that book was written those things weren’t questioned? How does that affect what you think of that long loved book?

Recently, I read a post from another blogger who was talking about a much loved science fiction novel that she’d read over and over throughout her life but as time went on she realized, ‘wait a minute’ some of these things this author says in this novel just aren’t right! Does that mean I shouldn’t like this novel anymore? Do I overlook those things because it was acceptable at the time it was written? If I’m thinking these things does the author who wrote them cringe at their own words? Do they wish for a do-over? Is it acceptable to re-write a novel written ages ago to make it acceptable for today’s readers? I’m not talking Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, or Gone with the Wind- all books that have been re-hashed, re-printed, and gone over in schools ad nauseam. Also all books that have a few cringeworthy moments.

We live in an age where we try so hard to be politically correct. Bloggers focus on books where diverse characters are highlighted, explored, and celebrated. Would we like The Wizard of Oz more if the Lollipop Guild had been female gay rights activists and Dorothy was fighting for equal rights against the tyranny of a misogynistic Wizard? Hmm, maybe I’m onto something here!

How would readers feel if some of their favorite books were re-written? Would I still love that book? I really don’t know if I would. There’s something about an emotional connection to a book because it was read at the right time. Maybe when “that” book was written and popular it was that books moment to shine regardless of how I now feel about it 20 years later? If it was a piece of art and I was looking at the painting at age 12 and again at age 25 I wouldn’t have the same viewpoint. The same thing applies to a book. My life’s experiences no longer allow me to view it in the same way and I guess I’m ok with that.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite book that you’ve re-read and thought “well, wait, did she really just say that?”

If you read all the way through this post, thanks for listening to the thoughtful ramblings of a bookaholic.

Deb

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7 thoughts on “This Chicks Sunday Commentary: Should author’s ever take a Do-Over?

  1. I have to say no on the rewrites. Our art, our music, and even our literature help to record our history and the way the world is viewed at the time it was created. That isn’t to say it is a 1 to 1 exact representation (especially when looking at genres like fantasy and sci-fi). There are certain attitudes and themes that will run through a book that may not be entirely palatable later in life or time, but it shows where things stood at the time of writing. Yes, fiction is written for entertainment purposes, but it is also so much more than just that. It also acts as a type of social commentary and record. If we start rewriting every book that may have offensive themes or subjects, we begin to rewrite history as well.

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    1. Great point! We don’t want history to be lost or how what is going on at that time in history affects our cultural arts. I wonder how many authors cringe and wish they could though? Too many to count for sure. Thanks so much for commenting!

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  2. Some of the ones I read long ago seem very childish now to me. The grand romances my mother read back in the day seem very chaste by today’s standards. Most lead up to a single closed mouth kiss at the end. How daring! I re-read Mary Stewart’s Airs Above the Ground that she first introduced me to and found it slow and boring. I remember loving that as a teenager. I think the main characters were husband and wife, and they seemed more like brother and sister. Times have changed a lot since then. I don’t think the book was bad. I just think society is racier on the whole, not as wholesome.

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    1. I totally agree! The romance genre has gotten so explicit in comparison with the simplicity of past authors portrayals of love. It certainly parallels how society has become more blase about sex. I remember reading Silhouette romances as a teenager and being shocked by the content. Lol. I’m sure those would be very vanilla to me today! Thanks for commenting! It’s great to hear from you Donna, I hope you and your kitties are well!

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  3. Em @ The Geeky Jock

    I feel like JK Rowling is trying to do this through her never-ending announcements and amendments 😉

    I think the answer to this depends on how you view and define books: are they historical documents or living documents? Are they a snapshot of the author at one point in time? Should we make things more PC, or is observing some not-quite-acceptable material valuable in its own right? (Do such changes reinforce the belief of an upward cultural trajectory? [PROGRESS!] Or ignores cultural relativism?)

    I write scientific manuscripts — not exactly the same thing as fiction — and it’s often tempting to go back and make edits based upon what we know TODAY about the state of research. But, these documents are important milestones in the development of scientific knowledge … even if they are proven incorrect at a later date.

    Equally tempting: keeping the CONTENT the same, but changing the way I write about it. Going back to the papers I wrote as a Master’s student is … a cringe-worthy experience. I’ve learnt to communicate more effectively and efficiently. You bet I’d love to re-write.

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    1. You and TJ Fox have a similar view and one I totally agree with. We want what we are writing to reflect what’s going on in history today, even if 50 years from now we cringe. I do however really like your point about keeping the content the same but the way we write about it changing. Now that would be progress! Thanks so much for your insightful comments!

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