In Robert Coover's Pinnochio in Venice, the former puppet returns to the maze-like streets of his hometown and seemingly turning back into wood. Meanwhile, in Louis Bayard's Mr. Timothy, a grown-up Tiny Tim flits about the dark corners of Edwardian London, lacking much sponsorship from his unnamed "benefactor," who could only be a post-conversion Scrooge. In the non-graphic novel Tintin in the New World, Frederic Tuten takes a boyish French comic book character and gives him his first sexual experience, in a plot that has Tintin meeting characters from Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain.
To me, this is interesting stuff. But problematic, too, in that stories that borrow characters from other stories can touch on issue of intellectual property rights, copyright law, ideas about "fair use," "authorial intent" and imposter-ism, and -- sometimes -- the nature of parody or satire. Questions arise, some of which I hope to explore in later posts this week. Questions like:
- What makes Ahab's Wife a "literary novel" and a mystery novel that resurrects Sherlock Holmes a "pastiche"?
- And what's the difference between "pastiche" and a piece of "fan fiction" that might presuppose a sexual relationship between Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock?
- Why would The Wind Done Gone result in a lawsuit, but not Wicked or It's Superman?
- Why don't people just come up with their own ideas? What's the appeal of borrowing someone else's creation?
- Why did high school English teachers assign Grendel? (And do they still?)
- What does all of this have to do with the Wold Newton Universe and the Tommy Westpahll hypothesis?
- And how does this all culminate in a comic book like Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?
Welcome to Literary Recycling Week. Stay tuned...