Unbound: Remixing the Classics

| July 7, 2017

170703_display_219x365You could be serving a mango mule (mocktail) to the tune of Moby – Go (Woodtick Mix), or dancing “Cool” in West Side Story after seeing Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans. A remix appropriates or changes other materials to create something new, be it food or drink, song, artwork, photograph, video, or book. So, while getting creative with old favorites lets us revisit the past and shared culture, it also helps us think afresh about the present and future. It’s a way to experiment, maybe marry, the old and new, borrowed and blue, for a good, but perhaps even greater “wow” — and allows us to better understand, or unbind, both the creator and his/her creation. Possibilities abound.

Originally published in 1899, Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness is a haunting tale about the brutal horror of European colonialism. It is told by by Marlow, a seaman and wanderer, who sets out on a journey through the Belgian Congo to find the enigmatic Kurtz, a trader of ivory, cum demigod among native Africans. A masterpiece of storytelling, it digs to the core of the human condition, foreshadowing complex and continuing problems in our world today — genocide, human trafficking, exploitation of labor and natural resources, immigration.

Connection and immediacy drive our actions, while literature can be a powerful vehicle to get us thinking — and acting. Supporting the work of Teacher College’s Literacy Unbound Summer Institute, where teachers and high school students re-interpret Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in an original Smith Learning Theater production is a complementary Everett Cafe book display featuring select works of “re-mixed” literature.

Unbound: Remixing the Classics features three main categories of great books. Modern retellings update a familiar story; spin-offs adopt a character, sometimes minor, and build a fresh story, adjacent to the original; and homages acknowledge the original work and/or author, with praise. Examples respectively include: Cinder by Marissa Meyer, with Cinderella reimagined as a cyborg; Insect Dreams by Marc Estrie, which builds on Kafka’s Metamorphosis, but assumes that Gregor Samsa lives and follows the path of a talking cockroach; and James Joyce’s Ulysses, based on Homer’s Odyssey, from the structure of the story, to the epic tale of one man.

This exhibit draws upon universal human themes presented in Conrad’s eponymous work, such as man’s inhumanity to man; transformation of self/journey; religion, race, power, and oppression; man versus nature; man versus society — and enlightens many more — innocence, coming of age, beauty, and others — from a modern context.

It is curated by Kaitlin Kehnemuyi, Innovation Fellow at the Gottesman Libraries, with input from the staff, and on display this summer in the Everett Cafe.

Modern Retellings

Imperfect Bliss


Fales-Hill, Susan. Imperfect Bliss: A Novel. New York: Atria Books, 2012
— Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in modern day, with Reality TV

Cafe PS3606.A4275 I67 2012





Isadora, Rachel. Rapunzel. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, c2008
— Brothers Grimm – Rapunzel set in Africa; dreadlocks, rather than golden hair

Cafe PZ8.I84 Rap 2008




Meyer, Marissa. Cinder. New York: Feiwel & Friends, 2012
— Cinderella as a Cyborg — Brothers Grimm – Cinderella

Cafe PZ7.M571737 Cin 2012





Mieville, China. Railsea. New York: Del Ray/Ballantine Books, c2012.
— a gripping and brilliantly imagined retake of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick

Cafe PR6063.I265 R35 20




Naylor, Gloria. Linden Hills.  New York: Penguin Books, c1985, 1986
— Dante’s Inferno told through the lens of the American Dream, Class and Race

Cafe PS3564.A895 L5 1986





Oyeyemi, Helen. Boy, Snow, Bird. New York: Riverhead Books, 2015
— a retelling of Brothers Grimm Snow White

Cafe PR6115.Y49 .B69 2015





Segal, Francesca. The Innocents. New York: Voice/Hyperion, c2012
— retells Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence, moving the story to present day London

Cafe PS3619.E374 I55 2012





Sittengeld, Curtis. Eligible. New York: Random House, c2016
— Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in Cincinnati, Ohio

Cafe PS3619.I94 E45 2016





Willems, Mo. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. New York: Balzer & Bray, c2012
— retake of Robert Southey’s The Story of the Three Bears. Maybe it was a trap for Goldilocks all along?

Cafe PZ7.W65535 Go 2012


Spin – Offs

Pride_Prejudice_ZombiesAusten, Jane and Seth Grahame-Smith. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance –Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhems. New York: Quirk, 2009
— Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice; Zombie Mayhem comes to the marriage scene. Will it bring Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy apart or destroy them both..?

    Cafe PS3607.R348 P75 2009b




Brooks, Geraldine. March. New York: Penguin Books, 2005
— tells the story of the mostly absent father from Louisa May Alcott’s, Little Women while he is off serving as a chaplain in the Union Army

Cafe PR9619.3.B7153 M37 2005




Estrin, Marc. Insect Dreams. Denver: Unbridled Books, 2005
— picks up from Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis but assumes that Gregor Samsa lived and follows the path of a talking cockroach

Cafe PS3605.S77 I57 2005


Sleeper_SpindleGaiman, Neil. The Sleeper and the Spindle. New York: Harper. First U.S. edition, 2015
— reimagined illustrated fairy tale with Snow White saving Sleeping Beauty — Brothers Grimm – Sleeping Beauty and Snow White

Cafe PR6057.A319 S54 2015




Gardner, John. Grendel. New York: Vintage Books, 1989, 1971.
—  tells the story Beowulf, the medieval Scandinavian warrior who fought and defeated the monster Grendel and Grendel’s mother) — from the viewpoint of the monster, Grendel

Cafe PS3557.A712 G7 1985


WickedMaguire, Gregory. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.
— tells the backstory of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West from L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. Beautifully humanizes Elphaba, one of the most well known bad guys in all of pop culture

Cafe PS3607.R348 P75 2009b




Morrison, Yedda. Darkness. Los Angeles: Make Now Press, 2012
— erases Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness, by “whiting out” his text so that only images of the natural world remain

Cafe PS3563.O87492 D37 2012




Stoppard, Tom. Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, [1991], 1967
— essentially an absurdist mashup of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot

Cafe PR6069.T6 R6 1991



Hitchhiker's_GuideAdams, Douglas. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. New York: Ballantine Books, 2004, 1979
— is the paranoid Android “Marvin” from “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” is an homage to the pessimistic philosopher “Martin” from Voltaire’s Candide?

Cafe PR6051.D3352 H5 2005




Joyce, James. Ulysses. New York: Simon and Brown Publications, 2011
— based on Homer’s Odyssey, from the structure of the story to the epic tale of one man

Cafe PR6019.O9 U4 2011


RevivalKing, Stephen. Revival. New York: Gallery Books, 2015
— a horror story about addiction and fanaticism inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein & Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan)

Cafe PS3561.I483 R48 2015



Pullman, Phillip. His Dark Materials. The Golden Compass. The Subtle Knife. The Amber Spyglass. Boxed Set. New York: Dell Yearling, 2003
– references John Milton’s Paradise Lost, starting with the title

Cafe PZ7.P968 2003



Reich, James. Mistah Kurtz! A Prelude to the Heart of Darkness. New York: Anti-Oedipus Press, 2016

— presents the early life of Kurtz, his appointment to his station in the Congo, and his messianic disintegration in a novel that dovetails with the conclusion of  Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness

Cafe PS3618.E5237 M57 2016




Shelley, Percy Bysshe. Prometheus Unbound: A Lyrical Drama in Four Acts. Redditch, Read Books, Ltd., 2015
– based on the classical greek figure Prometheus, who defies the gods and gives fire to humanity — Aeschylus’ Prometheus

Cafe PR5416 .A1 2015





Smith, Zadie. On Beauty. New York: Penguin Books, 2015
— homage to E.M. Forster’s Howards End

Cafe PR6069.M59 O5 2006b


At the Everett News Cafe, you’ll find a new book collection every few weeks that relates to current affairs, education, or learning environments.