Trend Renowned literary works now come in the form of fantasies, graphic novels, audio books and movies, and they are a huge hit with youngsters

Though many of the city’s bookstores are slowly turning obsolete or transforming into gift and stationery emporiums, the sale of classics is on the increase, thanks to the makeovers they have recently acquired. The classic Anna Karenina for instance is now Android Karenina and is no longer only about the tragic romance of Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Vronsky, but about them living in a world of mechanical butlers, extraterrestrial-worshipping cults, and airborne debutante balls. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has turned into the very popular Pride and Prejudice and the Zombies series while her Emma is now more famous as Emma and the Werewolves and Sense and Sensibility is better loved as Sense and Sensibility and the Sea Monsters .

Turning the classics into bizarre stories is not the only way that publishers are trying to reach readers. Graphic novels on the classics are enjoying a never-before high. E-books fly into e-reading devices for free. Audio classics are a dime a dozen. Teen movie adaptations of the classics are very popular too, like She’s The Man or Get Over It , which are loose interpretations of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream respectively.

Writers and lovers of the classics, however, have mixed views about the modern interpretation of the classics that city readers seem to love. Says Anita Nair, “Adaptations of the classics are fun if they are in a good format. If they are gimmicky, they denigrate the value of these books. After all, a classic is a classic because it has endured and it is not to be spoon fed to readers in a form that they are comfortable with. It defeats the very purpose of these books.”

Some authors however believe that a different kind of reader would be drawn to a book like Android Karenina . “It’s actually no different from someone experimenting with the classics in music or in a film,” says writer Milan Vohra who recently launched her new book. “Any creative work done by an author, painter or musician is out there in the universe. It is outside of the creator. Nothing is a closed text,” she says.

Renowned writer and classics lover, Jaishree Misra, however, says that making people read the classics could be a losing battle. “It is tough times in publishing these days and the classics stand no chance at all,” she explains, adding, “I recently heard of P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberly , being a whodunit take on Pride and Prejudice . In the hands of a talented writer like James, however, it’s hard to think of it as a cheap gimmick.”

Readers love the idea of the classics getting a new look as also the storyline, but not everyone loves the zombies or monsters. They feel that publishers could think of other options too, like transporting the classics into a contemporary situation or using other appealing creatures in them. Nair observes, “I might, for instance, read Huckleberry Finn and the Elves for instance, instead of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim.”

We need to change our thinking, adds Vohra. “Reading a book is like nutrition. For example, if they hate broccoli (let’s call it a ‘classic’ for argument’s sake), they can get similar nutrients from another fruit or vegetable. As long as they get it, let’s be happy. The fact is, you can’t tell a reader what to think. You can only tell them what you’re thinking.”

Youngsters love the idea of zombies and sea monsters in the classics and many parents also feel it is fine to enjoy an alternate world set against an already famous one. But B. Kapur, consultant psychiatrist observes that violent fantasies may not be healthy for children, even in classic formats. “Reading is a wonderful habit and reading books set in a science fiction world can stimulate the imagination of young readers. But once it gets into the realm of violence, it can affect their personality. Parents should monitor what their children are reading, watching on TV or on the Internet.”

But, till then, readers are enjoying a new world of the classics by ordering books such as The Undead World of Oz to Abraham Lincoln, the Vampire Hunter . Readers of regular books may be diminishing but it looks like it could be boom time for the classics like never before.

ASHA CHOWDARY

Adaptations of the classics are fun if they are in a good format

Anita Nair

Any creative work is out there in the universe. It is outside of the creator

Milan Vohra

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