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Everett Public Library staff |
Published: Wednesday, July 25, 2012, 8:00 a.m.

Parodies found

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It seems like a guy can't swing a sack full of bats these days without hitting a book that parodies a specific title, author, or genre. As an avid reader and writer I can understand the numerous reasons that might compel one to create such a spoof.

Myself, I often battle a nearly uncontrollable impulse to lampoon many a detestable piece of twaddle that sells kabillions of copies (did I say Fifty Shades of Grey out loud?) thus making the author rich and convincing the reading public that said writer is a genius. It's almost an obligation to point out to the unsuspecting masses, using the two-pronged sword of humor and irony, that their $10 would have been better spent on a chia pet shaped like Don King's head.

Conversely, I suspect that some writers think to themselves: “Self, the Harry Potter industry has generated enough cash to buy one of Saturn's moons. I need a piece of that action. It's time to cash in. But how? (Finger snap!) Ah yes, a parody is just the thing! And it will be called (reverb emulating the voice of God): Harry Potty and the Deathly Boring. (End reverb). Hopefully I can catch a ride on the Potter juggernaut. I'll be richer than Croesus! (Dramatic pause). Self, who the Helen-of-Troy is Croesus?”

Then there's the fickle factor. Humans tend to be capricious, and it's not unusual for something that quickly soars to dazzling heights of popularity, say vampire books, to just as quickly fall into the Marianna Trench of uncoolness. And when this occurs, parodies are sure to follow.

Take for example The New Vampire's Handbook: A Guide for the Recently Turned Creature of the Night by Joe Garden. This important how-to volume for the recently turned gives tips on oral hygiene, faking your way through a meal, using your new vampiric powers and maintaining a fashionable wardrobe while avoiding mirrors. Edited by the vampire Miles Proctor, this helpful book is a must-have for any newly-bitten immortal.

And let us not forget that most wonderful motivator, the green-eyed monster. Humans are jealous and vengeful creatures, and it's entirely natural for one to seek out a successful person, someone high on the survival-of-the-fittest scale, and bring them down a rung or three. And if a wee bit of income is generated from this exercise in humility, well… Who's to say what's wrong or right in the game of capitalism?

And speaking of games, Stefan Petrucha has given us a biting lampoon of The Hunger Games trilogy in his graphic novel, The Hunger Pains. In Petrucha's version, Ratkiss Everspleen takes her sister Dim's place in the district's annual battle to the death. Joined by fellow contestant Peek a Choo, the two train under Haybitch Blubbernasty for the most unnecessary battle of their lives.

But perhaps the best reason of all to create a parody is simple laziness. By taking a pre-existing work (one out of copyright, of course) and adding a few scenes containing the latest literary trend (say perhaps zombies?)… Viola! A brand-spanking-new tome, such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! by Seth Grahame-Smith is born with nary a sweat crossing the author's brow. This novel novel uses 85% of Austen's original text and rounds it out with, as the title says, ultraviolent zombie mayhem! Austen's characters still have the same traits and yearnings, but in addition to being very properly British they are also highly-skilled zombie killers. So, with just a few thousand new words in a dead author's style, you too can have undreamed of notoriety and wealth.

Thus we are left wondering if parody is the highest form of flattery, or if it's simply a quick trip to the bank. Ultimately it matters not, for if we the readers are entertained by a spoof, then perhaps its author has brought a bit more happiness into the world. And isn't that what literature is all about?

Along with huge piles of cash.

Be sure to visit A Reading Life for more reviews and news of all things happening at the Everett Public Library

Story tags » Books

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