Wednesday

Marly's Ghost

Marly's Ghost
by David Levithan
YA fiction. 167 pp.
Dial. 2006.

Marly's Ghost is a Valentine's story based on Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Actually, it's more than just a retelling. It is what Levithan refers to as a remix:

This is very much a remix novel. While I've endeavored to create my own music, I've also sampled greatly from the story's original source. . . .

I decided to reread Dickens's original. I hadn't read it since ninth grade or so, and I quickly realized that I'd let all of the other versions (from Scrooged to Scrooge McDuck) block out what Dickens really wrote. . . .

For the actual writing, I sat with a copy of A Christmas Carol on my lap and went through it paragraph by paragraph, line by line, "translating" the original story into my new story, taking the original tune and turning it into a remix. Some lines stayed verbatim. Others twisted and turned into new meanings. Some of the scenes in the original novel were cut, but most of them stayed in some way.

Once I turned the last page of A Christmas Carol and wrote the last line of my first draft, I put the original away. The more I revised and remixed, the more the story and music became my own. But Dickens is still there underneath every word--sometimes on the surface, sometimes deep below.


The book is good. Quite good. As a reader, you have the advantage of knowing the basic premise for the story, so you're reading to discover how Levithan remixes it. You are greeted with those familiar lines--"Marly was dead, to begin with." Like Dickens, Levithan draws you into Ben's misery and lost humanity. In this novel, Ben's girlfriend, Marly, died of cancer. Following her loss, he has closed his heart to everyone, even to his best friend, Fred, who continues to do everything he can to reach out to Ben.

I love the language of the book. I credit this to Levithan as I'm not a huge fan of Dickens's writing, in general. But I love Levithan's writing, so I may be biased.

In all, I would have to say this is my favorite retelling of A Christmas Carol. And it's a quick read. All good things.

15 comments:

Master Fob said...

I have always liked David Levithan, but now that he is using hip-hop metaphors to describe his writing, I am in love. I used the same metaphor to describe my writing process in the critical outro to my master's thesis, which happened to be a book about Charles Dickens.

Must read this book.

So D is for David Levithan and Charles Dickens?

Edgy said...

Nope. D is for patience.

And whereas Dickens can sponsor D, Levithan cannot. Come now, Fobby. You work in a library. I would hope that you of all people would know that.

Master Fob said...

Um. Except that Cyndi Lauper sponsored C. Explain that one, Editor Boy.

Edgy said...

Ahh. Then you haven't figured out the methodology applied to select the sponsors . . .

Master Fob said...

Harumph. Maybe I think David Levithan counts as a musician now that he considers himself a remixer. Or maybe I just think your methodology is dumb. So there.

Th. said...

.

What a fascinating idea! I need to think of a short, public-domain, brilliant, and beloved-by-me, classic novel to try this experiment on. What a fantastic....

Maybe I'll do a short story first--less commitment, you see.

Absent-minded Secretary said...

D is for Dancing, right?

Nemesis said...

This book sounds great--I love retellings (or should I say "remixes") when they're done right!

Absent-minded Secretary said...

Master Fob: It might be time for additional admonishments Edgy-wise as we are almost at an anniversary-week absent of an alphabiographical entry

Edgy said...

A week cannot be an anniversary, taking into account Latin roots and all.

And perhaps Edgy could give one were he not stranded up in Wanship tonight. But his aunt's bedroom and bathroom look great.

Master Fob said...

Perhaps a semaversery? (Sorry, I'm not up on my Latin.) Regardless, I admonish you, Edgy. I'll give you your aunt's bedroom and bathroom as a justified excuse, but you are not to work today until you've posted a new alphabetical entry.

Absent-minded Secretary said...

I had an intelligent and alliterative comment responding to both Edgy and Master Fob, and then I x-ed out of the comment field and it's gone. It's going to be too much work to recreate. Sorry.

Master Fob said...

But, Absent, you aren't supposed to x out of anything for another 21 letters!

Absent-minded Secretary said...

:) When one has a three hole punch malfunction, and therefore the whole desk, chair, keyboard, floormat, mousepad, carpet, bookcase, coat, scarf, hair, face, eyelashes, ear, earrings and down-shirt, is coated with little colored paper circles, one tends to x-out of everything, while saying a few potty words, also not on the agenda yet.

Tolkien Boy said...

D is, of course, for Tolkien Boy. And I eagerly await my very own post.

And there's some really funny jokes about Latin roots, and the declining of them, but explaining them would take to long. Sorry.