Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Resurrection of Poirot

Well hello readers! It's been a while hasn't it...well that can be blamed yet again on college. How are you ever supposed to juggle classes, homework, extracurriculars, friends, family, and sleep? Rather precariously actually. Anyway, so I was just doing a little bit of internet surfing the other day (code for procrastinating on homework) and to my surprise received an email with my monthly newsletter related to Agatha Christie, which is a wonderful break from all the junk mail I get day in and day out. I saw that Mathew Pritchard (Christie's grandson) was starring in a number of brief youtube clips that reveal a few intimate details about her life. As a youtuber is want to do occasionally, I looked at the comments and well one thing led to another and THIS----------http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/10283628/New-Poirot-book-to-be-published-with-permission-of-Agatha-Christies-family.html

A new Poirot book is set to be released in September 2014 and will be written by Sophie Hannah. This decision is completely supported by Agatha Christie's family/estate. I CAN'T EVEN BEGIN TO COVER HOW ANGRY I AM!!!!!!!!!!!

Overdramatic you say...well how about I backtrack a little to help you understand why such a decision fills me with so much internal rage. I'll call this segment Penny Reveals How Influential Agatha Christie Was and Still Is In Her Life.

As with any reader, author's works of literature aren't just pieces of paper with some splatters of ink on them. Their words and their influence become a part of who we are and ultimately change how we see ourselves and the world. Agatha Christie's books are such an integral part of my life that I can honestly say I would not be the same person I am today had I not read them. 

I first discovered Christie in my 6th grade English class. My teacher decided for that portion of the year we would all split up into groups and form what were essentially mini book clubs. We would all read the same book, discuss our thoughts in class, and then turn in a write-up of our opinions on the book every week. I managed to get stuck in a group with 3 other girls and the only book in the classroom library that had enough copies for all of us was And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I was so excited to finally be able to read a book that sounded so thrilling and engaging. I'd spent the last year in elementary school miserable because our school had this reading policy that you could only read books from the classroom library that were within your reading level. Sounds ideal right, unless you were an elementary student with the reading level of a high school student. Since that was so unusual (for my school anyway), I only had a handful of truly awful books to choose from and was denied the right to read all of the interesting books in the lower reading levels. 

When I started And Then There Were None I was so enthralled that I desperately wanted to finish the book in one sitting. Instead, I had to read it in 30 page chunks because my group members just didn't have time to read any more than that. I remember having so many theories about who was committing the murders and so many thoughts about the book in general that I would write 3 to 4 pages on the book a week when my other classmates only ever wrote a paragraph or two. I kept a sticky note in the front of the book where I would keep my list of suspects and frustratingly cross out a name after they died. (For those who have actually read this book, you probably know how useless it was to have a suspect list.) I was so blown away by the final reveal that an interest for Agatha Christie's other books was born. 

I spent the rest of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade reading all of her books that I could get my hands on and before I knew it my love for Christie's work cemented by my 9th grade year. My capstone research project was about her life and her books. My final book report that year was also centered around The Murder On The Orient Express, incidentally my second favorite Christie novel. I was so incredibly excited to find that there were tv adaptions of so many of her novels and short stories and I just couldn't wait for Masterpiece Mystery to come on every week. When I found out that John Curran was publishing a book about her notebooks, that was the first item that made it on my Christmas list that year. 

I've even developed a particular way of acquiring Agatha Christie's books. While I occasionally pick up a brand new copy of one of her books in the bookstore now and then, I just love to go hunting for them in used bookstores and thrift shops. Christie's books have been published now so many times that I've found they are staples of any place that sells used books. Every one of her books that I buy used has such great character. I love how all of them have that delightful old book smell and so many of them are worn down with age and appreciation from other readers before me. They also have such an interesting array of styles, colors, and formats. I even managed to snag a handful of them that were bound in leather. The whole thrill of going used book shopping for me is finding that one Agatha Christie book that I don't own (a process which is getting increasingly harder to accomplish because I now own so many). There is nothing I would love to do more than just cuddle up with a hot cup of tea and an Agatha Christie book.

I knows I'm probably going on a little too long about my personal love for Agatha Christie, but I'd just like to end this segment of my post with one last recollection, which I think will work well to transition to the rant that will follow and that is my reaction to reading Curtain. (This will involve spoiling this book, so skip this paragraph and the next if you wish, but honestly I'm sure everyone knows how this book ends). When I started this book I had no idea that it was Poirot's last case and was completely blindsided by the ending. Now normally I do not cry very often and it takes a pretty powerful book or movie to reduce me to tears. When I got to the part where Poirot dies, I ended up breaking out my tissues at 3 in the afternoon on a Saturday. It was the perfect end for such a dynamic character as Poirot and when I finally manage to read all of her books, I will be picking this one up again.

Now let's move on to the part where I rant about how illogical and frustrating it is to release a new Poirot book. First of all, Poirot is DEAD. HE IS DEAD. There is no room for a two bit mystery writer to pen a sequel because the character is no longer alive. His death was so famous in fact that he was given an obituary in the New York Times.
        Why would you agree to bring back a character with such a famous demise. Let's also not forget that these books will obviously not be written by Agatha Christie, so why even bother. Yet again the industry has decided that fan fiction (because that is essentially what this new book will be) is totally fair game as a respectable novel. Now I'm not bashing anyone who likes to write fan fiction. It's a great way to work on your writing skills while dabbling in an author's world that you just can't let go of... but at the end of the day those characters are not yours and the stories you write are not the same as the stories those characters originally starred in. 

The one quote from his article that really pisses me off is this: "The book, the first ever Christie continuation novel, will be written 38 years after the author’s last work and is intended to bring Poirot’s exploits to a new generation." 

Do you know what worked well to bring Poirot's exploits to a new generation. The re-releasing of all of Agatha Christie's books because THOSE are her actual works of literature. When those expensive new editions of Christie's books hit the Barnes and Nobles shelves and supplanted all of the cheap 6 dollar copies that I loved so much I didn't say anything. As a Christie fan I bit my tongue because I knew those new books would draw in a new generation of fans. I was also SO impressed by the quality of the new covers that I have been tempted numerous times to buy them even though I already own most of those stories in other copies. So how about we think realistically regarding this decision. What was the real motivation behind releasing what is essentially Poirot fan fiction.

Bo Burnham has this amazing line in his new song Repeat Stuff that I really can't stop thinking about: "But we'll stop beating this dead horse when it stops spitting out money." 

When an author dies I am of the opinion that you should leave their characters, their stories, and even their name alone. I've never understood why books are ghost written and released under dead author's names. Where is the respect in that, really.

All I can say is that when the release date for this new book arrives, I will not be picking up a copy and I urge others to instead buy a copy of one of Agatha Christie's actual books. No matter how many new Poirot books get published there is nothing that can compare to her original work.