The audio version of this post appears below. Just click on “play”.
I would never, ever take part in writing fan fiction of any sort and I haven’t decided on how I feel about other people doing it. Personally, I feel any creativity is good creativity and of course imitation is the highest form of flattery, so I think its better that I stick to my policy of not judging. But, to me it would seem as if I was raping the mind of the original author and I just couldn’t do that. In fact, when writing my own characters I spend far too much time agonizing about whether or not a specific character has the traits of another writer’s creation. Last year in a short story meant for the follow up to 5 Tales one character didn’t make the cut as I thought he was way too much like Elmore Leonard’s Raylan Givens. Probably wasn’t, but it was close enough for me.
I feel from everything I’ve read about Ronald Frame’s Havisham, it appears to be a very long piece of fan fiction and I’m vexed as to whether or not I should read it. My love for Dickens as documented in this blog by how much I fawn over his work should be well known to those who read this drivel. Therefore, I’m feeling somewhat assaulted by what I’m reading in the reviews of Havisham. I’ve never before let reviews taint my decisions on what to read, but this is Dickens for goodness sake and Dickens just shouldn’t be screwed with.
From what I’m reading in the New Yorker and the New York Times, the writing is good but the plot falls apart towards the end as Frame’s Miss Havisham meets up with the Dicken’s version. Both reviewers felt that Miss Havisham the narrator was far too sane and sensible to fall so quickly into insanity as the inevitable begins to unfold. That’s a pretty big flaw and really makes one wonder if the time should be spent to trudge through and possibly ruin the Miss Havisham back-story that certainly every fan of Great Expectations has created in their own minds.
It would seem to me that the merging of the two plots is exactly the reason I would never take on a project like this. When I read those reviews the image I had in my mind was of an underpowered sailboat trying to push through Plum Gut during a storm. Plum Gut is the area off Long Island where the Atlantic Ocean meets Long Island Sound. You can see where the two bodies of water meet which is tumultuous and dangerous and feels like the gates of Hell if you’re the person on the boat. The collision of the two plot lines would scare me to death and I know I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Why? Because I ain’t Dickens and no one else is either.
There’s one other problem I have with the idea of reading this book and its small but to me it matters. Dickens never gave Miss Havisham a first name. Now, obviously if you’re going to write a back story to an iconic figure you’re certainly going to have to give her a first name, or so it would seem. However, I think it would have been really cool if the author could have found some unique tool by which he never revealed the name – but hey, that’s just me. Frame named her Catherine. Catherine doesn’t work. My daughter’s name is Catherine but that’s not the reason I don’t feel it’s right for Miss Havisham. It doesn’t sound right; it doesn’t feel right for the Havisham personality we know, and in my case, love. I don’t know what it should be, but I know I spend a lot of time naming characters and rarely do it myself because I suck at it. My good friend Holli names most of my characters because she’s amazing at it. Perhaps Mr. Frame should have found a Holli, because the name stinks for this character and if you’re going to take on the greats – you really need to do them justice. If you couldn’t get the name right, why should I buy your book?
By the way, here are some of the names Holli thought would be good: Hilda, Eudora, Eunice – any of these would have been acceptable.