So there you are, merrily reading a book, you turn the page, and suddenly a great thing happens: maybe a character starts talking about an author, or you see a quote from a poem at the beginning of a chapter, maybe the book itself is based off an idea that originates from another book. It’s moments like this that remind you that an author’s job, secondary only to writing, is reading.
(Click the word for a link to its definition)
Aside: To all the naysayers of English lit degrees – Am I making use of my education? Yes. Yes I am.
Who needs money when you know all about literary devices?
After reading A Gathering of Shadows (no, I will never shut up about that book) a few weeks ago, I finally decided to look up the Blake poems that Lila recites, and that started me thinking about other cases of intertextuality I’ve encountered lately.
So without further ado:
This is a list of a few books I’ve read at the mention of other books I’ve read:
Wide Sargasso Sea -> Jane Eyre
Jean Rhy’s Wide Sargasso Sea acts as a prequel to Jane Eyre, and lends a voice to the ‘madwoman in the attic’ Bertha Mason. It speculates her life growing up in Jamaica, and her relationship with Rochester (during their honeymoon in Dominica) before they relocate to live in England.
And the book is really well done! It’s got all the elements of a gothic novel, mixed with an awareness of patriarchy that’s characteristic of the 60’s. I’d definitely recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Jane Eyre!
Clockwork Prince -> The Castle of Otranto
As lovingly as it’s described by Tessa above, you can imagine why I was intrigued a few years ago, when I was in England browsing in a used bookstore and saw The Castle of Otranto for only £3. So I picked it up, and ended up reading it during the drive from London to Edinburgh (8 hours straight!) a few days later.
And it was fantastic! The writing is a bit dense (hello, 1764) but the story is adventurous and the I loved the characters. Ultimately, I never would have picked it up had I not read about it in Clockwork Prince, and I’m so glad I did!
A Gathering of Shadows -> Blake
*spoiler alert kind of*
Lila concentrates her magic by reciting lines of Blake poems under her breath, one of which is “The Tyger” which was written as a part of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience poetry collection published in 1794.
Blake’s poetry, though misunderstood in his time, sought to inspire original thought and still does today. “The Tyger” is one of his best known poems. One of my favourite quotes of his is: “I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man’s. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.” The paintings/engravings that accompany each of the poems in Songs of Innocence and of Experience are captivating as well, and show Blake to be an artist in more than one sense of the word.
Shiver by Maggie Steifvater -> Rilke
One of the main characters in The Shiver Trilogy, Sam, loves Rilke. And Maggie Steifvater has talked in interviews before about how she “was hugely influenced by Rainer Maria Rilke when [she] wrote the Shiver trilogy“.
In response to this, I picked up a copy of Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet a while ago, and it’s just brilliant. He wrote 10 letters to an aspiring poet in 1903, and this book shows their complete correspondence over a period of five years. The letters showcase many of the themes and the philosophy of Rilke’s writing, and remain an inspiration to writers all these years later, myself included. It’s definitely worth the read, and only about 100 pages!
And that’s all! I think it’s interesting when YA fantasy authors end up teaching you something about classic literature. There’s something about intertextuality that makes me think lit can really defy genre. I think we’re often too quick to separate the ‘classic’ from the ‘contemporary’. Who says Blake can’t play well with magic? Whoever they are, they’re lying.
What do you think? Have you ever read anything at the recommendation of another book? Let me know in a comment!
As always, happy Wednesday!