Fiction Responding to Fiction Archive
Munro has spoken about her debt to American writers from the South, including O’Connor, and we can clearly see how “Save the Reaper” is responding to O’Connor’s story by touching on similar themes and even moments, and yet spinning off from the original in true Munro fashion.
Grace Paley’s work has influenced many writers, both her contemporaries and those who followed. Amy Hempel has spoken often about Paley’s imprint on her work. For Hempel’s story “Today Will Be a Quiet Day,” Hempel has identified one Paley story as being particularly important.
The writers discussed the many ways in which fiction can respond to fiction. Of particular note was the impetus for using a particular source text—what inspired the response—and the extent to which a retelling can or should stand on its own without an intimate knowledge of the original.
Jamaica Kincaid's classic story "Girl," first published in the New Yorker in 1978, is a small gem, consisting of less than 700 perfectly chosen words. We can see the echoes of Kincaid in John Keene's story "Acrobatique" even though the story was not written intentionally to respond.
“Roman Fever,” published by Edith Wharton in 1934 just three years before her death, is one of her short story masterpieces, and it is a story that has spawned many responses, including a modernized version by Alice Elliott Dark entitled “The Secret Spot.”
Bruce Springsteen often tells stories in his songs which investigate the human condition, the lyrics following a narrative arc with a clear beginning, middle and end. It is therefore not surprising that fiction is one of the places where he finds inspiration.
Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” is the classic titular story in his collection published in 1981. The original story, entitled “Beginners” was famously edited by Gordon Lish, and it is longer, containing more hope and introspection.
One of John Updike’s early and most anthologized stories, “A & P,” from Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories, is a modern retelling of James Joyce’s “Araby” from The Dubliners.
Joyce Carol Oates’s story “The Lady with the Pet Dog” is a clear response to Anton Chekhov’s classic story “The Lady with the Little Dog.” Almost seventy-five years separate the two stories, and Oates, through her modifications, clearly modernizes the story, retelling the story through a feminist lens.
Lorrie Moore’s story “Referential,” published in the New Yorker in 2012 and included in her 2014 collection Bark, is a clear homage to and reflection of Vladimir Nabokov’s story “Symbols and Signs,” published in 1948 in the New Yorker and included in his collection Nabokov’s Dozen a decade later.