A Case of Literary Sampling?
September 30, 2013
So, I learned the other day on NPR's All Things Considered that musicians borrow, reinterpret, and outright swipe riffs from each other all the time. Depending on the level of permission both sides agree to, this practice is called everything from sampling and interpolation to outright robbery.
A perfect example is this summer's smash-hit, Blurred Lines, by Robin Thicke. All twerking aside, Thicke's catchy chartbuster samples from Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit, Got to Give It Up. So much so, that it has raised some legal issues.
So what happens when writers seemingly sample each other's work? Talk about blurred lines!
This brings me to my own discovery of possible literary sampling.
In search of some light summer reading, I recently picked up Soulless by Gail Carriger, the first book in the Parasol Protectorate series. The books follow the adventures of preternatural Alexia Tarabotti as she runs into all sorts of supernatural and steampunkish mayhem threatening the British Empire. (Fluff? You bet! Fun reading? Yep!)
In the book, Alexia is a forward thinking, no nonsense kinda gal leaving her with few prospects for marriage in Victorian England. While she's not hard on the eyes, her complexion is a little too "Italian" to be fashionable for those pasty Brits. Prospective suitors give Alexia a wide berth. That is, until she meets the attractive, truculent, and Scottish werewolf, Lord Conall Maccon. What ensues next is a Hepburn and Tracy-like romance with the parasol-wielding Alexia...
Wait a minute. Parasol-wielding? A not fashionably attractive independent-minded heroine? Hunky but brooding suitor? Hepburn and Tracy overtones? Mystery and mayhem?
Strip out the werewolves and vampires and add some Egyptology, and Alexia morphs into Amelia Peabody, parasol and all. Amelia is the heroine of Elizabeth Peters' mystery series that starts with Crocodile on the Sandbank. While Amelia doesn't save the Empire from scary creatures, she does know her way around a mummy's tomb and how to see through a bunch of supernatural hokum.
The Amelia Peabody series started in the 1960s, while the Parasol Protectorate is a more recent creation. While the similarities between Alexia's and Amelia's stories start to diverge after the first few chapters, their similarities made me wonder whether Carriger dabbled in a bit of literary sampling of Peters' work when she created her Alexia.
No matter, both Alexia and Amelia's adventures are worth the read.
So, have you stumbled across a case of literary sampling in your reading?
Let me know.