Tag Archives: Bartleby the Scrivener

The Potential of Parody: An Interview with Todd Summar
by Alba Machado

Paint By NumbersIf you look up the word “parody” in the dictionary, you’ll find it means imitating a piece of literature to poke fun at it—à la Fifty Shades of Chicken and Bored of the Rings. At Columbia College Chicago, though, it often means drawing ideas and inspiration from an existing story to create an original one, and it’s something that writers have been doing for centuries. Gustave Flaubert took Miguel Cervantes’s Don Quixote and came up with Madame Bovary; James Joyce took Homer’s Odyssey and came up with Ulysses; and in the 1950s, Carlos Fuentes took John Dos Passos’s Manhattan Transfer and came up with Where the Air is Clear.

As part of his coursework, Columbia College graduate student, Goreyesque editor-in-chief, and Literary Chicago contributing writer Todd Summar wrote just such a parody last spring, taking Herman Mellville’s classic, “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street,” and creating “Tony’s Hat Lies Disused and Vulnerable,” an original short story that was recently published in PANK Magazine—a magazine that, according to The Review Review, reaches approximately 100,000 readers in well over 100 countries around the world, and accepts only 1% of its total submissions. Clearly, then, parodying can yield effective results. It needn’t be mocking, nor an homage, either. And, as Todd explains, it shouldn’t be a fill-in-the-blanks, paint-by-numbers endeavor. Continue reading

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