There are books that everybody has read so it is as if you had read them as well. Interestingly how the plots of some books are so well known virtually to everybody that even without opening the book even once, you can understand the jokes based on the story or characters, use them as metaphors or laugh at the parodies.
The stories of Robinson Crusoe, Hamlet, Frankenstein and even the Bible itself were interpreted and re-interpreted so many times that they became a kind of common knowledge, entered the noosphere and suddenly became known to everybody, disregarding the actual act of reading the original story. It is interesting to watch how the stories get distorted and float away from the original thought of the author.
Recently (well, yesterday to be exact) I finished reading “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” by Stevenson, one of such stories. The now classic story of a person and his vile alter ego who awakes at night to produce depravity and crime was used in so many films, TV shows and later books, that I clearly imagined the plot of actual story in absolute clarity. Thus there was no reason to read the original book, thought I. After having read Stevenson’s story however, I should confess I was wrong. While the plot was very predictable, the essence of story was not about the evil doppelgänger who tries to take over doctor’s life, but rather about the suffering of a weak man, who struggles to control his two identities: one of a respected and rich scientist and another of a frivolous debauchee. It is a duel of morality and immorality, rather that of good and evil. Almost everything I saw influenced by that book clearly missed the depth of the original, concentrating on the wrong of the mystical double and positioning the story as a thriller rather than drama.