Saturday, April 5, 2008

Good vs. Good and Adaptations

Peter Nathaniel Malae, author of Teach the Free Man, came to speak to my students about writing.

He said that when writing, what's most important is that you stay true to the vision of the story. And that the great stories are about the "human heart in conflict with itself." (I like this. It reminds me of Tolstoy's famous comment that the greatest stories aren't good vs. evil but good vs. good.)

Peter is one of five finalists for the New York Public Library's Young Lion Prize, which is given to authors ages 35 or under. The otherfinalists are:

Ron Currie, Jr., God Is Dead

Ellen Litman, The Last Chicken in America

Dinaw Mengestu, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Emily Mitchell, The Last Summer of the World

I'd love to read all of these. So much to read, so little time...But right now I'm focusing on a big old fat biography of Auden (research for my historical novel).

I just finished Elegy for Iris by John Bayley, which is about his wife Iris Murdoch and her descent into Alzheimer's. Damn he loved her, a fierce and admiring love. A wonderful book--funny and moving and raw and intelligent. Much better than the film based on the book, Iris.

I also read "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," the Alice Munro story that was the basis for the film Away from Her. The film is surprisingly close in style and substance to the story. I think that in general stories make for better film adaptations because with novels so much has to be cut out. It's intriguing to see how a writer's style can be conveyed visually through film images, color, camera movement, and so on.

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