There is always a lot of talk on book-to-film, the issue of fidelity to the original material. Everyone knows the main parameters of discussion. That they are not the same medium, that they have different strengths, that a film fails if it tries to slavishly be the book on screen, and can fail (for readers) if it deviates too profoundly, in plot, casting, tone, or themes.
Leaving The Hobbit aside, since I try not to talk to much about Tolkien-related issues, the mixture of outrage and bemusement over the casting of Tom Cruise recently as Jack Reacher (in the film of a book by Lee Child) has been extreme. Reacher, for those not in the loop, is vividely described in all the books as being really big and strong, about 6’5″ or so, and it isn’t just a throwaway fact, it is at the core of the character: a man who causes other men to shrink a bit, whenever he enters a room. He is massively physical. Cruise … isn’t. Yet despite readers’ howls of dismay, Lee Child is on record, whether sincerely or as a good soldier, in saying he thinks Cruise ‘nailed it’.
We’ve done ‘Casting Couches for my various books. In the Bright Weavings Forums, on the Pinterest board, and recently on the Facebook page as part of a draw for an ARC of River of Stars. I make Danny De Vito jokes and (mostly) enjoy the indications of how readers ‘see’ people. I do remind people that hair colour or anything like that is not an important criterion. Easy to adjust. Go for the acting skill. I have my own wishlist (for directors, too) but tend to keep boringly quiet on this, too, as there are real discussions going on all the time. It wouldn’t be smart to diss someone who might be part of a major proposal. (I may have killed the De Vito-as-Diarmuid option already.)
I’m also intrigued by artists offering their takes on scenes or characters from the books. The very nature of visual art seems to allow more room for interpretation. (Not always, this week sees a lot of debate over the unveiled first royal portrait of Kate Middleton.) In fact, when Deborah and I were discussing Bright Weavings, one request I made was that the site try to encourage submissions of scholarship and art.
So to round this rainy morning post off, I’m attaching two works from the Art Gallery on the main site (get there by clicking at the top here, to see some other artwork submitted over the years – Deb, consulting with my artist friend Martin Springett, acts as curator in selecting).
The first is by Naomi Tajtelbaum. Her comment on the site reads, in part,
“My sister introduced me to GGK’s works when I was a teenager, starting with Tigana, which has remained my favourite novel ever since… I chose the riselka since it is a fantastical creature and therefore I felt I could use license to give it an abstract image… I tried to bring in imagery from the book; if you examine it carefully you will find three faint paths and faces. One of the paths includes some gold, whereas one of the faces looks drawn, possibly ill, and one of the paths is branching. The colours mirror the colours used in the description of the riselka, the greens and blues and purples…”
The other piece (there are many I could have picked) accompanied the Washington Post’s review of Under Heaven. Artist Goni Montes called it a ‘dream job’. The piece is called ‘Peony’ and the slight irony is that this image would also be a terrific one for River of Stars, because a Peony Festival in springtime plays a role in the novel. (It was called the ‘king of flowers’ by some, though there is irony there, too, as neo-Confucian purists saw it as too ‘feminine’.) Here’s that one. I like the way the horses, so critical in the novel, are quietly integrated: