A Novel Idea: Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

“A Novel Idea” is a recurring feature at Gordon and the Whale that combines two things that I may have some expertise in – books and movies. “A Novel Idea” is essentially book reviews with a cinematic bent, examining literary works already slated for the big screen treatment – aiming to give us an idea of what to look for when those books finally hit the silver screen, for better or worse.

The importance of a slice of entertainment hitting its consumer at the precisely correct moment in their life cannot be overstated. Sometimes, it cannot even be sufficiently explained to others who have not had a similar experience. It’s entertainment, plus emotion, swirled with experience. Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower hit shelves in February of 1999, back when this writer was the tender age of fifteen (is there anyone as young as a fifteen year old?) and a sophomore in high school. Though Chbosky’s book revolves around high schoolers who feel that they exist especially on the outside of “normal” teenage society, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is not alienating in its depiction of, well, alienation. You did not need to be teenage outcast for the novel to touch you. But it certainly didn’t hurt. Continue reading

A Novel Idea: Matt Bondurant’s “The Wettest County in the World”

“A Novel Idea” is a recurring feature at Gordon and the Whale that combines two things that I may have some expertise in – books and movies. “A Novel Idea” is essentially book reviews with a cinematic bent, examining literary works already slated for the big screen treatment – aiming to give us an idea of what to look for when those books finally hit the silver screen, for better or worse.

Though this is only the third entry into this ongoing column, Matt Bondurant’s The Wettest County in the World stands apart in terms of just how well-suited it is for the screen. I can think of no other example of novels-turned-films in recent memory so perfectly matched for taking the cinematic route. With the adaptation of the book set to hit screens this year (and maybe even the Croisette come Cannes-time), thanks to John Hillcoat and Nick Cave, it’s high time to take a peek at what we can expect from those wild Bondurant boys.

The novel’s suitability for the big screen is, however, met with a bit of a caveat – namely that The Wettest County is not necessarily a great book or one with spine-cracking writing. It succeeds in presenting indelible characters and memorable plot lines that will explode off the screen but, here, on the page, sort of languish. Matt Bondurant is surely a good writer, but he is not a great one, and The Wettest County lacks the sort of fully formed sense of self that would launch it into the greats. Because of its overly florid prose and ricocheting timeline, The Wettest County is perfect movie fodder because it seems to almost beg to be ripped apart and put back together into something more clear and, yes, more compelling. Continue reading

A Novel Idea: Monica Drake’s “Clown Girl”

“A Novel Idea” is a recurring feature at Gordon and the Whale that combines two things that I may have some expertise in – books and movies. “A Novel Idea” is essentially book reviews with a cinematic bent, examining literary works already slated for the big screen treatment – aiming to give us an idea of what to look for when those books finally hit the silver screen, for better or worse.

If you’re not thinking about it too hard, you may hear the words “clown girl” and “Kristen Wiig” and think, “ohh! Good-natured fun!” Then you will read the introduction to Monica Drake’s claustrophobically captivating Clown Girl and realize there is nothing even remotely good-natured about this book and that, hopefully, its film adaptation will fall into the same dark place. Why would it only take you a perusal of the book’s introduction to make this realization? Because that introduction was penned by no less than Chuck Palahunik, Drake’s former writers’ group-mate, and in that introduction, proclaims Drake “his arch rival.” There are no happy clowns in Clown Girl.

Kristen Wiig optioned the rights for Clown Girl back in May of 2010, and though there has been little chatter about the project since then, Wiig was at that time slated to adapt the book and star in the film. IMDb lists the film as being “in development,” with a release date in 2012. For all intents and purposes, the project is still a go and, in a year or so, the big screen should feature one of the greatest female antiheroes in grease paint, well, ever. Continue reading

A Novel Idea: Stephenie Meyer’s “The Host”

“A Novel Idea” is a new feature at Gordon and the Whale that combines two things that I may have some expertise in – books and movies. “A Novel Idea” is essentially book reviews with a cinematic bent, examining literary works already slated for the big screen treatment – aiming to give us an idea of what to look for when those books finally hit the silver screen, for better or worse.

Stephenie Meyer’s first foray into non-Twilight fiction, The Host, is set to start filming sometime this year, with a release in 2012. The adaptation of the novelist’s first “adult” work was originally set to be penned and directed by Andrew Niccol, but Niccol recently dropped out of directing the feature, though he did complete the script. Directing duties are now under the control of Susanna White. The film has not yet been cast.

In The Host, Meyer presents an Earth in the not-too-distant future (isn’t it always) that has been taken over by an alien race, called “the souls.” The souls are essentially parasites, “settling” planets by inserting themselves in the bodies (and then the minds) of the dominant species of whatever planet they have chosen to stake as their own. They are more than adept at this task, having done it for (at least) centuries and across a number of different planets (all with very different “host” species for them to consume). The book is told from the perspective of one of those souls – Wanderer, a soul who has (ahem) wandered from planet to planet, never finding one that suited her enough to settle permanently – until now. Continue reading