Thanks, everyone!! You made THE CINDERELLA MURDER by Mary Higgins Clark and me the #4 paperback seller last week. I love the jacket art, don’t you? If you haven’t read it yet, click here for the details!
Entertainment Weekly, or the Bible as it’s called in my house, recently listed the Top 100 Greatest Characters of the Last Twenty Years.
As its title indicates, Entertainment Weekly concerns itself with entertainment generally: movies, television, music, the interwebs, theater, and, yep, books. Perhaps not surprisingly, the bulk of their hundred greatest characters were known from movies and TV. Omar Little, Cosmo Kramer, Buffy Summers, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, Homer Simpson. Hard to argue with most of the choices.
The list did acknowledge a few literary characters, but most of those were discussed in terms of their dual identities, existing both on the page and in film, such as Dexter Morgan, Bridget Jones, and Harry Potter.
But as I perused the article, I was struck by how many of the TV and movie characters actually originated in novels and short stories. My first instinct was critical. Why, I asked, did the magazine make only brief mention of the original works while reserving celebration for the filmed or televised version of the character? Why didn’t EW discuss both the literary and films versions, as the article did, for example, with Bridget Jones?
I realized, however, that as much as we readers like to say that adaptations “destroy” our favorite books, sometimes actors, directors, and screenwriters create something entirely new from literary inspiration, or at least sufficiently unique to take on new life. When I think of Red from the Shawshank Redemption and Annie Wilkes from Misery (who both made the list), I think of Morgan Freeman and Kathy Bates, not the works of Stephen King in which they first appeared.
I confess that I had forgotten that some of my favorite characters had literary predecessors. I can’t imagine Tracy Flick, for example, apart from Reese Witherspoon’s interpretation of her.
Forrest Gump, in my mind, looks and sounds forever like Tom Hanks.
And, with all due respect to Candace Bushnell, when most of us hear Carrie Bradshaw, we think (for better or worse) of TV Carrie, not book Carrie.
Some adaptations stray so far from their source material as to be unrecognizable. I’m told, for example, that the novel upon which Up in the Air was based did not have either of the two female characters who taught George Clooney so much about life. Many people did not realize that the film O Brother, Where Art Though? was based on Homer’s Odyssey until the Academy nominated the screenplay for best adaptation. In our own genre, I can’t be the only Michael Connelly reader who was, shall we say, surprised at filmmaker Clint Eastwood’s take on the character Buddy.
Two questions for discussion, one with subparts:
1) Who are your favorite literary characters of the last twenty years?
2) And which translations of literary characters to TV or film have been most horrific, accurate, or even improvements on the originals?
I have a raffle going on at my page on Facebook. If you’re a member of Facebook, all you have to do to enter is join my page and then respond the following question: Name three literary characters and state whom you would kiss, whom you would marry, and whom you’d like to kick in the shins.
A random winner from the comments will receive a signed copy of Lee Child’s new novel, 61 Hours.
You can join my page and enter the raffle here.
Like most (all?) writers, I’m also an avid reader. Ironically, the biggest sacrifice I’ve had to make since I published my first novel has been my leisure reading. On too many airplane flights, rainy Sundays, and sunny summer weekends, the novel that would have once occupied my hands has been replaced by a MacBook Air on my lap.
But lately I feel like I’m back in the thick of it as a reader. Usually a late-summer author, I am waiting until spring for my next book, 212. That has made this summer a longer one for me — more time at home, less on the road, and making a good dent in that big ol’ to-be-read pile.
Hopefully I’m not the only person reading more. The fact that Newsweek devoted an entire (wonderful) cover feature to … books (gasp!) gives me hope. (Be sure to check out the roundtable with authors Lawrence Block, Susan Orlean, Kurt Andersen, Annette Gordon-Reed, Robert Caro, and Elizabeth Strout. Great stuff!)
I thought I’d share with you some of my recent favorite reads, as well as all-time-faves. Have you read these? What do you think? And what are you reading … both now and always?
Lisa Unger‘s DIE FOR ME – Lisa adds such a unique voice to the thriller genre, taking her time to establish character but still delivering the requisite thrills.
Lee Child‘s GONE TOMORROW – One of my new favorites in the Jack Reacher series, this one you’ll want to read in one big gulp.
Michael Connelly‘s THE SCARECROW – A different kind of book for Connelly, there’s no whodunit here, but I still couldn’t put it down. This former reporter’s take on the dying newspaper industry is an added bonus.
Philip Margolin‘s FUGITIVE- This one took me right back to the courtroom hallways of Portland. Margolin’s always a pro about pace and plot.
Garth Stein‘s THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN – I wouldn’t have thought that a book written from the perspective of a dog (and a dying one at that) would be my cup of tea, but consider me charmed.
Books I’d Pack for a Desert Island:
Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Michael Cunningham’s The Hours.