Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday Sundries, 104

1. AOTW: No one really stood out this week--or (to put it another way)--no one behaved any more thoughtlessly and selfishly than I did, so ... no award this week!

2. A few weeks ago I posted some things about a film I saw years ago, a film that somehow popped into my head while I was on an evening drive with Joyce. 36 Hours (1964) starred James Garner in a World War II thriller about an important U. S. Army officer (Garner) whom the Nazis drug and kidnap; they take him to what looks like an Army hospital, where they convince him the war is over, etc. What they really want to know? When and where are D-Day? The film also stars Rod Taylor as a very convincing Nazi-pretending-to-be-an-American and Eva Marie Saint, less convincing as a woman released from a death camp to play along with the ruse. (Link to film trailer)

scan from Harper's
October 1944
Anyway, I ordered the film (Netflix) and was surprised in the film's credits to see that the screenplay came from an original story by Roald Dahl--yes, the chocolate-factory guy. So ... I did a bit of searching, found the story online (yes, it wasn't that much searching!), and read it. Then forgot to mention it here for several weeks. (Dotage.)

The story is called "Beware of the Dog" (link to entire story--which you can read in a few minutes). Originally published in Harper's in October 1944--just a month before I was born. And--no surprise, I guess--it bears only the most misty resemblance to the screenplay. In Dahl's version, an RAF pilot is shot down, and the Nazis, again, try to convince him that he's in England--but he catches on far more quickly than Garner did (oh, Jim Rockford!), and there's nothing about D-Day, or an Eva Marie Saint character, etc. A fairly simple story converted to a complicated film that I remember liking in 1964--and liking again only a few weeks ago.

3. I finished a book this week, Richard Russo's early novel Nobody's Fool (1993), a novel I'd not read before even though I have always loved the 1994 film--with Paul Newman, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, and an early appearance by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays a, uh, mentally challenged local cop in the story.  (Link to film trailer.)

Anyway, Russo just recently published a sequel--Everybody's Fool (2016)--which I bought, using it as a prompt for me to read the original, which, as I said, I just did.

I loved it.

Much of the film dialogue comes straight from the novel about Donald "Sully" Sullivan, a sixty-year-old handyman living in the small town of Bath, New York, where all sorts of stuff is going on.

There are some very significant differences, too. Sully's son--who's just lost an academic position in West Virginia--appears in both, but his story in the novel ends in a much different (and very surprising) way than it does in the film.

There are some other complications in the novel, as well--additional characters, additional subplots--but the filmmakers (directed by Robert Benton) have kept the essence of the story, the humor.

I got a little laugh about one character. Sully's landlady, Miss Beryl (80), played by the wonderful Jessica Tandy in what I believe was her last film, reveals in the novel that she was an 8th grade English teacher for her entire career (and taught most of the principals in the story). She alludes to Dickens several times (A Christmas Carol and the "chains we forged in life" stuff) and some other literary things. I loved that! Especially since I taught 8th grade English for many years ...

One complaint I'd have if I were reviewing the book ... It was only Russo's 3rd novel, and he'd not yet learned good ways to distinguish the dialogue and the humor of his characters. They all sound the same--have the same dry, ironic wit. Take off the dialogue tags, and you'd be confused about who was talking to whom.

But, hey, I loved the book. Am going to rent and watch the film again. Then read the sequel, which will have to wait another week because I'm now reading yet another novel by John A. Williams, !Click Song (1982), as I continue my journey through his complete novels. Full report on that next week!

4. Final Words

  • A word that looks "dirty" but isn't ...
    • inspissate  \in-SPIS-eyt\ verb to thicken, as by evaporation; make or become dense (from dictionary.com)
  • prosimetric, adj. Written partly in prose and partly in verse; = prosimetrical adj. (from the OED)
  • succus (SUHK-uhs) noun: Juice; fluid. From Latin succus (juice). Earliest documented use: 1771. (from wordsmith.org)

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