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by Steve Mitchell

Great Books/Great Directors EditionStephen King complains about Stanley Kubrick’s film version of his book The Shining loudly and often. He hated it so much he produced a television version which aired a few years later but roused no excitement. The transfer of books to the screen generally doesn’t go well for anyone but the bankers, leaving the authors, the fans, or someone, with hurt feelings, nursing a sense of betrayal. But there are exceptions. Below, we’ll talk about directors who brought their own personal vision to a strong literary work. Instead of a clash of wills, the two forms come together, usually not as a faithful reproduction of scenes from the book, but as an appreciative retelling by a director who bonded deeply with the characters and themes of the author’s work.Traumnovelle/Dream Story by Arthur SchnitzlerArthur Schnitzler was a controversial author of his time, the late 1800’s, for his frank and psychologically complex work about sex and relationship. A contemporary of Freud, he explored many of Freud’s themes in his own ways. Dream Story is, of course, the dream-like story of a man wandering the streets of Vienna after an argument with his wife and the various sensual temptations he stumbles upon. It explores our darkest desires and the ways those desires can bubble up or roar forward to overtake us. An amazingly modern book to have been written over a hundred years ago.Eyes Wide Shut, directed by Stanley Kubrick

Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels by Barry GiffordI’d call the Sailor and Lula novels one of the great American love stories of the late 20th Century. This novel is worth its weight in gold for the dialogue alone. Ex-con Sailor Ripley and his sweetheart Lula Pace Fortune are re-united after his stretch in the pen. They rock into each other’s arms against the wishes of Lula’s mother, a small time crime maven who wants Sailor dead and Lula returned. Thus begins a cross country road trip and crime spree. The Sailor and Lula novels are part noir-extreme, part dark comedy, and a strangely intimate and compelling portrait of two people both in love and in lust. These books never seem to transpire in daylight or in clean rooms with fresh clothes and that’s a definite part of their beauty.Wild at Heart, directed by David Lynch

Crash by J.G. BallardIt’s safe to say you’ve never read a novel like Crash (not the basis for the Paul Haggis film of the same name starring Sandra Bullock), as the trailer below will attest. No, J.G. Ballard’s Crash is a completely different animal. Though it does share the car crashes, it has a good number more. I can’t really do better than the synopsis on the book jacket which explains that “Vaughan, a ‘TV scientist’ turned ‘nightmare angel of the highways,’ experiments with erotic atrocities among auto crash victims, each more sinister than the last.” The Kennedy Assasination gets thrown into the mix, along with the protagonist’s end of life wish to die in a head-on with Elizabeth Taylor. There’s nothing quite like it.Crash, directed by David Cronenberg

The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek Elfriede Jelinek’s knives are so sharp, you really don’t feel the wound until later. Incisive and brutal in her honesty, The Piano Teacher is the story of repression and the ways in which it can transform into obsession. Erika Kohut teaches piano at the Vienna Conservatory and lives a lonely spinster existence with her mother until her life is upended by her attraction to a new student. This is a harsh and bitter book about sex, power, and fear; none of Jelinek’s characters emerge whole and unscathed. A beautiful book in its own way, but not for the faint of heart.The Piano Teacher, directed by Michael HanekeSlavoj Zizek on the film, The Piano Teacher:

The Trial by Franz Kafka Everyone knows of The Trial, right? It’s roundly considered to be one of the capstones of 20th Century Literature. Joseph K. is arrested one morning but no one will tell him the charge. Thereafter his life become a hellish landscape of perverse lawyers, constables and surreal hearings. He must find a way to defend himself, but against what? Kafka’s book is bleakly funny as it moves from one soul-crushing moment to the next toward its inevitable conclusion.The Trial, directed by Orson WellesThe Trial trailer:

Writers’ Groups in the TriadAre you a writer? Are you slaving away alone in the dank basement of your mind, the only light a high clouded window at ground level? Writers’ groups can help. Writer’s groups can provide support, critique groups comprised of your peers, advice and information, as well as networking opportunities. Many writers’ groups sponsor open mics, workshops, and other ongoing programs. Free yourself from your basement! It might be fun!Here are a few in the area:Women Writers of the TriadWinston Salem WritersWriters’ Group of the TriadNorth Carolina Writers NetworkAnd, here’s FILMBy Samuel Beckett, Starring Buster Keaton

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