Wednesday Poem: There is no Frigate like a Book (1286) ~ Emily Dickinson

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There is no Frigate like a Book (1286)

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –

Emily Dickinson

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Upcoming Fall Events ~ Oregon

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As I come across upcoming events, either for Booksellers or Authors, I’m going feature them here so if you live in the area you may be able to take time and attend.  This won’t be a regular feature, just random events for your information.  With that said the first set of events I am featuring are at Klindt’s Booksellers who are located at 315 E 2nd St, The Dalles, OR 97058.

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Tuesday, October 6th 2015
Roland Smith‘s ‘The Edge’ Launch Party
Meet the Author and book signing event
Free and open to the public at 5:00pm

Saturday, October 24th 2015
Slasher Girls and Monster Boys Book Signing Event
Kendare Blake, April Genevieve Tucholke and McCormick Templeman
Free and open to the public at 5:00pm

Saturday, October 24th 2015
Haunted Gathering
Authors Kendare Blake, April Genevieve Tucholke and McCormick Templeman
will be our guides as we commune with spirits
Tickets are $30 and include a copy of the horror short story compliation
Slasher Girls and Monster Boys

Saturday, November 7th 2015
Northwest Author Festival
Ten authors, who represent a variety of genres, will gather in the store to sign books and meet the readers. From history and fiction to YA and children’s books, there is sure to be something for everyone on your holiday list. Signed books are always great gifts!
Be sure to check with Klindt’s for a line up of the Authors attending.
Free and open to the public from 2:00pm to 5:00pm

For further information about any of these events please contact Klindt’s Booksellers on 541-296-3355.

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Write a Review. Just Saying.

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I like to think the reviews I post prevent this.

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The Great Unread

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This is an interesting article that made me wonder why some of our newer ‘classics’ tend to be reread whilst others are cast into obscurity

The Great Unread.

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What’s Wrong with Independent Writers?

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Since starting my review blog I have received a great deal of email from independent writers asking me to review their books, and I am always more than happy to do so; so what is wrong with the independent writer?  Nothing at all.

As readers we can lean towards being very elitist and snobbish when it comes to what we spend our time on, and this is often to the detriment of this hard writing group of people.  I understand we all have our favourites, and there is nothing wrong in that; I have a couple of best-selling Authors I thoroughly enjoy, but when we lean towards them and dismiss the self-published indie writer as being a hack we are not only doing ourselves a disservice, we are  undermining the time and effort these Authors have invested into their work and possibly deterring them from pursuing something they are really rather good at.

I have to state here that these are just my opinions and musings on this subject and not all reading this will agree, but if you are one of those readers who will only pick up a book that has been given mega stars on Goodreads and stellar reviews in The New York Times or The Guardian newspapers, let me say you are missing out on a whole new experience.  Personally I never read reviews or other people’s opinions on a book I’m interested in until after I have finished it and reviewed it myself, after all I assumed that was why books have a synopsis on the back cover or fly-leaf.

In my experience indie writers are a humble bunch of folks, they take constructive criticism well and do not play the diva card when it comes to reviews.  They are grateful for any readership they can get, as they know that with this readership comes word of mouth, more people reviewing their work and maybe, just maybe they will come to the notice of a reputable publishing house.  Indie writers do not get bent out of shape when their book is given less than the three star review they think it deserves, and truly understand that what they write may not be to everyone’s taste.  So why are readers so quick to dismiss them?

I think there will never be a hard and fast answer to this question, but feel that the way the world is has a great deal to do with it.  we now live in a society where everyone wants it NOW, and if they have just read a great book in a series, they don’t want to hang around waiting for the next.  Anticipation seems to have died in this day and age; I love the anticipation of the next one in the series and, as I did recently with one indie Author, did not begin reading their trilogy until I had all three books firmly in my possession.  Books are meant to be savoured and enjoyed; they are worlds that have been loving constructed and developed by their creators; they are meant to be strolled through, not driven through at a 100 mph pace. The Indie Author has a better grasp on this than the best-selling Author, in my opinion, as they strive to make each new work better than their last; the best sellers are almost akin to production line items and after a while tend to take on the personality and characteristics from previous novels.

As much as I love indie writers there is one failing that majority of them seem to fall into, and that is with their book covers. I understand that for the most part they are funding the publication of their work themselves, but for a lot of readers the cover art is what make them want to read the synopsis, and then the book as a whole; my thing is book covers, if I love a cover the synopsis will be read, if the cover doesn’t appeal to me I will probably put down what might have being an outstanding read.  So what is it about the covers that I personally dislike?  I dislike the stock photo covers, in fact I’m not a big fan of photographic covers at all unless they are part of a montage that relates to the contents.  Covers that reach out to me are artwork (if that is the correct term to use) in themselves, if not they are usually something that I’ve not seen on a cover before, and that leads me to read the summary.  I can often scroll through Amazon and see several indie books with the same cover, and none of them will get looked at further.

Yes, I guess this makes me an elitist snob with regards to the cover art of books I read, but when it comes to the contents Indie writers have as much need to be read as those up in the best-selling charts and, for this reader they are more often than not a lot more palatable.

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Notes on Unreadable Books ~ Form Versus Function

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I was browsing the digital highways this afternoon when I came across this article on unreadable books.  We have all deemed a book as such at some point in our reading lives, adn I though this view on the subject was interesting enough to share.  I hope you enjoy.

Form Versus Function.

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Wednesday Poem: Possibilities ~ Wislawa Szymborska

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Possibilities

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

By Wislawa Szymborska
From “Nothing Twice”, 1997
Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh

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Review: Inkheart (Inkworld #1) ~ Cornelia Funke, Anthea Bell (Translator)

InkheartISBN ~ 9780439531641
Publisher ~The Chicken House
No. Of Pages ~534 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Scholastic,

Twelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father, who repairs and binds books for a living, can “read” fictional characters to life when one of those characters abducts them and tries to force him into service.

Characters from books literally leap off the page in this engrossing fantasy. Meggie has had her father to herself since her mother went away when she was young. Mo taught her to read when she was five, and the two share a mutual love of books. He can “read” characters out of books. When she was three, he read aloud from a book called Inkheart and released characters into the real world. At the same time, Meggie’s mother disappeared into the story. This “story within a story” will delight not just fantasy fans, but all readers who like an exciting plot with larger-than-life characters.

5 Thumbs-UpThis book is the first of the Inkworld Trilogy, with the others in the series being Inkspell and Inkdeath.  I first was introduced to the world of Inkheart through the movie of the same name, and from watching this numerous times and also mentioning how I would love to read the book my Husband surprised me with the Trilogy.  I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about starting Inkheart, as for the movie to be so good I felt that maybe the book was truly terrible; thankfully I was wrong.  There has also been a lot of debate as to whether this Trilogy is suitable reading for the age group it is aimed at (8-12 years), but as parents are the ones who know their children it is not for me to pass comment in this area.

Surprisingly, for a book aimed at this age group, the Author has managed to create characters that are rich and full of life, so much so it almost feels as they may just come off the page and enter the real world alongside the reader.  It would have been easy for the Author to just make her characters cookie cutter images and move on with the story, but they endow them with all the personality traits, flaws and weaknesses that go into making us all so uniquely human.  Through the book the reader learns about love and loss, hatred and deceit and, although it can become a little dark at times, there is nothing that would make anyone think that these characters could not possibly exist outside the written word; I think that was the beauty of the book for me.  The Author has written a storyline that revolves around characters coming out of the book, and carries this theme into them whether they are major leads or just passing through on their way to another story.  The Author skilfully manages to keep any secrets the characters may have well hidden, making them not easy for the reader to guess until they are revealed at exactly the right moment, and in exactly the right way; a skill that many other Authors of this genre would do well to learn,

The world in which the book takes place is also very real, there are no made up locations in this book; the reader can visualise a place in Europe where all the scenery described is there.  With the colourful houses, I was transported to parts of Italy and Southern France which also included the mountains which seem to be always looming in the background in this region.  I could smell the ocean and feel the change in the wind when a storm was approaching.

This is a book lovers book, whether they like the fantasy genre or not, whether books in this age group are their thing or not.  This is a book that understands those among us that love to smell books, don’t break the spines and would be devastated if anything happened to our collections.  This is a book that says ‘hey it’s OK to be this way.  I understand and you’re not alone’.  This is an easy novel to read, and pulled me in totally from about the 4th or 5th page not letting go until I closed the back cover on it two days later.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves to read, loves books and is open to the infinite possibilities that losing themselves in a book can bring.  I already have the remaining two books in the Trilogy lined up to read, but am trying to resist as I don’t want to rush through this world without having the time to absorb everything; who knows if I’m lucky I may even be ‘read’ into it.

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Joël Champetier 1957 ~ 2015

220px-Joel_ChampetierCanadian author and editor Joël Champetier died on May 30. Champetier’s first story, “Le chemin des fleurs” appeared in Solaris in 1981 and his first novel, “La mer au fond du monde” appeared in 1990. In 1983, he helped organize the first Boréal Congress and was on the board of directors for several years. Beginning in 1990, he held various positions at Solaris and was managing editor at the time of his death.

His other works included  ” The Dragon’s Eye”, “La taupe et le dragon: Roman” and “La mémoire du lac”.

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From Page to Picture: The Dilemmas of Adaptation ~ Paul Millward

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Whilst I was gone I kept up on my reading by trawling the internet for interesting literary articles and found this on Literary Traveler.  I, for one, could be classed as a reading snob as I’m the person who says books very rarely, if ever, translate well to the big screen; so when I came across this article on just that topic I felt it was something worth sharing.  The Author of the article makes some very well thought out points about adapting novels which may, or may not, go some way to explain the awful adaptations that have hit the big screen.  It is a long article, but well worth the read.

“As someone who has always been hopelessly in love with both the printed word and the moving image, I have over the years, watched with varying degrees of discomfort, many dearly cherished novels materialise before my eyes on celluloid in sometimes shockingly distorted ways. I have often been left wondering if it is even possible to successfully and comprehensively condense a deep and complex novel into a commercially viable film. Can the movie ever be much more than just a glorified trailer for the book?

But why is the film industry so dependent upon books? It may seem a strange notion, given how old and established the film industry is, but I have for many years now felt that cinema has yet to fulfil its true potential as an art form. I believe this is in large part due to its continued reliance upon books and literature for its source material. Film is a visual medium and should be originally conceived in the form of images rather than words.

Novelists make food for thought, Hollywood sells candyfloss. It’s such an incongruous partnership. But if film makers will insist on using highly acclaimed serious novels for their material, then the least they can do is offer a glimmer of respect to the author’s work. There are moments when I sit in movie theatres wondering what on earth the film maker’s motives were for purchasing the rights to a novel they had no intention of depicting, choosing instead to take from the book the title alone and then create a different story entirely. Is it a purely cynical business ploy to take the brand value of a well-known novel in order to raise the finance to make another film altogether?

One such memorable occasion was my disastrous decision to buy a ticket to see Steven Spielberg’s version of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Color Purple. This book is one of the most emotionally powerful books I have ever had the experience of reading, yet right from the opening credits; I knew I was in a world quite alien to the one which Alice Walker had created in her seminal book.

What was unfolding before my eyes on-screen in those opening minutes was an evocation of childhood innocence. Yet this film was supposedly based on a novel that unflinchingly and honestly deals with child sex abuse and the sexual and physical abuse of women in general. The film seemed to largely ignore the graphic, painful incidents described in the book—the very events which make the story so powerful. It seemed like a whitewash, as if the film makers were in denial of the book’s true content.

It’s not as if Spielberg is afraid to deal with unpleasant subject matter. His 1993 masterpiece Schindler’s List, based on the novel Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally, deals admirably with the Holocaust in a way which honours the men and women who suffered in the Nazi death camps, unlike The Color Purple which seems more a betrayal of Alice Walker’s characters. I’m sure this is not at all what Steven Spielberg intended to do with The Color Purple, but it does show how easily such adaptations can go wildly astray.

Sadly, cinema history is littered with films which, even when they succeed as films in their own right, are absolute travesties of the books they are purporting to represent. Sometimes such books have been repeatedly adapted for the cinema without any version successfully rendering the truth of the works they are based on. One such book is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the real essence of which seems to elude film makers. The lavish 1974 screen version starring Robert Redford as Gatsby was already the film industry’s third attempt at grappling with this American classic. Yet despite looking fabulous (the outdoor party scenes are enchanting) Redford gives a strangely flat performance which fails to convey the character’s complexity.

Baz Luhrmann’s recent 2013 version though, makes the 1974 version look positively minimalist. It is a ludicrously overblown film, so in love with 1920’s glamour that, like its predecessors, it fails to notice that the story is essentially about the shallow emptiness of the world it is depicting.

Another book which has been repeatedly abused is Emily Bronte’s 1847 classic of English literature, Wuthering Heights. This is one of my very favourite novels, one which was already firmly held as a precious work of genius in my mind when the opportunity arose for me to view the celebrated 1939 film version. I was thrilled at the prospect: Laurence Olivier, the greatest classical actor of his generation, was playing Heathcliff. The film had won the 1939 New York Film Critics Award and had received eight Oscar nominations. What could possibly go wrong?

Quite a lot as it turned out. The film proved to be a monumental disappointment on the scale of The Color Purple. Hollywood had managed to transform my beloved Wuthering Heights into a simpering, wet romance, more akin to a mediocre Mills and Boon saga than Emily Bronte’s wild and passionate story of transcendental love. And then, most bizarre and baffling of all, the film suddenly ends half way through the story, an unforgivable omission to me, but one which seemed to act as a precedent for nearly all subsequent versions.

This is a novel which film makers just cannot resist mauling. There have been numerous film adaptations since the 1939 Olivier fiasco, yet they almost invariably end with Cathy’s physical death, the very moment the story gets really interesting. The 1970 version, directed by Robert Fuest, initially looked like a more promising proposition. It starred another great classical actor, Timothy Dalton, a man who seemed tailor-made to play the brooding, intense Heathcliff. But like the 1939 version, the film only covers the first 16 chapters of the 34 chapters available, and again ends with Cathy’s death, completely ignoring the story of her children. The film was a failure at the box office, and after completing my own viewing of it, I was left wondering whether any film would ever be able to capture the real Cathy, or would she forever roam about the wild moors of my imagination alone and formless.

The 1992 version, starring Ralph Fiennes as Heathcliff and the normally wonderful Juliette Binoche as Cathy, was another mediocre anti-climax. The film was poorly received by the critics but unlike most of its cousins, it did at least attempt to portray the whole story which included Cathy’s offspring, the second generation of characters. More recently there has been Andrea Arnold’s 2011 adaptation, a much starker, more elemental version, one clearly determined to reflect the more brutalist aspects of the novel. But yet again, the second half of the book is entirely omitted, just like the 1939 version.

I still await a genuinely authentic filmed dramatization of Wuthering Heights. Maybe I am expecting too much. Maybe it’s just not possible to transfer onto celluloid the peculiar essence of Emily Bronte’s prose. Can Kathy and Heathcliff’s unique spiritual bond of all-consuming love and longing exist outside of our imaginations? For the joy of reading is the world we create in our minds from the words on the pages before our eyes. Can the Cathy and Heathcliff who exist in our hearts and minds ever be manifested in physical form by mere human actors outside the pages of a book dreamed up by a young girl, all those many years ago, in some remote region of the untamed Yorkshire moors?

I’m not really sure of the answers to these difficult questions, but the kind of cinematic disasters described above have convinced me of one thing: it is nearly always better to try to see the film first before reading the book. A classic book is almost certain to be superior to its movie version, no matter how well made. Novels by their very nature are generally more substantial than films. How can a two-hour film compete with the full depth of a writer’s ideas explored over hundreds of pages of words?

Novelists have an unfair advantage over movie makers: they can directly describe and communicate to the reader absolutely anything they wish. Writers can describe at great length the deepest thoughts and feelings of all their characters. They can communicate to the reader the ideas and themes which underpin their stories as subtly or as obviously as they choose. They have complete control over the world they are creating. It’s one of the most exciting aspects of novel-writing: complete freedom.

The film maker is more restricted: everything which he wishes to communicate to his audience has to be conveyed either visually or through the dialogue of the characters. Little wonder that some film makers resort to the contrivance of the “voice over” in an attempt to subvert these limitations.

These difficulties do not apply to serious books alone. Comedy writing can be equally thwart with problems for the film maker, as exemplified by the 2005 screen version of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The true genius of Adams’ comedic writing lie in his meandering, mind bogglingly imaginative diversions from the main story line. The film chose to ignore much of Adams’ side splittingly hilarious lines in favour of dumbed down, visual humor which proved leaden and tedious.

But of all the great writers, it has often struck me that DH Lawrence must be one of the most difficult to translate to the screen. So much of his writing is about the deep, subconscious psychological and emotional dynamics which exists between his characters. And then there are all the beautiful passages of poetic prose, the cornerstone of his greatness, which cannot be filmed:

Here the stone leapt up from the plain of earth, leapt up in a manifold, clustered desire each time, up, away from the horizontal earth, through twilight and dusk and the whole range of desire, through the swerving, the declination, ah, to the ecstasy, the touch, to the meeting and the consummation, the meeting, the clasp, the close embrace, the neutrality, the perfect, swooning consummation, the timeless ecstasy. There his soul remained, at the apex of the arch, clinched in the timeless ecstasy, consummated. (Extract from The Rainbow by DH Lawrence)

As a youth I was besotted with DH Lawrence and obsessed with Women in Love, a book I repeatedly reread as if hypnotised by the potency of Lawrence’s prose. It was therefore with some trepidation that I settled down late one evening to watch Ken Russell’s 1969 Oscar-winning screen version for the first time: was I setting myself up for another colossal letdown?

On the contrary, I was absolutely swept away by Russell’s exhilarating and dazzling interpretation of the story and it remains one of my favourite films to this day. Many movie and TV versions of Lawrence’s books are almost too reverential to the text and attempt to film the unfilmable, relegating them to the “worthy but dull” category. Russell somehow seems to effortlessly sidestep all these potential pitfalls in Women in Love. The maverick film director has used the full extent of his wild and vivid imagination to conjure up from the pages of the book a vibrant, colourful world brimming with energy, wit and style, without ever giving short thrift to Lawrence’s visionary intelligence.

Women in Love proved to me that it is possible to make a great movie from a classic work of literature when the project is placed in the hands of a daring genius. Ken Russell’s adaptation of this great novel is a film genuinely worthy of its source, full of powerful, striking scenes which dramatically capture Lawrence’s intensity. It is teeming with unforgettable visual set pieces: the newly wed drowned lovers forever caught embracing at the bottom of the drained lake, the extraordinarily visceral naked male wrestling contest, an inspired Glenda Jackson as the bohemian Gudren dancing amongst cattle in a meadow, the beautiful lyrically choreographed courtship movement leading to Birkin’s and Ursula’s first kiss. The film is a veritable feast of visual delights which reflect Lawrence’s passion, sensuality and desire to connect with the primal forces of nature.

Then there are wonderfully successful films which are clearly, and quite deliberately, different to the classic books they are supposedly based upon, whereby both film and book can continue to be equally admired despite their disparities. Hollywood’s take on Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is a feel good romance with a happy ending, totally at odds with the book, but who could ever resist Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly singing Moon River?

Which begs the question: should we not be judging a film entirely on its own merits, regardless of the quality or nature of its source material? After all, Shakespeare based his plays on source material which he transformed out of all recognition, and not too many people are complaining about that. Can we really justify criticising an enormously popular film, enjoyed by millions of people around the world, simply because it does not exactly replicate the book, or satisfy our own personal vision of it?

The James Bond Franchise is an example of a remarkably successful film series which has veered away considerably from its source material, the original Ian Fleming novels. Yet both the novels and the films remain hugely enjoyable in their own right. The first Bond movie, Dr No, was made in 1962 on a relatively restricted budget, but was successful largely because of its authentic adherence to much of the book’s characterisation and plot.

But of course it was the sexual charisma of Sean Connery and Ursula Andress which has endeared that particular film to the general public, and by the mid-sixties, with blockbusters like Goldfinger and Thunderball, the films were already forming their own separate identity, far away from Fleming’s original creations. The Bond movies were becoming increasingly dominated by girls, gadgets and glamour, yet their appeal is irresistible and a perfect match for the swinging sixties.

Since the appointment of Daniel Craig as 007 in 2005, the Franchise has re-invented itself. Casino Royale, The first movie starring Craig, was a surprisingly serious film and the best Bond movie for many years. I believe its success owes a great deal to the decision to take Bond back to his roots. The film is much closer to Ian Fleming’s original book, giving it an authenticity and credibility which the previous lighter, fantasy based films lacked, however enjoyable they were to watch. Authenticity is important in all artistic endeavours and when films distant themselves too far from their source, the characters begin to lose their soul.

But one of the greatest movies I have ever seen is The Deer Hunter, an epic movie which is not based on a book, but on original ideas developed purely for the cinema. Superior original screen play movies like this suggest to me that the best approach is for a film to be initially conceived as a film, not as a book which then has to be translated to the very different medium of cinema. The Deer Hunter is artistically successful because it makes its points incredibly well through the use of visual imagery, without having to deal with the difficulties of trying to transform lengthy word descriptions into succinct photo images.

Great writers are great because they can write. Therefore the true greatness of such literary giants as a Proust or a Flaubert for example, (whose genius lies in the beauty and poetry of their words) cannot be transferred onto film. But film directors can also be great poets, great visual poets, if only they were willing to relinquish their reliance on literature. I still believe cinema has yet to truly find itself as an art form because not enough film directors are focused on the purely visual potential that cinema has. They need to be looking to Fellini for their inspiration, not delving into the pages of Victorian novels.”

Paul Millward writes for Literary Traveler.

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