Bestsellers, adaptations, juries, short stories

Janet Maslin offers a survey of the current bestseller market, beginning with a defense of Stephen King and mentioning Neal Stephenson, Anne Rice, and Steve Martin. Nora Roberts is so last year, she says, “but John Grisham is everywhere.”

Completely unrelated: I saw the adaptation of The Human Stain last weekend. Would that I had the talent to put my reaction to verse; maybe I can bribe the Old Hag to do it for me?

The screen version of The Human Stain didn’t offend my sensibilities the way, say, the adaptation of Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair did, but I couldn’t get past the casting of Anthony Hopkins in the title role and the watering-down of the race issues at the core of the novel. In today’s New York Times, the director is quoted as saying: “In Philip Roth’s novel, you believe that Coleman Silk is white until Page 84…. If I had cast an actor of mixed race you would have known from the beginning.” Seems to me that’s part of the problem. Why hand the adaptation over to a director who doesn’t find the very premise of the book believable? Maybe he should meet Gregory Williams. (Via TMFTML.)

Everyone has linked to an article discussing the fact that book award juries sometimes select the wrong books. Present company excluded, no doubt, although I haven’t read the National Book Award nonfiction finalists.

Chicha largely agrees with Laura Miller’s take on the short story. She has an interesting perspective on the essay, and says, “right now, I’m much more excited about novels than short stories. ”

I agree that too often the Best American and O. Henry anthologies are uneven at best, and don’t get me started on the banal fiction published in The New Yorker under the Treisman regime (there are exceptions). It seems to me that the best short stories written today are leaner than they traditionally have been, and that many of them appear online.

In a private discussion about the Miller essay yesterday, Sean Carman argued that:

Laura Miller’s piece in today’s New York Times confirms, again, that she’s something of a McSweeney’s fan. She suggests, indirectly, that McSweeney’s in the antidote for the blahdom that can suffuse the so-called prototypical New Yorker short story. She does this by praising the McSweeney’s-released Michael Chabon collection, and by saying it was far more entertaining than this year’s Best of and O Henry collections.


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