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02/28/2007

Comments

Roy Rubin

1st person can be adapted to screen by use of voice over, the mind of the thinking protagonist. The French New Wave of the 50's and 60's seemed to use a lot of voice over.

The movie The Grifters was a very good film.

Dan Green

"can be adapted to screen by use of voice over"

It isn't the same.

Rodney Welch

Dan, I'm very much in agreement on this novel. The best Thompson novels are indeed first-person; he has a natural talent for instability, which is highlighted well in the passage from "After Dark." I read that book long before "Natural Born Killers" came out, but my first thought was that Woody Harrelson -- then known only on "Cheers" -- would have been perfect for that kind of role. It would require an actor with a blend of easygoing, simple, and violent. I thought Jason Patric was a little too beekcake for the movie that was eventually made; otherwise I thought it was pretty good.

I was quite surprised when "The Grifters" became a Hollywood film with all manner of top-drawer talent, because I thought Thompson had fumbled it, more or less for the reasons you state. Violent as that ending was, it seemed to me forced or hasty.

I was amazed to see that Stephen Frears had actually made it work. Either he or his screenwriter fleshed out the characters a lot more, or he found perfect casting in John Cusack, Annette Bening, Anjelica Huston and Pat Hingle (a Thompson thug is ever there was one.) Also, all the elements of film actually made the ending more gripping, more dramatic.

Steven Augustine

I'm not sure if the cited texts demonstrate the strengths one POV over another, though, as opposed to showing how a laconic approach works best in this genre. It strikes me that vagueness of language on the order of "incredible agony" and so forth isn't particular to Third Person...could just as easily happen in First. Similarly, doesn't the admirable terseness of the bit you cite from "After Dark, My Sweet", work just as well, with a little tinkering, in Third?

"The bartender slopped a beer down in front of him. He scooped up the change Collins had laid on the counter, sat down on the stool again, and picked up a newspaper. Collins said something about it was sure a hot day. Bartender grunted without looking up. Collins said it was a nice pleasant little place he had there and that he certainly knew how to keep his beer cold. Bartender grunted again.

Collins looked down at his beer, feeling the short hairs rising on the back of his neck. He guessed--he knew--that he should never have come in there. He should never go in any place where people might not be nice and polite to him. That's all they have to do, you know. Just be as nice to him as he is to them. . . ."

I'm thinking of John Banville's tendency towards First Person...sometimes it's a serious limitation being locked up in one head for a whole book. 'The Sea' had (in my opinion) insurmountable technical problems that a Third Person omniscient could easily have handled (as I pointed out in an essay comparing it to Roth's 3rd P "Everyman").

If anything, I find the conservative reliance on the normative approach to POV (people taking Updike to task for using unlikely locutions whilst mind-reading his protag in 'Terrorist' for example) to be the enemy of expression here...we're too damned concerned with Lit mirroring 'reality' as opposed to creating it.

Third Person gets dry indeed when constrained by 'reality' but when the boundaries are more fluid (as in DeLillo dropping an "I" suddenly in the middle of a 3rd P paragraph) it can be the most supple tool in the box.

Dan Green

"It strikes me that vagueness of language on the order of "incredible agony" and so forth isn't particular to Third Person"

Perhaps, but in Thompson's case he's really only tempted to such vagueness in the third person. His best writing is a "voiced" writing.

Steven Augustine

It's interesting...it's almost psychological, isn't it?

Josh

Great job in illustrating how well Thompson's first-person narration works for people with whom "something's not quite right": the spectacular breakdowns in The Killer Inside Me, A Hell of a Woman, and Savage Night show off that talent to brilliant effect. But I don't get "he shares our narrative attention with his mother Lilly and his girlfriend, Moira Langry, and so the story involving the three of them will have to be told by a third-person narrator . . . " Thompson by that time had proven (in The Criminal and especially The Kill-Off) that he could excel with multiple first-person narrators.

Dan Green

Josh: Point taken. I should have just said something to the effect that there are three protagonists and that Thompson chose to use third-person to tell their stories in this particular instance.

Helen Westbrook

Thompson fans will enjoy SWAP by Sam Moffie. I know I am fan of both.

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