Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Art of Adaptation

Erik Tarloff looks at Hollywood adaptations of novels:

The French Lieutenant's Woman, a best-seller when first published in 1969, may be the best of them, and is certainly the best-known.  It misses greatness by a hair, arguably;  its eponymous heroine (the author himself refers to her, erroneously, I should say, as the novel's protagonist) is a bit underdeveloped as a character, and the denouement (or denouements, as I'll explain in a moment), in which members of the Rossetti family suddenly make a surprise and utterly unprepared appearance, qualifies as a very big stretch from a very distant left-field.  But despite these weaknesses, its merits are considerable, and the skill that went into its making is nothing less than virtuosic.  Perhaps most impressively, it plays post-modernist games with narrative while at the same time giving the conventional demands of narrative their full due.

In brief, The French Lieutenant's Woman is a sort of pastiche of Victorian romantic fiction, told in a stylized prose of pitch-perfect accuracy that falls just this side of parody.

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