“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are gone, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.”
“Green wind from the green-gold branches, what is the song you bring?
What are all songs for me, now, who no more care to sing?
Deep in the heart of Summer, sweet is life to me still,
But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.”
Fiona Macleod/William Sharp
It’s late. I should have written this post hours ago, but I heard a wonderful interview with Alan Arkin on TV and stayed up to watch him star in a wonderful film adaptation of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. What a powerful, moving story — and how amazing to think that Carson penned it when she was only 23.
A good novel-to-movie translation is tough to pull off: So often, they’re more disappointing than satisfying. In this case, along with superb acting, there are classic story elements that contribute to a successful leap from page to projector:
A strong sense of place: The small Southern town in which the story takes place is steeped in tradition and prejudice.
An unusual hero: The main character, Singer, has a distinctive quality that sets him apart and commands attention: He can neither speak nor hear, yet he radiates sympathy and soulful compassion.
A colorful cast of outsiders: Mick, the young girl who befriends Singer, is a lonely outsider with a frustrated passion who yearns to be understood and loved. There’s also a roustabout; Singer’s childlike friend who’s institutionalized; and an African-American doctor struggling to survive in a threatening world.
A compelling, fast-placed plot: The story has a strong emotional arc and artfully weaves together universal themes: loneliness and loss; the deep-seated need to be heard and valued; coming-of-age confusion and pain; familial demands and disappointment.
Every good story is unique in its own way, yet shares a handful of fundamental elements with every other good story: Memorable characters, a powerful sense of place, timeless themes, compassionate witnessing. How amazing to think that there are infinite ways in which these basic ingredients can be mixed and matched! Something to ponder as we all write on.