Upbeat Cynicism

what do you mean i lost my mind?

A few thoughts amidst a second reading of Nostromo

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I think that a great deal of what I love about Conrad is that he had, to echo Nero Wolfe, an immense intelligence guided by a lifetime of experience. His experience was as a sailor, for twenty years or a little more, before ever putting pen to paper as a writer. His intelligence is apparent in nearly every paragraph he wrote — if nothing else, his love of long, branching, allusive sentences shows that his was not a simple mind.

Although his subtle, indirect methods of relating his stories influenced any number of Modernist navel-gazers (James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and all that crap), Conrad’s purpose was opposite theirs. Where Joyce reveled in the parlour-game of Litrachure, crowing that it would take academics generations to decipher his works, Conrad wanted to be read, and to be understood. He was, however, unwilling to compromise his methods for “accessibility”. He was dealing with difficult, complicated ideas, and refused to water them down. His integrity was rewarded with late popular success — Chance, 1913, was a best-seller, and led to increased sales of all his older books.

One of the more intirguing might-have-beens in film history is David Lean’s last planned film. When is final illness incapacitated him, Lean was in preproduction on an adaptation of Nostromo. If anyone was capable of bringing this story to film, it was Lean. A script existed (and, I believe, was even published by Faber & Faber). A few years after Lean’s passing, the BBC made a miniseries out of it from an adaptation of that script. (Take note ladies: It starred Colin Firth!) I never saw it, nor read the script. Right now I don’t want to. There is simply no way it could even echo the genius Lean would have brought it in the production.

(As I have said, even Lean’s failures are impressive. Would that Hollywood could produce more failures like A Passage to India!)

If Tom Stoppard or Steven Zaillian would adapt the script, and Spielberg could be made to shoot the script as written, then I might get excited to see an adaptation. Otherwise, no.

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Written by [IMH]

24 April 2006 at 10:55 am

Posted in Literature

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