I’ve written here before about what happens to writers’ works after they die. In particular, I’ve talked about the continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, and I’ve suggested that while it’s presumably financially worthwhile, it may be a poor artistic decision.
There’s also the weird stuff that happens when books (even by living authors) get turned into movies — ask Lawrence Block, whose Bernie Rhodenbarr got a sex change when he was played by Whoopi Goldberg in the execrable film Burglar. (Admittedly, the mere mention of Ms. Goldberg may have rendered the word execrable redundant, but hey…) Of course, as another writer noted, the filmmakers didn’t “do anything” to the books, which may still be found on your shelf, more or less uncontaminated by their cinematic representations.
Even so, this sort of thing can prove problematic, particularly for the authors of game-changing works and those authors literary executors and heirs. An admittedly extreme case in point is that of Christopher Tolkien, his father’s literary executor. The younger Tolkien has been notoriously reticent over the decades, but with the release of the first of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he granted an interview to Le Monde, an English translation of which may be found here. He’s not a fan:
Invited to meet Peter Jackson, the Tolkien family preferred not to. Why? “They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25,” Christopher says regretfully. “And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.”
This divorce has been systematically driven by the logic of Hollywood. “Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time,” Christopher Tolkien observes sadly. “The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away.”
That’s one advantage to my own literary insignificance — the Spawn will never have to worry about that.
A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to the Zoopraxiscope.