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Tag: metaphysical novels

Flannery O’Connor and Charles Williams: Coming to the Big (and Small) Screen

Brad Dourif as Hazel Motes in Wise Blood

I just ran across the Facebook page for a television and film production company called Good Country Pictures. This small company is dedicated to bringing the works of Flannery O’Connor and Charles Williams to the screen, and currently is working on producing a TV series based on O’Connor’s short stories, and making a film of Williams’s novel, All Hallows Eve. Here’s how they describe their mission:

Good Country Pictures is dedicated to producing TV and film projects
that help their audience rediscover ‘mystery and manners.’ GCP presently
owns the TV and film option rights to most of the works of Flannery
O’Connor and Charles Williams. Already underway is a feature film of
O’Connor’s ‘The Violent Bear It Away’ and a TV series of her short
stories. A film treatment of Charles Williams’ ‘All Hallows’ Eve’
(1941) is also in progress.

I’ve recently written a bit about Flannery O’Connor (there’s lots more I’d like to say, when time allows); if you visit Good Country Pictures’ Facebook page, you’ll find links to various resources online that will help you learn more about both these writers. A number of Flannery O’Connor’s works have been adapted for television (not very successfully); they are also the favorite subject of amateur filmmakers — just take a look on YouTube and you’ll find plenty of videos made by students, indies, and other O’Connor enthusiasts. By far the best made and best known adaptation is John Huston’s feature film of Wise Blood, in which a very young Brad Dourif was brilliantly cast as Hazel Motes (the Criterion edition
is available on DVD).

Charles Williams novelist
Charles Williams,
Inkling & novelist

Those who don’t know the works of Charles Williams are missing a treat. Inklings fans will know that Williams was a member of that literary coterie, the only one of the group who did not teach at one of the great English universities. C. S. Lewis was a great admirer. Williams is best known for his metaphysical novels, which are weirdly surreal yet rooted in a profoundly Christian worldview. (Williams also wrote poetry and at least two works of theology.) There’s really no way to describe his books adequately; probably the best one to begin with is War in Heaven, which has to do with the Holy Grail, found in an English country church, and the struggle between good and evil forces to possess it. I’m not aware of any screen adaptations of Williams’s novels, but they would all be wonderful as films.

I’ll be interested in seeing what Good Country Pictures produces.

More recent reading: Madeleine L’Engle’s “Dragons in the Waters”

 When posting my list of recent and current reading last week, I had a feeling I was leaving something out, and I was right. I neglected to include Madeleine L’Engle’s Dragons in the Waters, a story of Poly O’Keefe, daughter of Meg Murry O’Keefe and her husband Calvin, who were children in L’Engle’s Time Quartet (A Wrinkle in Time, etc.).

Dragons in the Waters, cover, Madeleine L'EngleL’Engle’s stories of the Murrys, O’Keefes, and Austins (families at the center of several of her novel series) are among those I like to re-read from time to time. Most people who read L’Engle start with A Wrinkle in Time as children, but I believe I am an exception to this generalization. Memory is a tricky thing, but I seem to recall that the first L’Engle novel I read was The Young Unicorns, a story of the Austin family that involves a chilling mystery connected to the great neo-Gothic (Episcopal) cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan. I remember being completely gripped by the sense of metaphysical suspense hovering at the edges of this story and in the other stories involving the Austins, the O’Keefes, and the Murrys (and their various friends).

I’ve read most of the entries in these series, and I’ve always liked (but sometimes been confused by) the way the casts of characters and action interweave among them. When I first read them as a teenager, I was really struck by the way Madeleine L’Engle uses the apparently chance meetings of characters who “belong”to different series to create a sense that we are all part of one great, complex plan, unbound by time or space, in the struggle of good against evil. I don’t believe the Austins ever meet the Murrys or the O’Keefes, but two characters introduced in The Young Unicorns (Mr. Theo and Canon Tallis) play a minor roles in Dragons in the Waters.

The Young Unicorns, cover, Madeleine L'EngleDragons in the Waters, like the other novels in these three series, are usually classified as “young adult” mystery or suspense novels, but I dislike such pigeon-holing. I agree with C. S. Lewis that there are simply bad novels and good ones — the good ones invite, and repay, multiple readings, and the bad ones are utterly forgettable. Madeleine L’Engle’s are among the good ones. Anyway, just because a story is about adolescents does not mean the only audience it will appeal to is adolescent. Here’s one no-longer-young adult who still enjoys reading and re-reading these “young adult” stories.