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Forever the Twain Shall Meet

How about a Throwback Thursday from the 19th century?

Literary icon Mark Twain was born on November 30, 1835.

For a blog that emphasizes writing with creative twists on a myriad of events, celebrating the birth of famed author Mark Twain is a must. Actually, it’s more of an act of gratitude to the man who effectively planted the idea in our impressionable minds as young whippersnappers that this thing in school called “literature” expanded beyond the witty and signature verbiage of William Shakespeare (c’mon, we all struggled in memorizing and understanding Shakespeare in sixth-grade) to a more conversational language of rambunctious kids causing trouble and going off on exciting adventures. We related to these stories as if our own, with a little imagination mixed in for good measure and fun. And while there are countless authors in the world, current, past and surely in the future, there is only a handful in relative terms who have risen above the rest to secure and connect with new generations of readers as the years accumulate far beyond the original publish date of declared classics of the written word.

Mark Twain is regarded as one of these masterful wordsmiths.

Your homework assignment is to read or re-read a book by Mark Twain. This time, from his perspective…

one that profoundly changed the trajectory of American literary history.

D.B.’s Treasured Process

Inferno was red hot as a book back in 2013 and Inferno is set to be a red hot movie in theaters this October 28th.

Interestingly, when people hear this word/literary title, it may be fair to conclude that Dante is losing a bit of ground in the modern era when it comes to association…to his most well-known work.

Made famous through his intelligent thrill rides through Europe’s luxuriously historical capitals with plain-hidden secrets galore, led by an unsuspecting professor of symbols, author Dan Brown has captured our imaginations and cognitive curiosities with Leonardo da Vinci, the Pope, Vatican, the Freemasons and now Dante’s Inferno. One reason (among many) why his writing transcends his competitors in a similar space is his skill at leaving his readers wanting more.

The story ends, the last page is turned over, and yet we find ourselves researching for more answers. Mind you, these questions aren’t concentrated on problems with the book. Instead, most wish the story didn’t end. Unfortunately, reality takes over and the realization of the time, effort and creativity that ultimately builds a Dan Brown classic spans years. Fortunately, Hollywood loves to adapt blockbuster books and Mr. Brown’s tales fit the silver screen like a Harris Tweed jacket at Harvard.

Even more fortunate is Dan Brown agrees to the occasional interview when he’s not dreaming up his Robert Langdon’s next adventure.

We know Dan Brown’s exciting fictional side, but it’s equally satisfying to discover his non-fictional side is entertainingly upside down.

Getting even a quick glimpse into the mind that has crafted acclaimed books on a global scale is worthwhile and educational. Like most endeavors in life, the rugged journey, scattered with potholes, misdirection and random glimmers of inspiration provides the greatest insight into how this crazy world goes ’round.

Aside from the Earth’s axis.

Future story idea: I wonder if Dan Brown (D.B.) will ever send Robert Langdon on a domestic journey into the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest to solve the thrilling, unsolved mystery of D.B. Cooper and his lost treasure?

Literary Literalness

Words have a way of taking on a life of their own, grasping the pen or keystrokes from the writer and venturing off into far and away tangents with no rescue line back to the original point in the first place. This, of course, begs the question of what was attempting to be answered in this evolving collection of increasingly obscure sentences? Where is the clarity, the weapon of choice for wordsmiths to make simple of the mysteries around us that results in before unknown and, therefore, profound revelations?

Let me take a second pass at this.

A scene from the upcoming film Genius starring Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Laura Linney captures the contentious, even torturous, relationship between writer and editor.

The process for great writers is often unconventional. Bottling the inspiration for the next great American novel is impossible to predict and anticipate. It happens when it happens for that patient, and ironically persistent, author. In rare circumstances, a finished product, after dozens of scratch-outs, edits and Whiskey splotches, upends the literary world.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby comes to mind.

Fun Fact: Speaking of the late great Mr. Fitzgerald, Max Perkins (portrayed by Colin Firth) was his editor.

Returning to the clip above, Jude Law plays author Thomas Wolfe in what looks like a fascinating journey back to an age of literary giants in the early 20th century. Set for a June 10th release date, Genius is based on National Book Award winner Max Perkins: Editor of Genius.

Get ready to engage in another book vs. movie debate with notes of your own…

or edits, if you will.

Books of Epic Proportions

Dan Brown. J.K. Rowling. Tom Clancy.

And now J.J. Abrams apparently.

Reading books is still a popular leisure activity, despite how it may pale in comparison to venturing off to the movie theater to see the next big blockbuster sensation. The bottom line is that people enjoy stories of all genres with varying temptations and hooks. One day it may be action or adventure, the next could be drama and romance and the weekend may be primed for mystery or humor. The imagination has no limitations and is, therefore, eternally receptive to stories of all variations and styles.

In recent years, the word, “epic” has flown into our lexicon as nearly the same speed as Superman himself. There was even an animated film titled, “Epic” released earlier this year. While book releases rarely create epic fanfare or global pandemonium, there was one yesterday that just might expand literature into an unseen dimension of creativity.

Famed filmmaker J.J. Abrams, who is prepping the Disney reboot of “Star Wars,” had his book (co-written with established writer Doug Dorst) debut to the public yesterday. The title of the nearly 500-page mystery, “S,” may be the beginning of a new style and era of creative writing.

Yesterday, it was J.J. Abrams releasing an original novel. Who will be next? Steven Spielberg? James Cameron? Kathryn Bigelow?

Dare I dream for an original novel by Christopher Nolan?

There is no singular style, method, genre or process to writing, acting, directing and producing an epic blockbuster. There are unequivocal similarities, no doubt: original story, great characters, plot twists, big, yet believable action for the setting, stunning cinematography, hints of ambiguity, etc. But each crew has done it differently with a certain trademark.

Imagine this formula translated into an original novel that reads like an epic Hollywood movie that instinctively provokes intrigue and that relentlessly illustrates vivid scenes in our minds like the flow of some of our favorite movies?

Incredible books with the similar qualities listed above have and are being written. However, the scale of these literary adventures, mysteries, romances, etc. would be new with a particular cast of writers.

Try to envision a movie in IMAX with a powerfully unforgettable soundtrack somehow captured and placed within the binding restraints of a book.

There is a grandiose expectation with J.J. Abrams’ book because of his acclaimed cinematic skill set and storytelling accomplishments behind the camera. People will be expecting that “it” factor that will definitively distinguish “S” above the other available mysteries on the shelf.

Adapting popular books into movies is a common practice in Hollywood. And these scripts usually sound as if it were penned by an author instead of a screenwriter. The pace and style of the dialogue and the patience paid to character development is discernible. It’s not always absolutely good or bad, but it certainly is noticeable to the audience.

Last year, in late November, director Christopher Nolan made a rare public appearance to participate in a solo forum in New York City with a small audience to discuss his current, “Dark Knight” trilogy, his past movies and his then upcoming role in “The Man of Steel.” In fact, it happened on a Wednesday. Due to a contradictory statement given to me about a conflict at work that Wednesday and following Thursday, I had to refrain from securing one of those rare tickets when one was remarkably available.

I digress.

Christopher Nolan had agreed to answer a few questions from fans and/or attendees during this gathering. The question I submitted was essentially this: “Have you ever created your own original superhero with a corresponding universe and enemy(ies)? If so, who is it? What are his or her superhero powers? If not, would you ever be interested in such a venture?”

I was interested in not only my question, but all of the questions, plus his responses of course.

Maybe he read my question, maybe he didn’t. But if he did and the answer is yes, the possibilities and excitement among his fans would be difficult to contain.

The aura that surrounds “S” was palpable the moment I held it in my hands. There is a unique power and influence that radiates and thrills from the work of creative cinematic storytellers. Imaginations simply run wild with the stories they tell.

I just hope more will soon put it in writing.