Saturday, November 30, 2013

P.S. Duffy's "The Cartographer of No Man’s Land"

P.S. Duffy is the author of The Cartographer of No Man’s Land, a debut novel that takes place during the First World War in Nova Scotia and the Western Front in France. She lives in Rochester, MN, had a long career in neurologic communication disorders, and now splits her time between writing fiction, reading history, fiction, and essays, and writing in the neurosciences for Mayo Clinic. She says that at her age she is happy to have the word “debut” applied to anything she does.

Here Duffy dreamcasts an adaptation of The Cartographer of No Man’s Land:
The novel takes place on the Western Front in the First World War where Angus MacGrath, a reluctant lieutenant, searches for his brother-in-law Ebbin and for his own purpose, and in Nova Scotia where his son Simon Peter is coming of age and like all the characters in the book, struggles to navigate war’s uncertainties and lasting effects. People consistently comment on how visually evocative the book is and who should be in the movie and who should direct. I smile indulgently—a movie, ha ha—but okay, yes, of course. Absolutely!!

Director: Ron Howard

Angus MacGrath, the main character: a younger (and maybe taller) Gabriel Byrne could portray Angus’s loneliness and strength, his poetic soul, his yearning, and his empathy-- without a trace of sentimentality. He’s sensuous, cerebral, and intense.

Simon Peter, Angus’s son: my oldest grandson, Aidan who at 11 years of age has Simon Peter’s sensitivity and openness of expression.

Hettie Ellen, Angus’s wife: Beautiful with a childlike face, Carey Mulligan could convey Hettie’s vulnerability, her secretive existence, and her later transformation, which, as Angus rightly suspects, has about it a false note: “Who was he to disturb such reinvention, to soil such brave efforts?” he thinks upon coming home to her shorn locks and her determination to run his father’s affairs. If there’s a sequel, Hettie will play a major role, I suspect.

Ebbin, Angus’s brother-in-law and friend: Ebbin is cocky, cheerful, breezy and a bit crazy. Maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt could pull this role off.

Duncan MacGrath: Philip Seymour Hoffman could do a great job with Duncan, the grandfather who clings to moral absolutes to manage life’s losses. Once a captain of a fishing schooner off the Grand Banks, he is now the “owner of ships and the timber to build them.” He’s gruff, demanding, bitterly anti-Empire, and an aggressive pacifist. He is also vulnerable.

Mr. Heist: Paul Giamatti. With a trace of a German accent, he’d be perfect as the gentle Mr. Heist, the teacher, scholar and naturalist who refuses believe in the town’s growing need for a scapegoat.

Lady Bromley: Maggie Smith. Think Downton Abbey. Except Lady Bromley was not “to the manor born.” Her affections for Duncan rebuffed, she went to England as plain Hespera Church and returned married to Lord Edward Andrew Thurston Bromley, “a man of title, of many promises, older than she and thin as a rail.” He didn’t live up to his title, but Lady B. “assumed title enough for them both. And a bit of his British accent to boot.”

George Mather: Russell Crowe, younger and with silky hair down his back, could play George, the broken veteran, angry, unstable, and lost. Unable to communicate his truth, he is the voice of the war. Crowe would convey his anger and his humanity.

Publicover: Giovanni Ribisi as he looked in Saving Private Ryan. Publicover, a 19- year-old lieutenant, has been in the war for three years, which only increased his enthusiasm for a fight. But his brash, sometimes immature exterior belies the ice that runs in his veins when in the thick of it.

Captain Conlon: Colin Firth has the broad face and physique of Conlon and could capture his soft voice, his fatalistic musings, his leadership and kindness.

Juliette: I’m unfamiliar with French actresses, but Vera Farmiga, not your classic beauty, has the right look for Juliette and the dignity to pull off this somber, war-weary French widow who has no illusions but retains her capacity for love.
Learn more about the book and author at P. S. Duffy's website.

Writers Read: P. S. Duffy.

The Page 69 Test: The Cartographer of No Man's Land.

--Marshal Zeringue