Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ginger Strand's "The Brothers Vonnegut"

Ginger Strand grew up in Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan, but mostly on a farm in Michigan. She is the author of one novel and three books of narrative nonfiction, including Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate. She has published essays and fiction in many places, including Harper's, The Believer, Tin House, The Iowa Review, The New England Review and the New York Times, as well as This Land and Orion, where she is a contributing editor. In addition to writing frequently about collisions between nature, culture, science and the arts, Strand frequently works with photographers, and has contributed essays to photography books by Lisa Kereszi, Kyler Zeleny, and the Magnum Agency project Postcards from America.

Here Strand dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic:
The Library Journal review of my nonfiction book The Brothers Vonnegut said it was ripe for adaptation into a film. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I’ve spent hours Googling “hot young actors.” Not for prurient reasons, really. I was trying to identify actors who might want to produce it. After all, what hot young actor wouldn’t want to play Kurt Vonnegut?

The events of the book unfold in the late 1940s, when Kurt Vonnegut, as yet unpublished, is working in PR at General Electric. His older Bernard, a hotshot scientist at GE, got him the job. Bernard has invented something fantastic: cloud seeding to make rain. But the military has gotten involved and Bernard is having doubts about letting his invention be weaponized. Watching him struggle, Kurt, after years of bombing out with editors, starts writing a new kind of story, about scientists and the military and inventions getting weaponized. That lands him his first magazine acceptance, and the rest is history.

The young Kurt—GE company man by day, would-be writer by night—is not the Kurt Vonnegut you see in your head. Before the Mark Twain suit and Einstein hair, Kurt Vonnegut was a tall, thin, dapper young man. In his twenties, he looked a bit like a lighter-haired Zac Efron. Think Zac Efron in a gray flannel suit, toting a manual typewriter and smoking like a house afire. Kind of High School Musical meets Mad Men.

Then again, Zac Efron is a brunette so perhaps he should play Bernard, who looked like Kurt but with a mad-scientist pouf of curly brown hair. Maybe the lighter haired Kurt could be played by Jesse Spencer—aka Robert Chase on House MD—as long as he could lose the Aussie accent. But Jesse is older than Zac...

In my obsession with the perfect pairing, I went to, the ideal tool for someone with delusions of casting. You upload a photograph and the site uses facial recognition software to generate celebrity matches. I loaded up Kurt Vonnegut’s Army photo, some wheels spun around, and the winner was: Jimmy Kimmel!

As far as I know, Jimmy Kimmel, is not an actor but a comic. Pictriev’s second pick was Cameron Bright, who played the vampire Alec in the Twilight movies. Bright might look like Kurt Vonnegut if he dyed his hair lighter, but he has a sultry brooding quality that isn’t quite right.

I continued juggling faces in my head. And then I found the perfect actor—on the radio. Adam Driver, who plays Adam Sackler on Girls, was being interviewed on Fresh Air. Somehow he just seemed right. He grew up in Indianapolis, like Kurt. He volunteered for the military, like Kurt. He seems smart and thoughtful and morally engaged, like Kurt. Does he look like Kurt? Who cares? That’s for the stylists and makeup artists to sort out. Adam Driver, email me and I’ll send you my book. You’re my perfect Kurt Vonnegut!
Learn more about the book and author at Ginger Strand's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Brothers Vonnegut.

--Marshal Zeringue