Sunday, February 8, 2009

Zachary Lazar's "Sway"

Zachary Lazar's first novel is Aaron, Approximately. He graduated from Brown University, has been a Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Works Center, and received the Iowa Writers Workshops James Michener/Copernicus Society Prize.

Here he shares some thoughts about a cinematic adaptation of his second novel, Sway:
A few months ago, I came across this exchange on the internet, in which Dan DeLuca, a critic at the Philadelphia Enquirer, interviews Martin Scorsese:

DeLuca: Do you know about Sway, Zachary Lazar's novel about the Stones in the '60s?

Scorsese: I have a copy of it. I haven't read it yet. I have stacks of books which I intend to read while shooting, which is impossible. [Laughs].

I could do without the [Laughs] part, which seems to underscore the “I haven’t read it yet” part. Still, while this internet chat may be as close as I ever get to seeing my novel turned into a movie, the mere idea of the book being in Scorsese’s possession (even if it remains unread) is exciting. But I wonder who could play any of my novel’s characters in any case? The recent Brian Jones biopic “Stoned,” which covers some of the same ground as Sway, shows how difficult it is for an actor to play a rock star without becoming a cartoon in the process. Another of Sway’s strands—the story of the Manson Family—poses the same kind of challenge, which was demonstrated in Jeremy Davies’s recent portrayal of Charles Manson in the remake of “Helter Skelter.” Perhaps the story is best left as a book (though I’d probably not complain if anyone wanted to make a movie out of it).

It is a movie that forms Sway’s connecting thread, Kenneth Anger’s 1969 short film “Invocation of My Demon Brother.” I once saw that film with Anger standing right behind me in the darkened theater, and it felt as if he was peering right through my skull into my mind. In a sense, this is the reverse of what many viewers of “Invocation” feel: as though they are peering directly into Anger’s mind. It is a quick, dark, powerful film—in its abstract way, it sums up everything corrosive and fatal about the counterculture of the 1960s. Anger’s reputation as hostile, even towards those who admire him, is legendary, and as I said, I felt in that theater as if he was peering into my mind. If he was, then he would have known that even then I was in the process of making a book out of his movie.
Read an excerpt and learn more about Sway at the publisher's website.

Check out Lazar's playlist matching songs to the chapters in Sway.

The Page 69 Test: Sway.

--Marshal Zeringue