Thursday, August 11, 2011

John Dalton's "The Inverted Forest"

John Dalton is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts and the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. His first novel, Heaven Lake, won the Barnes and Noble 2004 Discover Award in fiction and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Heaven Lake was listed as a best book of the year by Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Dalton is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and is currently a member of the English faculty at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he teaches in their MFA Writing Program.

Here he shares some ideas about casting the leads in an adaptation of his new novel, The Inverted Forest:
There are three primary / point of view characters in The Inverted Forest.

First there’s Schuller Kindermann, the seventy-eight-year-old director and founder of Kindermann Forest Summer Camp. Schuller is a fussy, judgmental and mostly foolish man. He’s never had a lover or, for that matter, any strong attraction to another person. As director of a summer camp, he’s frequently exasperated by the counselor’s unwise behavior.

The best actor for the job? The grand and amazing Christopher Plummer.

Second, there’s Wyatt Huddy, age twenty-two, large, physically imposing, a counselor at Kindermann Forest Summer Camp. Wyatt has a condition known as Apert syndrome that distorts his appearance. (The mid-section of the face is underdeveloped. The eyes are set too far apart or a bit uneven.) But the condition doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual is intellectually impaired. This is a complicated and isolating thing for a person to deal with: to appear to the outside world to be intellectually disabled, but inwardly to be as aware and knowing as everyone else. It’s an especially acute dilemma for Wyatt, since he’s serving as a counselor at a summer camp among more than a hundred state hospital patients who are, in fact, mentally disabled.

The best actor for the job? Ryan Gosling (with the help of a skillful make-up artist.)

Harriet Foster, age twenty-seven, camp nurse, the only African American employee at Kindermann Forest. She is the single mother of a bi-racial son, five-year-old James. Harriet is the only one at camp to recognize Wyatt’s condition, the only one whose compassion and loyalty to Wyatt lasts through the years.

The best actor for the job? Kerry Washington (though they’ll have to tone down her intense beauty / glamour so that she’s merely girl-next-door beautiful.)
Learn more about the book and author at John Dalton's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Inverted Forest.

--Marshal Zeringue