Thursday, September 6, 2012

Moira Crone's "The Not Yet"

Moira Crone is the author of several novels and story collections including What Gets Into Us and A Period of Confinement; her works have appeared in Oxford American, The New Yorker, Image, Mademoiselle, and over forty other journals and twelve anthologies. She has won prizes for her stories and novellas, and in 2009 she was given the Robert Penn Warren Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers for the entire body of her work.

Here Crone dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, The Not Yet:
The year is 2121, the place, just outside the United Authority, on the American Continent--- the Islands of New Orleans.

Throughout the former U.S., the rich, called the Heirs, have found a way to purchase extended life. The rest of the population, still on the old life cycle, called the “Naturals” or “Nats,” are either poor---or destitute.

New Orleans is a great place to make a movie---and the watery world of the The Not Yet is a visual reference to the city’s recent history, its vulnerability—and our nation’s failings. Our great architecture, with Venetian landscape and navigation. The richness of this drowning environment is explored in the recent hit, Beasts of the Southern Wild.

I’ve described a playground for rich, bored ancients: the French Quarter is full of humans transformed by plastic surgery to appear like pet animals---birds, or borzoi dogs. These companions, called “Altereds” are essentially slaves for the amusement of the Heirs. The system of castes, enclaves, and strata keep most from rising, or earning a decent living.

Artists were inspired by the novel, and the descriptions of the Altereds, the Heirs, and the setting. They helped to set the scene---see an online gallery commissioned by my publisher.

James Franco might be the best actor for the part of Malcolm, the young hero. A former child star, one of the lucky ones, Malcolm has saved the wherewithal get on life extension. As the novel begins, however, funds have disappeared. He is on a quest to discover why. During the course of the novel, Malcolm is shot, given drugs that leave him helpless, captured by a band of rebels who think he’s a demi-god. He begins as a repressed, careful, and vain young man, but becomes outraged, disillusioned, and dangerous. Franco is fully capable of playing someone in physical extremes. He is equally expert at making a psychological transformation convincing.

In his youth, Malcolm is the assistant of Heir Dr. Lydia Greenmore, an experimental psychologist whose patients are near age two hundred. She has begun to conclude that Heirs’ extended lives are destroying natural, previously invisible limits of the psyche and the soul. She embarks upon a devolution in order to explore the mysticism of other times---so that she can map a “way out” for her charges --- to grant them the peace of mind they desperately seek.

Julianne Moore could be the ideal actress for this role. She can look old, and she can look very young---there is a point in the novel when Lydia “unmasks” and we see her true visage and physique under the manufactured dermis layers that swaddle her. She can play a queen, imperious and complex---and the part of the seer. She can also be very cold, and withholding. But perhaps her best quality is her seductive vulnerability that attracts Malcolm, makes it hard for him to separate from her---something he must do, if he is going to live the life he eventually yearns for.

Another main role in this novel is Malcolm’s guardian, Lazarus, a man who has been on life extension himself for over a hundred and fifty years, but has spent his last several decades trying to save those children who are “tossed out,” by parents who have no legal rights to procreate. Lazarus runs an orphanage for these foundlings. His own children consider him a mad liberal.

Ed Harris would be a good fit. He has a way of being “in control,” and yet about ready to lose it. Lazarus begins to question, as do all the main characters, the world of haves and have-nots, of Heirs and Nats, of those that die and those who avoid dying. Malcolm’s voyage reveals to him the very darkest side of Heir’s privilege. Eventually, he must decide if he will join their ranks---if eternal life is worth the cost the soul surely pays.
Learn more about the book and author at Moira Crone's website and the Facebook page for The Not Yet.

Writers Read: Moira Crone.

--Marshal Zeringue