Friday, July 5, 2013

Courtney Angela Brkic's "The First Rule of Swimming"

Courtney Angela Brkic is the author of the new novel The First Rule of Swimming, Stillness: and Other Stories and The Stone Fields. Her work has also appeared in Zoetrope, The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, Harpers & Queen, the Utne Reader, TriQuarterly Review, The Alaska Review and National Geographic, among others. Brkic has been the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Whiting Writer’s Award. Stillness was named a Barnes and Noble Discover pick, a 2003 Chicago Tribune "Best Book" and a 2003 New York Times "Notable Book". The Stone Fields was shortlisted for a Freedom of Expression Award by the Index on Censorship. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband and son, and teaches in the MFA program at George Mason University.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of The First Rule of Swimming:
This was tremendously fun to think about, though I doubt that The First Rule of Swimming would be easy to adapt (the plot is a bit too twisty and the book cuts back and forth through so many different time periods). That said, my characters are like children I’ve single-handedly created, and I’m more than a bit possessive. I have definite ideas about the “types” of actors I see in the roles.

By way of background, the novel is about three generations of siblings in a single Croatian family. Luka and Vinka fight in the Second World War, Marin and Ana must contend with Communism, and Magdalena and Jadranka come of age during the 1991-1995 war. They’re from Rosmarina, a small, remote island in the southern Adriatic Sea.

Most of the plot unfolds in the present, around Magdalena, a Rosmarina schoolteacher who can’t bear the idea of leaving the island, and her younger sister, Jadranka, an artist who can’t wait to leave. I’d love to see someone like Franka Potente play Magdalena (i.e, someone with a lot of character and a certain amount of edge). For Jadranka, Lauren Ambrose (whom I loved in Six Feet Under). And maybe Branka Katic (from Big Love) in the role of Katarina, their cousin. Magdalena’s love interest is Damir, a journalist, and I think Goran Visnjic (naturally! He’s Dalmatian!) would be great in that role.

Moving up a generation, the sisters’ uncle, Marin, was sentenced as a young man to hard labor on Goli Otok, a gulag in Communist Yugoslavia. I could see Andrew Garfield in this role, with Robert De Niro playing an older, wiser Marin, after his immigration to New York City (with the lovely Isabella Rosselini as Luz, his wife). Marin’s sister, Ana, is a pivotal character in the book. She’s a complex person who has lived a difficult life, and in a parallel universe I could see Elizabeth Taylor playing her at different stages of her life. Coming back to reality, I like the idea of Mila Kunis and Stockard Channing playing Ana The Younger and Ana The Older.

And as far as Luka, the patriarch of the Moric family, I could see someone like Adam Scott (whom I first saw in Tell Me You Love Me) playing him as a young man, but am drawing a blank for the elderly Luka. Probably because he is the character closest to my heart.

Finally, the island of Rosmarina is very much a character in the book, as well. It’s fictional, a composite of a few different Croatian islands I’ve been lucky enough to visit over the years. I’d want to shoot the film on location (naturally…and, see how I’ve already decided to direct the film, in addition to my role as casting agent?) in a few of those places: Lastovo, Vis, Hvar and Korcula.
Visit Courtney Angela Brkic's website and learn more about The First Rule of Swimming.

Writers Read: Courtney Angela Brkic.

--Marshal Zeringue