Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tracy Guzeman's "The Gravity of Birds"

Tracy Guzeman lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in Gulf Coast, Vestal Review, and Glimmer Train Stories.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, The Gravity of Birds, which is her first novel:
What a blissful assignment! Populating a film version of The Gravity of Birds with actors of my own choosing seems like the best possible way to procrastinate for a while. But since the narrative goes back and forth in time, I’d need a handful of Alices, a few Natalies, certainly more than one Thomas, and at least a pair of Finches. (Or else one extremely talented makeup artist.) I’m hard pressed to identify young actors that would bear enough resemblance to their older counterparts, something that often pulls me out of the action when I’m watching a film where the actors age dramatically. But for certain characters, at certain points in the novel, choosing a card-carrying SAG (or Equity) member is a piece of cake.

I didn’t have him in mind when I wrote the character, but now when I imagine Dennis Finch, the art history professor, I can only picture the brilliant Michael Kitchen. I’ve been a fan since seeing him in Enchanted April, then later in the PBS productions of Reckless and Foyle’s War, among others. He exhibits the ideal combination of intelligence, dry wit, and dark humor required to portray Finch, as well as a deeply-sentimental core that reveals itself in small gestures. Being able to think and talk at lightning speed, and make seemingly random connections completely plausible once explained, is critical for the eccentric art authenticator Stephen Jameson, so he would be played by none other than Benedict Cumberbatch. (Partly because I love saying that name, but also because, as evidenced by Sherlock, he makes antisocial behavior oddly endearing.) As for Phinneaus, the mysterious neighbor who pines for Alice for years, I’d cast Viggo Mortensen. His voice has the right quality—quiet and plainspoken, sincere—and he perfectly embodies the mental image I have of Phinneaus. He gets extra points for founding Perceval Press, and the fact that he’s a poet as well as a fabulous actor seals the deal. Naomi Watts (21 Grams, The Painted Veil, The Impossible), with her affinity for characters who find the strength to go on in the face of both physical and mental anguish, would be a good candidate for the adult Alice.

And as far as Thomas Bayber, the reclusive artist who sets everything in motion at the beginning of the novel, and then again, forty-some years later at its end, there’s only one choice: Jason Isaacs. Why? Because he can do wistful and brooding, and convince you that he’s aware of those opportunities for love he’s recklessly squandered, yet still can’t make the timely overtures required for redemption. As his own worst enemy, he’s perfect.
Learn more about the book and author at Tracy Guzeman's website and blog.

Writers Read: Tracy Guzeman.

--Marshal Zeringue