Friday, March 21, 2014

Aaron Thier's "The Ghost Apple"

Aaron Thier's writing has appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, and The Buenos Aires Review. He is a graduate of Yale University and of the MFA program at the University of Florida.

Here Thier dreamcasts an adaptation of his debut novel, The Ghost Apple:
When people ask me what The Ghost Apple is about, my instinct is to keep silent, but this is pointless and self-defeating and it really isn’t so hard to say. It’s about a small college that sells itself to a snack food company called Big Anna. This company overthrows the college president, drugs the professors, and enslaves a group of study-abroad students on its plantations in the Caribbean. The principal characters are Bill Brees, the elderly dean of students, who goes undercover as an incoming freshman to learn what student life is really like; Maggie Bell, a student who travels to the Caribbean; John Kabaka, a history professor turned revolutionary; and William Beckford, a depraved English professor who speaks in quotations from Mussolini and becomes the college’s Big Anna-appointed dictator.

The Ghost Apple: A Hollywood Movie is a thing almost impossible to imagine, but why should that matter? The easy choice for the kind bemused loveable dean is Bill Murray, who plays every kind bemused loveable old man, and we all love him, and why shouldn’t we? But an edgier choice would be my grandfather, or yours. For Maggie, with whom the dean falls in love, we can think of no one better than Sasheer Zamata, with her cleverness and her beauty and her angry eyes. For William Beckford, of whose impressive teeth much is made in the novel, we are thinking of Bruce Dern (recently of Nebraska), whose teeth have always impressed us and who happens to play a convincing bad guy. For the part of John Kabaka we will accept no one but Usain Bolt.

And now the minor characters: John Morehead Tripoli, a shipwrecked sailor, should be played by the guy from Looking, who it turns out is named Jonathan Groff. We are very taken with this guy from Looking, with his nice little smile and his affable demeanor. The dean’s roommates should be played by Adam Driver, from Girls, and by a seventeen-year-old Peter Lorre. The smaller the part, however, the more famous the actors should be. Characters who appear only briefly should be played by Halle Berry, Anthony Hopkins, Marlon Brando, and Audrey Hepburn. Cary Grant and Ava Gardner should each appear once at the edge of the frame and neither should have any lines.

Who should direct such a movie? Ideally we would have many directors and we would pit them against one another. Michael Mann to start, who could give it a smooth stylish look, and Werner Herzog to do the long portentous metaphysically-significant pauses, and maybe also Howard Hawks, for class and quick comedic effects, and Lake Bell, whom we love. It would be good if sometimes there were different sequences playing simultaneously on different screens. It would also be good if we could have some sequences in 3D, but only some, and others in black and white. We want all of this but we’re not willing to sacrifice clarity or narrative thrust. We’re joking but we’re not joking.
Learn more about the book and author at Aaron Thier's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Ghost Apple.

--Marshal Zeringue