Friday, September 19, 2014

Mark Powell's "The Sheltering"

Mark Powell's novels include Prodigals (nominated for the Cabell First Novelist Award), Blood Kin (winner of the Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel), and The Dark Corner. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Breadloaf Writers' Conference. In 2009 he received the Chaffin Award for contributions to Appalachian literature. Powell holds degrees from Yale Divinity School, the University of South Carolina, and the Citadel. He is an associate professor of English at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, and for three years taught a fiction workshop at Lawtey Correctional Institute, a level II prison in Raiford, Florida.

Here Powell dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Sheltering:
Few things expose one’s utter ignorance of pop culture like being asked who might play the movie roles from your novel, in my case, The Sheltering. The good news, for me, at least, is that the novel is sprawling, with a large cast of characters so perhaps any mistakes in casting can be overcome with sheer volume. The novel follows two plot lines that slowly intersect until each can only be understood in the light of the other. In the first, Luther Redding flies a drone over Afghanistan from deep within a Tampa Air Force Base. When he dies in a sudden flash of light, erased as quickly and irrevocably as any target, his wife Pamela and daughters Lucy and Katie are left to deal with the aftershocks. In the second plot line, two brothers, Bobby and Donny Rosen, set off on a nihilistic road trip, eight kilos of coke in tow.

At least casting Luther’s part allows me another opportunity to lament the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman, without question, at least to my mind, the finest actor of his generation. But with Hoffman out of the question, I think I’ll turn to Russell Crowe, he of doughy face and unkempt hair. What other actor can simultaneously appear as exhausted, bedraggled, and put-upon, yet still in control? For his wife Pamela I would conjure the Kate Winslet of Little Children, sexy, bored, somehow abundant in a way I can’t quite explain. As for their daughters, here I intended to defer to the wisdom of my teenage nieces, Emily and Alison. Alas, they didn’t answer my oh-so-not-desperate texts so I’m winging this one. For Katie, the younger sister, described in the novel as “Goth Barbie” an evocative term I heard once in a bar and have been carrying around ever since, I summon Ashley Benson. I had to look her up, yes, but I remember her from Spring Breakers, a woefully underestimated film that struck me as Gatsby in the trailer-park south and most others as underwhelming episode of Girls Gone Wild. But I digress. For her sister, I need an actress who looks less like some doll I would discourage my daughter from buying and more like an actual real teenager. Is there someone like this somewhere out there? Shall we do a casting call? Obviously shooting can’t go forward without her. So calling all late teen slash early twenty-somethings who look like people look: come have an onscreen spiritual transformation! come make-out at an evangelical theme park! come conjure your father’s ghost! (This is what they call one of those ‘offers you can’t refuse.’)

For Bobby and Donny Rosen, I need two actors with that lean, hungry look; I need men wolfish, I need outliers. For Donny, his wounds as fatal as they are self-inflicted, give me the Christian Bale of The Fighter: winnowed to the bone by drugs yet still meaner than any snake. For Bobby, I want the Josh Brolin of No Country for Old Men vintage, but realize that’s too obvious a steal. How about then, the Stalker from Tarkovsky’s green-hued fever dream? Is he even still alive? He’s perfect, but we need bigger name recognition, we need a name at the bottom of the poster. How about Henry Cavill of Superman fame? I confess that I haven’t seen the movie; but I follow the cultish Gym Jones gym online (“You say cult like it’s a bad thing”) and I know they trained Cavill for the role. Good enough for Gym Jones, good enough for me, I say!

So there we have it—star power, big names, explosive rolls just bubbling with Oscar-worthy moments! The only thing missing is that massive royalty check. Ahem…it’s coming, right? You over there so carefully avoiding eye contact, yes, you! Check’s in the mail, right?
Learn more about The Sheltering at the University of South Carolina Press website.

The Page 69 Test: The Sheltering.

--Marshal Zeringue