Monday, November 24, 2014

Elizabeth Kadetsky's "The Poison that Purifies You"

Elizabeth Kadetsky is the author of the memoir First There Is a Mountain (Little Brown), a novella (On the Island at the Center of the Center of the World), and the story collection The Poison that Purifies You. She lives in New York City’s East Village and in State College, Pennsylvania, and her works in fiction, memoir, personal and lyric essay, and long form narrative journalism have been published widely.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of The Poison that Purifies You:
The twenty main characters in The Poison that Purifies You abide by the David Mitchell/Wachowski Brothers principle, also known as the Vertigo principle: a core of actors plays multiple roles. Also, time collapses which in this case allows for actors from past and present to co-exist in the same collection and even story. And, of course, race is no object—characters’ hair color and ethnicity easily shift. Since Hitchcock has been evoked, casting begins with Kim Novak, and to match eras loosely, she plays alongside Jon Voight, in his Midnight Cowboy iteration, in the short story “Loup Garou.” Novak, hair curled and dyed black, plays the part-native French Canadian former waitress Cecile. Jon Voight plays across from her as John, who, in the writing was named for, yes, Jon Voight. He wears tight white jeans, a cowboy hat and a Western snap shirt and drinks straight from Cecile’s whiskey glass in a strip club. Need more be said? Any film casting of which I have a part starts with Idris Elba, of the tweet “Idris Elba ain't help you look for your phone for 20 min even tho it was just in your purse like it always is. I. Did. That.” Since The Poison doesn’t actually depict any African American (or Afro British) characters, Idris plays the Italian–American Angelo, now renamed Angel, in “Geography,” the war vet/love interest who is the collection’s one leading man. Let’s just say it’s an inimitable chick flick role. Also important in all casting by me is multiple appearances by Gael García Bernal, of Mexico. The collection goes to Guatemala, but Bernal’s starring leads take place in India, where he plays the male “femme fatale” (“homme fatal”?) Rohit, an Indian Muslim impersonating a Hindu who lures Jack through beauty and gay seduction into a kidnapping trap. He also plays Ganesh, an illiterate sweeper, in “Il Negro”—set in India—alongside Om Puri as Arun and Andy Garcia as the Italian Milo. Judy Davis, with multiple hairstyles and at multiple life stages, plays the collection’s several unreliable-narrator female characters: bicycle messenger Allison; baby-thief Maria; skin-on-fire college professor Naomi. Davis is qualified by her hair, and though this appears died, straightened, French braided and otherwise coiffed, its dominant trait is its Medusa–like wildness. Since the Vertigo/Cloud Atlas principle might also be considered the Dr. Strangelove principle, Peter Sellers appears in cameo, dressed in his War Room aspect. He is the love interest/antagonist Hank in “Dermagraphia,” a college professor who lives in his past and who, like Sellers, morphs from benevolent to menacing to forever undermine the narrator’s grip on reality.
Learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth Kadetsky's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue