Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Gail Godwin's "Grief Cottage"

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including Violet Clay, Father Melancholy's Daughter, Evensong, The Good Husband and Evenings at Five. She is also the author of The Making of a Writer, her journal in two volumes (ed. Rob Neufeld). She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Here Godwin dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Grief Cottage:
Though I write this in a playful spirit, I want Grief Cottage to be made into a movie, and am going to try to squeeze myself into someone's elevator to make my pitch.

All you need is a rather small, un-touristy island, preferably in South Carolina where they are serious about their loggerhead turtle hatchings. There has to be the "night of the boil-up" scene. Those hundreds of little creatures just out of their eggs racing like mad to get into the ocean before something eats them: you will find yourself laughing and crying. Check out a loggerhead hatching on YouTube.

You need an eleven year old boy, perhaps an unknown actor, who has Marcus's gravity, his sadness, and his slight weirdness. And you need his great aunt Charlotte, his last relative, who takes him in after his mother dies. Aunt Charlotte is 57. She is a hermit artist, with a haunted past, and the last thing she wanted was to share her solitude. But, among other virtues, she is an honorable person. I visualize the actress Charlotte Rampling. I may have been thinking of Charlotte Rampling when I named my character. Aunt Charlotte lives every day under layers and layers of past wounds. Oh, and she is what they call "a working alcoholic." She paints all day, she paints the ocean and the dunes, and she paints version after version of her "best seller,"an old abandoned cottage, known as Grief Cottage, where a family disappeared during a hurricane 50 years before. She herself is drawn to the cottage because it seems to mirror the ruin if her life, and because her first sight of it started her career as a painter when she moved to this island. She paints and sips wine and doesn't say a whole lot to Marcus, but his seriousness and his loneliness reflect her own. Yes, I would love to have Charlotte Rampling, or someone like her, taciturn, frowning, wise with secret hurts, elegant in a don't give a damn way, and able to show concern fir someone without saying much.

And, finally, there is Marcus's ghost, a boy a little older than himself, whom Marcus discovers in Grief Cottage, and who shows himself to Marcus twice. The ghost will have to be done subtly.

Oh, is this your floor? Well, thanks for listening to my pitch. Do you mind if I send you a copy of the book?
Visit Gail Godwin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue