Monday, March 5, 2018

Anthony Grooms's "The Vain Conversation"

Anthony Grooms is the author of Bombingham: A Novel and Trouble No More: Stories, both winners of the Lillian Smith Book Award for fiction. Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, he has taught writing and American literature at universities in Ghana and Sweden and, since 1994, at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

Here Grooms dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Vain Conversation:
Unlike my previous novel, Bombingham, I haven’t thought much about The Vain Conversation in cinematic terms. Though there is plenty of drama in the story, I see it largely in lyrical terms. There are three main characters, two of whom we see during a wide expanse of time. So for young Lonnie Henson, the novel’s protagonist, who at age 10 witnesses a lynching, I would need a child actor who can portray innocence corrupted, someone with dark undertones. River Phoenix comes to mind, but of course he is no longer with us. But I think Hunter McCraken (The Tree of Life) is a subtle enough actor to pull it off. As Lonnie in his thirties, I would look to Garrett Hedlund who played a restive WWII vet in Mudbound, and I would choose Jason Mitchell, who also played a vet in Mudbound for the role of Bertrand Johnson.

My character Bertrand, a black WWII vet like the Mitchell character, is looking for a fresh start in the Jim Crow South. Paul Bettany has the look of the reclusive planter Noland Jacks as a younger man; but I think Gary Oldman should play him as an old man.

I would want someone with the intensity of Viola Davis to play Luellen, Bertrand’s wife—though Oprah could play her because Oprah can play any role she wants in my book!

As for a director, I admire Raoul Peck, who is the current Haitian minister of culture. His film about the Rwandan genocide, Sometimes in April, was absolute genius. I think few can take on excessive and brutal violence and portray it in a matter that keeps it sickening and yet necessary to the plot. I also liked his film on one of my writer heroes, James Baldwin, called I Am Not Your Negro.
Visit Anthony Grooms's website.

Writers Read: Anthony Grooms.

--Marshal Zeringue