Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Kathleen Rooney's "Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey"

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a nonprofit publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, as well as a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches in the English Department at DePaul University, and her most recent books include the national best-seller, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (2017) and The Listening Room: A Novel of Georgette and Loulou Magritte (2018). Her new novel, Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, is based on a true story of the Great War.

Here Rooney dreamcasts an adaptation of Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey:
As its title suggests, Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey has two protagonists. Both based on real-life heroes of World War I, the former, Cher Ami, is a messenger pigeon, and the latter, Major Whittlesey, is an army officer. Their lives intersect unexpectedly during a harrowing friendly fire incident in the Meuse-Argonne Forest when Cher Ami successfully delivers Whit’s message requesting that the barrage cease.

I could see the book being adapted either into a fully animated film—an adult cartoon mixing darkness and humor in the vein of the fabulous BoJack Horseman—or into a live action picture in which the pigeons and other animals were done using special effects. Either way, my ideal casting of the protagonists remains the same.

Back in November of 2019, the writer-actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge did the New York Times Book Review’s “By the Book” interview and in response to the question, “Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?” she replied, “I wish more people would write from the point of view of tiny, witty animals.” Cher Ami is tiny and witty! I adored Fleabag more than almost any other TV show I’ve ever seen because of the way Waller-Bridge knows how to use comedy to make inherently sad things even sadder. Also, Cher Ami is a British bird and Waller-Bridge has precisely the right accent. Thus, Waller-Bridge would be my absolute dream actor to voice Cher Ami.

As for Charles Whittlesey, the role needs someone with a blend of dignity and awkwardness, as well as a dry and self-deprecating sense of humor; somebody charismatic but not too much of a matinee idol-type movie star. Thus, I’d be thrilled to see Jason Segel in the role.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen Rooney's website.

The Page 69 Test: Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey.

--Marshal Zeringue