Say what you will about the 78th annual Academy Awards: it was boring; John Stewart was a flop; George Clooney is out of touch; Felicity Huffman was overlooked; Crash was overrated; it was the year of small, low-budget films; it was the year Hollywood came out of the closet … Whatever you say, there’s something very few people are talking about as they recap, rehash and dis the Oscars this year: It was, in some ways, a secret celebration of the novel, the novelist and literature in general.
Sure, the Academy wasn’t going to go as far as inviting Annie Proulx, the author of the short-story Brokeback Mountain, on stage when they presented the Best Adapted Screenplay Award to Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. However, it could be argued that McMurtry and Ossana barely lifted a finger, as it doesn’t seem possible that there has ever been an adapted screenplay that was more faithful to the original piece of literature than Brokeback, right down to the dialogue. They did thank Proulx, and McMurtry did get a few words in, before the band played him off-stage, about the importance of the written word … and Barnes & Noble. “And finally I\’m going to thank all the booksellers of the world. Remember” he warned the audience, “Brokeback Mountain was a book before it was a movie. From the humblest paperback exchange, to the masters of the great bookshops of the world. All are contributors to the survival of the culture of the book. A wonderful culture, which we mustn\’t lose.”
And by no means was Annie Proulx alone on Oscar night; she was in the wonderful company of Truman Capote, Arthur Golden (author of Memoirs of a Geisha), Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowlings. Without authors, this year’s Oscars could have been held in a Denny’s. There would have been just enough room for the ensemble cast of Crash and Reese Witherspoon could have found a seat on George Clooney’s lap.
But honestly, this year is no exception; Hollywood is notorious for turning pieces of literature into movies, sometimes badly and sometimes with a wonderful touch. Why else would the phrase “The book was better” be such a tried-and-true weapon in our arsenal when critiquing movies? It makes sense, though. A good book is like having a personal movie theater in our minds, but better. We don’t sit back and watch it when it’s a story; we step into it.
That’s why we’re so excited about this issue you’re holding in your hands. Flip to page 14 and you’ll find the winners of our annual fiction 101 contest. Sure, these super-short stories probably won’t find themselves projected onto the screen at the Downtown Century Theater anytime soon; however, that doesn’t mean that some of them don’t have that intangible thing, that thing that makes a story more than a story and turns it into a moving, breathing world in our imaginations.