This is a short book — it barely covers 100 pages and only occupies one narrow column down the page. This seems made for me to compensate for my slight dyslexia: it is the only time ever that I picked up a book and finished reading it in two hours.
I felt it was written for me. It is a docu-fiction tale of a wannabe film script writer with big dreams. Drama critic John, the protagonist, wants to write a screenplay that involves actors Dustin Hoffman and Woody Allen and musician/poet Bob Dylan playing themselves. To get there, he describes an odyssey of chance encounters and academic references with top theatre authors and operators. That is why I felt such affinity.
Feldschreiber drops names such as playwright David Mamet, Anton Chekov, Samuel Beckett, Norman Mailer, and the names of familiar plays such as Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross and many others, as if all his readers were in the same circle of activity. I felt as if I was privileged to be there with John meeting old friends whom, unfortunately, I only had occasion to worship from a distance — and mostly in my imagination during my studies.
Feldschreiber locates his adventure in Manhattan and Brooklyn, places I have visited with dear friends from there. Familiar places for me and for how many more? They’ll be known to viewers of Woody Allen’s movies.
This intimate vibe of a writers’ elite made me wonder who this book is aimed at. What would happen if the author had to change all the names and replace them with, say, unrecognisable Russian contemporary authors, actors and milieus? He would probably lose my interest, for one. Yet this particular read was an intimate experience I enjoyed all the more because Mr Feldschreiber allowed me to join him in his personal dream.
What to do with the tale now that it is born and fully fledged? It would suit being be turned into a black-and-white graphic novella, and if that worked, maybe involve the three stars in a cinematic animated cartoon? Spielberg used this format in The Adventures of TinTin. Perhaps they could use a Sin City-style voice-over narrative. Then it wouldn’t matter whether the viewers know the famous names but it could still involve the actual characters beloved by so many.
The author’s imaginary and factual journey has enough twists and turns to hold the audience’s attention. The characters who are not so famous and whom John meets in his adventure are colourful enough to intrigue the viewers — I liked the financier/builder of the Madison Square Garden facility best. He is a shrewd operator with a weakness for nostalgic replays of his past successes. I’d like to be cast in that part!
Basically, this is the story of the hero who has a goal to achieve and is held up by various mishaps and contrary holdups on the way. It’s not life or death, but there’s enough conflict and contrast of a gentle kind. The novella is quite short: no room for a love-interest subplot, unless of course you consider the hero’s love for his quest as a passionate obsession. SPOILER ALERT: It has a happy ending because the film does get made — but there is no triumphal conclusion. It is obvious that, for the fictional author, the journey was the thing.
Mr. Feldschreiber is a laid back raconteur who intrigues you with his unlikely goal. I wish there were many more books like this. But sadly it takes a very particular talent and experience to be able to write in such an original genre. Obviously writers cannot provide of that which they do not have in their cultural baggage. Few are as rich in their cultural experience as Jared Feldschreiber, to whom those who are in the inner circle of theatrical film making should be truly grateful.
Narcy Calamatta is a veteran writer, designer, actor and director on stage, TV and film. A militant in social causes, he regularly contributes to local print media in Malta in English and Maltese.
He has been editor of a left-wing political satirical bi-weekly gazette and a stringer for the international issue of the Hollywood Reporter. He was the drama and art critic on the first local electronic newspaper, maltastar.com.
His essays on the tourism and film industries have been published in a guide book in three languages and he has published a book with a collection of four of his plays in English and their translation in Maltese.
This year he published a dissertation on Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame and its translation into Maltese. He is the editor of two books; Survivors II by international photographer Joe P Smith and Somebody Up There Loves Me, his brother Peter’s saga in Maltese on his fight with cancer. Narcy has also written three scripts for award-winning short films and he wrote the scripts for seven episodes of a TV comedy series. His dissertation on The Beheading of St John, the Caravaggio masterpiece that hangs in St John’s Cathedral in Valletta, was published locally and he delivered it as a lecture at the Library of Congress, Washington DC.
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