Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Short Story Gets Graphic

Benjamin Percy's short story collection Refresh, Refresh was one of the better books we read for The Story Prize in 2007. At the time, the title story already had quite a pedigree: It was published in The Paris Review in 2005, which led to Percy winning the Plimpton Prize, and Ann Patchett chose "Refresh, Refresh" for The Best American Short Stories 2006. Now, a film is in the works, and Percy and the filmmaker, James Ponsoldt, have collaborated with graphic artist Danica Novgorodoff on a graphic version that will be out this week. What's next? A Broadway show? An ap? An opera? I wouldn't rule anything out.

The story, incidentally, concerns a young man, who lives in a town in Central Oregon and whose father is fighting in Iraq. The title refers to the narrator, who, in his eagerness to get e-mail from his father, sits at the computer and repeatedly hits the refresh button. He and his friends, whose fathers are also off in Iraq, become increasingly reckless as they prepare themselves for a similar fate.

This kind of collaboration between graphic artists and short story writers has a lot of potential, and I can think of a many great stories that would work well in this form. For instance, I'd buy a graphic adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" or John Cheever's "The Swimmer" or Tobias Wolff's "Bullet in the Brain." (Who knows, they may already exist.) And in the years ahead I think more literary works will get the graphic treatment. A version of James Joyce's Ulysses is already underway. And then, there's R. Crumb's treatment of The Book of Genesis.

Short stories will, of course, remain a vital written form. But a good story can and sometimes would do well to cross over into other mediums.
Anything that gets kids--and adults--reading, right?