Good Reading : December January 2005
categorical than 20 original TV plays, but he’s also adapted more classic TV serials than anyone else, including the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, Daniel Deronda and Vanity Fair. He’s written his fair share of film adaptations too, notably Bridget Jones’ Diary (he also adapted the sequel), The Tailor of Panama and Circle of Friends. Outspoken and passionate about his craft, he frequently lectures and writes about the joys and perils of adaptation. He’s even had a book written about him – Andrew Davies (Manchester University Press, 2004) by University of Kent lecturer Sarah Cardwell. ‘I’m always struck by how deeply and genuinely involved Davies becomes in the characters,’ she says. ‘He feels possessive and defensive of them. What he’s concerned about is not fidelity to a previous text, but creating fully developed and fascinating individuals. And he’s bold. He believes writers should aim to make a “masterpiece”, because, in his words, unless you do that you’re wasting everybody’s time.’ For Cardwell, who’s also written Adaptation Revisited:Television and the Classic Novel (Manchester University Press, 2002), an adap- tation is ‘a second chance to remember and enhance the very best qualities of the source book, eliminate bits that don’t work, and productively highlight the fascinating points of tension all great novels have.’ Cardwell also points out that every adaptation must stand on its own merits because a modern audience – especially a young audience – may not have read the original book. In this pursuit, Andrew Davies wins brownie points again, because he views his screenplays not as a replacement of the original, but as a personal reading leading to an independent work of art. Dickens, Austen, Eliot and Thackeray may not be able to voice their opinions on adaptations of their books, but what about writ- ers who have lived through their work transferring to the screen? Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth, wrote in The Guardian of her experience of seeing her novel adapted for television. She felt, she said, as if she were nervously handing a baby over to a wet-nurse, hoping it will be well looked after, and trusting in the expertise of professionals. Her trust was justified. She even took on a role as an extra in the series, describing the sight of watching herself on television, an actor in her own televised novel, as a bit like peering into an unending series of mirrors. Indeed, more and more writers are participating in the film - making process as actors, such as Melbourne crime writer Shane Maloney, who recently featured in a bit part in the TV adaptation of his novel Stiff. It’s as if the active involvement of the novelist helps reclaim a part of the adaptation, marking it with a personal stamp. You can only imagine what a writer like Charles Dickens, whose acting ability was legendary and whose public readings frequently resulted in standing ovations, would have done if he’d been alive today. Far from being content to be an extra, he could well have badgered his agent for a starring role. Now that would be an interesting take on the subject! Strictly Dancing Angela Gilltrap Relive the glamour and the ‘Wow!’ of the hottest dance show on the planet – ABC TV’s Strictly Dancing – with the book that takes a look behind the sequins. Enough Rope 2 Andrew Denton More of your favourite moments from the ABC’s most prestigious and talked-about talk show. 25 noteworthy interviews including Mel Brooks, Hugh Jackman, Michael Parkinson, Don Chipp, Glenn and Jane McGrath and the three homeless people. Gardening Australia’s Flora’s Native Plants Backed by the ABC's Gardening Australia team, Flora’s Native Plants is the definitive guide to over 1,800 Australian plants. Available at ABC Shops, ABC Centres, all good bookstores, online at abcshop.com.au, or for home delivery phone 1300 360 111 Rookies, Rebels & Renaissance: Cricket in the 80s Mike Coward Following the huge popularity of The Chappell Years comes this outstanding companion-book to the latest ABC-TV cricketing documentary – Cricket in the 80s. PAPERBACK SRP: $32.95 HARDCOVER SRP: $49.95 PAPERBACK SRP: $29.95 HARDCOVER SRP: $75.00 Seen It? Loved It? Now Read It! Reese Witherspoon as Becky Sharp in a scene from Vanity Fair, the latest film version of Thackeray’s classic novel.