also print a copy for my files. I neverrnknow when this system is going to crashrnagain.rnClay Reynolds is an associate professorrnof literary and aesthetic studies at thernUniversity of Texas at Dallas. Hisrnmost recent novel is Monnments.rnFictions Into Filmrnby Geoffrey WagnerrnIsaw that book.” Are we likely tornhear this more and more from thernnext generation? A reviewer recently describedrna book by Joan Didion as “a novelrnthat doesn’t have to be filmed to make vournfeci you’re watching it, not reading it.”rnTelevision adaptations of fiction arernnotoriously common these days, and thernresults are not always B moies. But boxofficernsuccess seems to depend on exposingrnthe hidden lives of various charactersrnwe had once believed to be stable. Takernthe cleverly filled-out case of Mrs. Dalloway,rnstarring Vanessa Redgrave, or thernrecent Great Expectations. The problemrnis complicated when the subject includesrnboth the writer and his works. The filmrnversion of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The LastrnTycoon, for example, depicts a Hollywoodrnhack at his worst and invites thernviewer to peer directly into Fitzgerald’srnown life.rnIn major fiction, the yeasty chaos ofrncreation has taken place, once and for all.rnThe pundits of postmodern philosophyrn—Lacan, Derrida, Stanley F i s h -rnmay help us find fleeting cultural powerrnin film, but such brilliance as we see inrnsomething as orderh’ as Citizen Kanernowes to the use of a mechanical process.rn1 hat process dates. Printed books mayrnpossess enduring craft, in their own right.rnAnd that right, afiFirmed in a famous essayrnby T.S. Eliot, suggests that true creationrncomes out of a tradifion.rnWliat if, then, there is no tradifion behindrnyour cultural form, only so manyrnFestschrifts for famous directors likernHitchcock or Godard who, in Contempt,rnput his hat on a favorite actress (BrigitternBardot) and called it direcfion, while inrnHail Mary he portrayed the Virgin as arnbasketball-playing gas jerk?rnIs the cineaste meant to reply that suchrna director is creafing tradition for the unenlightenedrnfuhire? Whole texts have byrnnow appeared requiring our assent to thernPorta Negrarn(Trier, Germany)rnby B.R. StrahanrnThe breath of sun and rainrnonly darken on my face.rnThe cat claws of millennia,rnthe graffiti of tourists, fade on my walls.rnI who guarded this city so longrnsit truncated now, shouldering the sky.rnMy frieze the sweaty flesh of loversrnon cool bare stones.rnCatch me in another thousand years,rnyour eyes as hard and black as mine.rnSee if these holes will matchrnthe mysteries of death and flesh and stone.rnpreeminence of French cinema, of Russianrncinema, of the black-and-whiternmode, of pre-sound techniques. There isrnsupposed to be a tradition of Germanrncinema, represented by joscf von Sternbergrnand Werner Fassbander, althoughrnthe latter’s tradition is that of the Baadcr-rnMeinhof group.rnThe diminished role of characterizationrnin modernist movies deprives us of illusions.rnThe text—let us not call it a novelrn— was often heaw with coincidences,rnas in Dickens, Ibsen, and the 19th-centuryrnrepertoire of ficfion. )ohn Sutherlandrnhas specialized in exposing absurdities ofrnfact in this treasury (e.g., “Where doesrnFanny Hill keep her contraceptives?”).rnAnd there is surely something charnfingrnabout the sewing together of relationshipsrndenied us in real life.rnObviously enough—pace McLuhan—rntoday’s cultural tense conspires to laudrnthe visual over the verbal. Yet the Frenchrnphilosopher Lyotard insists that wordsrncan make us see. In discussing Fran^-oisrnTruffaut’s indebtedness to certain fictionsrnby Henry James (a novelist pur sangrnif ever there was one), Adeline R. Tintnerrnrefers to her cinematic renderings ofrnJames as “careful, almost reverenfial productions,rnfaithful to the originals,” butrnthen adds that no film could ever possiblyrnbe “faithful” to a novel —”the media arcrnsimply too different to allow it.” Is thisrnthe cardinal point we are left with?rnRadical TV can be the gifted work ofrnfilm editors and screenwriters for whichrnwe should be grateful; it can also be sornmany technical mutilations. Take onernmagisterial translation from fiction tornfilm, namely, the recently resuscitatedrn1955 Night of the Hunter, based on arn1953 novel by the now-forgotten DavisrnGrubb. This production is notable for itsrndirector-Gharles Laughton in his firstrnand only effort—and its writer, novelistrnand film critic James Agee, as well as arngood cast that includes Robert Mitchum,rnShelley Winters, and an aging LillianrnGish. Superlatives were rained on thisrnmovie; Pauline Kael called it “one of thernmost frightening mo’ies e er made.” Today,rnhow manv “saw that book”? Perhapsrnthe answer may be found in the words ofrnthe almost equally forgotten poet KarlrnShapiro: “I didn’t go to the funeral of poetry,rnI stayed home and watched it onrntelevision.”rnGeoffrey Wagner is a professor emeritusrnof English at the Git}’ University ofrnNew York.rn46/CHRONICLESrnrnrn