Today marks the start of what I hope will be a regular feature–the guest post. I’m thrilled that my first guest poster is none other than Roy Burkhead himself. I have Roy to thank for my career in teaching, since he hired me originally to teach at the Loft. He’s a damn fine writer himself, as well as a dad and a corporate technical writer and a Hemingway fanatic, too. Read his post and then scroll down to the end to read his bio. You might also want to visit his website while you’re at it, too.
And now, I’m tossing it over to Roy, who talks about the movie and the book version of My Dog Skip.
My son brought me to “My Dog Skip.”
After four years of animation, talking animals, superheroes, puppets, and Lord knows what all else that I had…enjoyed since Seth’s arrival, I approached all child movies with caution. As is the case with some medications, kid movies (for me) could only be taken on a full stomach. But his mother started a nursing job at nights on the weekends, leaving we men to entertain one another.
So, along with mac-n-cheese, corn on the cob, and fried chicken, watching “My Dog Skip” became a Friday night ritual lasting almost a year. Seth loved watching the movie, and I loved watching him watch the movie.
I had been aware of the writer Willie Morris, and while Harry Connick, Jr. narrated the movie fifty-two times that year, I became increasingly curious about how much of the book made it into the flick.
I finished the book during lunch today, and comparing the memoir to the movie is an interesting case study in the art of adapting books into movies. The entire plot of the movie is made up: invented. It is a vehicle used to deliver Willie and Skip to the audience. As I read the book over the past couple of weeks, I saw how the screen writer plucked this section and that bit out of the book and bent and reshaped the material to fit the little tales into the newly-created plotline.
For many readers and writers (or at least the ones I know), watching their favorite books materialize on the screen is an unofficial hobby. I have vivid memories of seeing “The Hunt for Red October,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “Possession,” “Wonderboys,” and so many others—all the while remembering the scenes and comparing them on the spot to what was flickering in front of me. And I am sure we all have a private list of books we secretly hope will make it to Hollywood. Myself, I would love to see someone translate Donna Tartt’s The Secret History to the big screen.
But, of course, there’s always the chance that the movie will smell so much that it damages memories of reading the book. I mean, how many stinkers have been made from A Christmas Carol? Anyone with a spare noun and an apostrophe feels entitled to hack away at Scrooge.
A friend from Mississippi now lives in northern England, and he was delighted in seeing our copy of “My Dog Skip,” and I was delighted in sharing it with him. My wife no longer works nights, and my son is a bit older, but he has a baby sister now. I suspect that there will be a time not too far from now when Seth and I will spend a Friday night with her and skip, along with some mac-n-cheese, corn on the cob, and fried chicken.
A Kentucky native and longtime Nashvillian, Roy Burkhead has published his journalism, poetry, and prose both online and in traditional print media, but he is perhaps best known as a passionate promoter of the arts throughout middle Tennessee. After earning a MFA in Writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky, Roy founded The Writer’s Loft, a creative writing program at Middle Tennessee State University, as well as created, edited, and published the program’s literary journal, The Trunk. Currently, Roy is working on his novel (his MFA creative thesis) and may be found online here.