Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nick and Norah's Infinite Cast List

At Cinematical, by Eugene Novikov: From Page to Screen: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. It's a look at Michael Cera's body of work, and how it qualifies him, or not, to play smart emo-kid Nick in the upcoming Nick and Norah movie. I'm not terribly familiar with Michael Cera's work outside of Superbad, but I found the article interesting nonetheless.


The book tells the story of his whirlwind, night-long courtship with Norah. She's a complicated girl dealing with her own painful break-up. Both have to fight through layers upon layers of insecurities to trust each other and realize that they've stumbled onto something once-in-a-lifetime.

It's not, to be honest, all that inspiring. The novel was written for teens, but is racy enough that the older kids for whom it's suitable might be bored by the writing style, which is annoying in its self-conscious hipness. Moments in it are genuinely sweet, and Cohn and Levithan convey a nice sense of being young, free, and faced with a world full of possibilities. It's a quick, decently engaging read, but nothing earth-shattering.

Uh, what? I don't know where this guy's been, but the older teens for whom it's suitable were not bored by it. It was named not just to BBYA, but to Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, which weighs the popularity of a book much more than its quality. It's in a high number of BCCLS libraries and enjoys good circulation. Rachel Cohn and David Levithan regularly speak to groups of enthusiastic teenagers. Also, no, Nick and Norah was not earth-shattering, but who says it has to be? There is nothing wrong with quick, decently engaging reads. Personally, I think they make for better movies than a lot of the literary stuff out there. Not that I don't love the literary, of course, but what comes through amazingly well in words doesn't always work well on the screen.

A commenter takes issue with the "not inspiring" line, saying: inspiring?! it's a fucking young adult novel written for, um, young adults. not movie critics, literary critics, or, god forbid, adults. it is a funny, racy, energetic novel about teens. god this is what i hate about the literary world. to be a "worthy writer" you have to use long words. that's bullshit. a writer can pull a reader in, bring up emotions, teach them something, entertain them.

To which Novikov replies: All I meant was that it's not very good -- which it's not. It's a perfectly acceptable, readable teen novel. There are better ones.

Let's put aside the "Is Nick & Norah a good book?" argument. I thought it was. Novikov didn't. He read the book and gave it his honest assessment, which is fair enough for me. But what I want to know is, when he says "There are better ones," what does he mean? I looked through his articles at Cinematical and he didn't seem to have written anything else involving YA literature. Mr. Novikov, if you read this, I would love to know what other YA you read, and what you thought of it. What made these particular books better than Nick & Norah?

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