Friday, 6 June 2014

The Power of Words

A few nights ago I stumbled on a movie called 'The Words'. I'd never heard of it before and wondered why because the cast includes Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons and Dennis Quaid. I assumed the theatrical release was a short-lived and hardly-publicized experience. Besides the promising cast, my browsing eye lingered on an enigmatic summary my VOD system was displaying: "A writer at the peak of his literary success discovers the steep price he must pay for stealing another man's work." This theme has often caught my eye in the past, but somehow everything I have read (Jesse Kellerman's 'Potboiler') or watched ('A Murder of Crows', a 1998 film starring Cuba Gooding Jr.) failed to deliver on the potential. 'The Words', as far as I can remember, is the closest attempt yet.

Author Clayton Hammond (Dennis Quaid) gives a public reading of his new book, 'The Words'. Clayton begins reading from his book which focuses on a fictional character named Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), an aspiring writer who lives in New York City with his girlfriend, Dora (Zoe Saldana). Rory and Dora marry and, during their honeymoon in Paris, Dora buys Rory an old briefcase from an antiques store he was admiring. After returning to America and having his book rejected again, Rory finds an old but masterfully written manuscript in the briefcase with a central character named Jack. Rory types the manuscript into his laptop. Later, while using the laptop, Dora happens upon the novel and reads it. She mistakenly assumes that Rory wrote the novel and convinces him to give it to a publisher. The book is a hit and Rory becomes famous. Later, Rory meets the "Old Man" (Jeremy Irons), who reveals himself as the true author of the manuscript and that it was based on his life in Paris during WWII. That’s when the twists and turns really kick in.

Rotten Tomatoes describes the movie as an "overly complex, dramatically inert literary thriller that's ultimately a poor substitute for a good book". Although quite complex, I believe 'The Words' can be interpreted in many ways. It's kept me thinking about the character depth and the messages it wanted to convey. It is a decent movie on many levels and I recommend it those of you who like reading books/watching movies about aspiring writers.

But the one question I'd like to ask (and that I have asked myself) is: what would you do if you were Rory Jansen and if you came across such a manuscript? It's my dream to encounter literary success, but at what price? Even if I could get away with it, I'm not sure, I'd steal. Writing is so personal. How can one dare turn another's work into his/her own? Let me know what your thoughts are.

By the way, on the subject of idea sharing, I have finally gotten around to creating a discussion page on for 'Out of Bounds'. I have listed a few questions already. By all means, please join me there and we can get the ball rolling. For those of you who have read 'Out of Bounds', I'll be able to answer questions. What's also great about Goodreads is that you can rate and review books, keep a bookshelf, and share with your other contacts. I realized that my blog can be quite limited in that respect and it's not always easy to have these discussions on Facebook. So if you feel like joining a book club, I'd be delighted to hear from you.

Just scroll to the bottom of this page and make sure you set up a free Goodreads account: