David Cronenberg’s latest film, Maps to the Stars, is a suitably odd look at Hollywood, a place that the director tends to stay away from. It’s a blackly funny look at a town and an industry that can eat its young. It features incest, drug-addicted 13-year-olds, and a constipated Julianne Moore. It’s a cross between The Player and a Polanski nightmare. That said, it’s probably Cronenberg’s “funniest” film, but then, the director thinks that all his films are comedies. In an interview with Vulture, Cronenberg comments “At Cannes, someone said, ‘Have you ever considered making a comedy?’ And I said, ‘I’ve done nothing but.’ Not maybe the traditional definition of a comedy, where it ends with a feel-good kind of thing, but for me, there is an observed and humorous aspect to the human condition and, of course, exploring the human condition is really what art is about. And I can’t imagine not having humor be part of it. I just can’t imagine it.” You remember all those wacky Cronenberg laugh-a-minute movies: the one with telekinetics who explode people’s heads, or the one where televisions consume viewers, or the one with people who get sexual release at automobile accidents.
After almost fifty years of making movies, including adaptations of works by William Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, and Don DeLillo, Cronenberg has finally got around to writing a novel. Consumed is “the story of two journalists whose entanglement in a French philosopher’s death becomes a surreal journey into global conspiracy.” The novel involves cannibalism, amputation, gruesome scientific research, sexual role-play, and perhaps most disturbing, the Cannes Film Festival. And although this is his debut, he found the writing closer to directing than anything else, because the novelist has to do everything. Screenplay writing “is a kind of strange, bastardized, hybrid kind of writing because basically you’re creating a template for a whole lot of people to come and realize it, whereas in a novel, you have to realize it all right there on the spot. So, for me, writing a novel was much more like directing than it was like writing a screenplay because you’re casting it, you’re doing the lighting, you’re doing the costumes, you’re doing the locations. All of these things are done by other people when you’re making a movie as a director.” And the debut novelist has already embraced his critics’ take on his style: “One book writer who writes about books a lot talks about ‘my dense, aristocratic prose. I thought, That’s gonna be my mantra now, I like that. Dense, aristocratic prose.” The densely, aristocratic Consumed is available at all good bookstores now.