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371 pages, Hardcover
First published October 7, 2008
"I think this is what the end of the world will be like," McIntyre said, and none among them raised his voice to disagree.In the primeval woods of North Carolina, young timber baron, George Pemberton, brings his bride, Serena, to live with him in his kingdom. He had been busy enough already, fathering a child with a local girl and clear-cutting wide swaths of land. Serena quickly establishes herself as a power in her own right, knowledgeable about the timber business from her family background in Colorado, frightened of nothing and totally, totally ruthless. She is both an almost deitific figure and a satanic one. She will tolerate no criticism and her ambition is beyond measure. Beware, any who would cross her path. Both murderer of people and proud rapist of the land, she acquires a henchman to take care of her dirtiest deeds, among which is the removal of George’s bastard child, and the child’s mother, and enlists a non-human assistant as well. One thing you should know is that whenever Serena speaks it is in iambic pentameter, another way in which Rash makes her stands out.
I thought it was a better way to look at the present, through the past. I wrote Serena because of what was happening a couple of years ago, with environmental issues -particularly it looked like there was going to be some really extensive logging in National Forests. It didn't quite happen as badly as I thought it was going to happen, but certainly the threat was there. - from 18:05 of Stacey Cochran’s interview with Rash on more2read.comstanding in for the rape of the land today, but that cinematographical smorgasbord was left on the table, mostly untouched. There are some scenes that let us in on the damage being done, particularly a brilliant scene in which Pemberton, in a public forum, challenges those who propose a national park that will include his land. But a lot more could have been offered visually to reinforce this theme.
I made a decision early on not to read either screenplay. I answered a few questions from the screenwriters but was otherwise uninvolved in the filming. For me, that was better. I was deep into a new novel during that period and preferred to concentrate on something that, unlike film, I knew I could do well. Of course I hoped the movies would be as true as possible to my novels, but it is a different medium so differences are inevitable. Someone once asked Harry Crews what a film “might do” to his book, and he answered that a film didn’t change a single word in the book itself. That seems a good attitude for a writer to take.A couple of minor notes, there is an unintentional joke when Cooper's character is referred to by another as a lousy shot. The trailer for the film contains a fabulous shot of Serena launching an eagle from her arm. Somehow that did not make it into the final cut.
To me, one of the most interesting aspects of literature is how the most intensely “regional” literature is also often the most universal. There’s no better example of this than Joyce’s Ulysses. The best regional writers are like farmers drilling for water; if they bore deep and true enough into that particular place, beyond the surface of local color, they tap into universal correspondences, what Jung called the collective unconscious. Faulkner’s Mississippi, Munro’s Ontario, and Marquez’s Colombia are exotic, and they are also familiar.
Update: March 28, 2015
Holy Crap!.....just watched the movie.....Be prepared for a completely different, but still shocker of an ending. Liked it better than the book!
“When Pemberton returned to the North Carolina mountains after three months in Boston settling his father’s estate, among those waiting on the train platform was a young woman pregnant with Pemberton’s child. She was accompanied by her father, who carried beneath his shabby frock coat a bowie knife sharpened with great attentiveness earlier that morning so it would plunge as deep as possible into Pemberton’s heart.”