Some socially-challenged but artistically brilliant programming dork (see also “geek” or “nerd,” as in Revenge of the Nerds, which was subject of possibly the most magnificent monologue of any movie ever, and even of American Splendor, which was the movie it was in, which was also a very good movie) got the job of his life when Crown decided it would be a good idea to put a selection of Peter Kuper’s upcoming graphic adaptation of The Metamorphosis into flash and available for all to see. Behold! Kuper, already famous enough among these fuckers to induce premature ejaculation with an adaptation of the phone book, tackles Kafka once again to magnificent effect.
This adaptation, to compete against masterpieces like Treason for shelf space at a B&N near you this month (the 31st is my birthday for anyone out of present ideas, especially anyone whose name rhymes with “Spank Gablith“), is perfect in nearly every way. Kuper’s illustration style is the exact mix of darkness and whimsicality that makes Kafka’s work so great. The black and white convey the feel of Kafka’s stark, unembellshed prose while the quirky facial expressions capture the oft-ignored comedic aspects of stories like this one. It takes something pretty sweet to make me start with the term-paper talk, so this new book must be pretty special, and it is…except…
In a letter to his publisher before publication of THE METAMORPHOSIS, Kafka took great pains to explain that no illustrator should ever attempt to draw the transformed Gregor Samsa. He felt like no illustration could do Gregor justice–not because no artist was good enough, not by any means, but simply because Gregor was so grotesque that he defied rational imagination’s ability to produce an adequate image. He felt that Gregor’s gruesome new body belonged only in the imagination.
So, while Kuper’s beautiful book is an exiting addition to any Kafka library, you should remember that by reading it you are directly defying one of Kafka’s wishes. Of course, by reading any of Kafka’s work we’re defying his biggest wish of all (that Max Brod destroy his unpublished work and not reprint what had been published), so actually the whole point is moot.
I mean, after all, the guy’s dead. If he came back to life he’d be freaked out enough by the concept of fast food and his worldwide fame, and by the time he saw Kuper’s work he’d just be happy it wasn’t draped in an American flag or decked out in flourescent pink, or remixed with Justin Timberlake or something.
If you enjoy Kuper’s adaptation as I do, this probably means you enjoy Kafka adaptations. And if you do enjoy Kafka adaptations by well-known and highly-accomplished graphic artists, you might also enjoy Kafka adaptations by wholly unknown non-artists like me. And, luckily enough for all of you, I have written just such an adaptation–this one for the stage–of THE TRIAL. Would you like to see this play? I would, too. That’s why I’ve been so wholly uncouth as to ask for your hard-earned cashola in a link to your right. I realize this makes me a bad person, but I’d like to be a bad person with a play.