Every once in a while I find myself so enraged, befuddled, or even charmed (rarely) by the news cycle that I can think of little else. This week, like most of you, I’m sure, I find myself filled with ongoing, white-hot, animal rage about Jerry Sandusky and the whole Penn State scandal. Simultaneously, I’m incredulous (and not in a good way) that someone who doesn’t seem to know what’s been happening with Libya lately is seriously running for president. And then, just when I think I need anti-depressants to get through the newspaper, there’s Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, making the media rounds to promote their new book and seeming so courageous and true to each other. Their story is a palate cleanser to chase away the taste of bile the other headlines leave behind.
As immersed in different ways as I’ve been with these events and personalities, I find myself wondering which would work in a fictional retelling. Novelists, from Zola to Grisham have been ripping off ideas from the headlines from time immemorial, of course, but with the relentless coverage of happenings big and small to feed the great gaping maw the Internet has created, I think it’s gotten harder to take a major news story and turn it into a compelling, important novel. Still, I wonder what Tom Perrotta would do with the Penn State tragedy, what Allegra Goodman could make of the Giffords/Kelly saga, and what merriment would result from Carl Hiaasen’s take on the Cain, Perry, and Bachman campaigns.
Perhaps it’s only fiction that can truly make sense of the horror and absurdity. Sometimes, too, fiction is the only way to capture the complexity of love, passion, bravery in a way that doesn’t reduce these qualities to a Hallmark card.
What headlines would you rip off and turn into classic fiction? And what authors would you pair what stories with?