David Cronenberg writes first novel, ‘Consumed’

By Hillel Italie, AP

NEW YORK–To finish his first novel, David Cronenberg had to work around a few other projects.

Like the four movies he completed over the past eight years.

��I would actually have to leave what I was writing for a year and a half and literally not think about it,�� said the Canadian filmmaker known for ��Dead Ringers,�� ��Naked Lunch�� and his latest, ��Map of the Stars.��

��So I had concerns about continuity, that it was this sort of start-and-stop thing,�� he adds. ��Somehow, it seemed to work.��

Cronenberg begins his fiction career at age 71 with ��Consumed,�� an intellectual, macabre thriller of sex, violence and bodily transformation �X themes not unfamiliar to fans of Cronenberg’s movies. The protagonists are freelance journalists caught up in a mysterious case of murder and cannibalism, a story inspired in part by the life of Louis Pierre Althusser, a French Marxist who strangled his wife.

Interviewed recently at the offices of his U.S. publisher, Scribner, Cronenberg said that publisher Nicole Winstanley of Penguin Canada had suggested he try a novel. He set himself a goal of two pages a day and found the experience close to directing, a narrative for which he had a final say on casting, lighting, editing, sound effects and special effects.

��The only thing you can do as a screenwriter is the narrative and the dialogue,�� he says.

Directors have long felt an affinity with literary writers, although few have triumphed in both fields.

Elia Kazan wrote several novels after his movie career faded, and Jean Renoir wrote a handful of short fiction works in the last years of his life. More recently, Ethan Coen has published stories and poems, and Neil Jordan of ��The Crying Game�� has completed several novels and story collections. For years, Woody Allen has contributed stories to The New Yorker.

John Sayles has managed parallel careers, directing ��Eight Men Out�� and ��Passion Fish,�� among others, while writing well-regarded short stories and novels. He prefers completing a book without interruption, noting that he worked on his nearly 1,000-page historical tale, ��A Moment in the Sun,�� during a Writers Guild of America strike. Film projects took up so much time while he was writing ��Los Gusanos,�� published in 1991, that when Sayles returned to the novel, he realized he had scene with a dead man in the trunk of a car and he had forgotten why he was there.