Transliteracy is not transcription.

What many definitions of transliteracy fail to do is to apply themselves outside of the dryness that is our academic daily bread and into more creative and entertaining (gasp!) spaces. Consider Emily Temple’s casting of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History as a movie:

There are many wonderful books that very strangely haven’t been made into movies, and as equal parts book nerds and movie lovers, this gets us to thinking…….It’s an enthralling novel, to be sure, but its cinematic potential is based in its tense atmosphere, bizarre details and compelling storyline. Plus, Tartt’s characters are so wonderful and well-defined that it seems a shame not to have them represented on film. Here, we offer our humble casting suggestions.

A sample:

Olly Alexander as Francis Abernathy

“Angular and elegant, he was precariously thin, with nervous hands and a shrewd albino face and a short, fiery mop of the reddest hair I had ever seen. I thought (erroneously) that he dressed like Alfred Douglas, or the Comte de Montesquiou: beautiful starchy shirts with French cuffs; magnificent neckties; a black greatcoat that billowed behind him as he walked and made him look like a cross between a student prince and Jack the Ripper. Once, to my delight, I even saw him wearing pince-nez.” Francis is the most refined of the group, handsome, mysterious and slightly fey. We’d probably have to slap some red hair dye on him, but we think Olly’s the man for the job.

The process of moving from a vision that you produce in your head and matching it to something you already know from a different medium (books to film) exemplifies the skill that lies at the heart of transliteracy: applying an understanding of one to the other while keeping the spirit of the idea being transferred alive. Translisteracy is not just an act of transcription, but an act that necessitates creation and conservation at the same time.


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