Review: ‘Sharp Objects’ Episode 2, ‘Dirt’


HBO’s limited series, “Sharp Objects,” is starting to drift a bit farther away from the novel. Whether or not that’s a bad thing (to those who read Gillian Flynn’s debut work) will be in the eyes of each beholder. I have no major objections to the differences so far, and some are very necessary for any television adaptation.

But, for those who have not read the novel, I am a little worried that the story has not been changed up in a way that speeds up the story. If Episode 3 does not move a bit more quickly, HBO may lose the audience that is just now being introduced to the characters in Wind Gap.

The major differences in Episode 2, “Dirt,” are scenes that do not involve Camille (Amy Adams). The novel is told in the first person and has no other points of view, so she is in every scene. In “Dirt,” we watch a couple of scenes without Camille. This is standard for television and movies these days and generally (in my opinion) makes on-screen storytelling better.

A couple of those involved Detective Willis (Chris Messina), which was good. He is a good actor worthy of every second of screen time as HBO will give him. The best non-Camille scene was Willis pulling teeth from a pig’s head. He tells Camille he did this later, leading to the best bit of dialogue in the series so far regarding the southern ties between the phrases “fuck you” and “bless your heart.”

I also very much enjoyed the different approach Natalie Keene’s mother took during the eulogy. In the novel, she was polite, as one would expect a Wind Gap woman to be. In the TV show, her speech was much more full of pain and a desire for vengeance. A change for the better, in my opinion.

On the other hand, I did not see any need for the scene between Adora and her husband, Alan Crellin. It did not make me feel anything, and I thought it just took up screen time.

I am also not a fan of how hard the show is trying to sell us on Ann Nash’s father as a suspect in the girls’ deaths. The novel does this just a tiny bit, but so far they are basically pointing to Mr. Nash with a giant arrow that reads, “RED HERRING.”

I was glad we were finally able to see the floor of Adora’s room and then cutting straight to Amma polishing her miniature version.

I also noticed that Jodes was not the member of Amma’s crew that was written out of the show. I assume they are going to keep her around for her small piece of significance at the end.

I am still enjoying the series and like spotting the differences and easter eggs (such as more words written on objects rather than flaring up on her skin as they do during internal dialogue in the novel), but I fear HBO may start getting increasingly negative reviews if the series doesn’t get a little darker a little quicker.

BREAKING: Your friend signed a publishing deal!

Writing a novel is difficult. I don’t say that to brag on myself, just stating a generally agreed-upon fact. Stringing together nearly 73,000 words (which is actually not a lot for adult fiction) in a way that has the potential to entertain an audience is much harder than it may sound. And to all those who’ve done it, the rest of us (and many who haven’t written one) salute you.

Then, after everything that goes into writing, re-writing, re-writing, re-writing, line editing, copy editing, copy editing, and copy editing again, getting someone to pay you to publish those words is also difficult. There are so many novels “in the drawer” that will never be published and distributed to bookstores, etc. Now, let me be clear: there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. For some, getting published isn’t even the goal, and they are likely better people than me. But I wanted this novel, and I will want all my novels, to be published by a publishing house and distributed by them.

I secured that future earlier today.

The image accompanying this post is my signature for a publishing contract with Texas-based Black Rose Writing, which has agreed to publish my debut novel, “Deep Background.” Below mine is the (much nicer) signature of Fluffy Cash, who was gracious enough to take the time and bear witness to the signing and chat about it.

To answer a few of your questions: No, I did not get a six-figure advance. Yes, I will get paid royalties. Yes, it will be available in physical print. No, you can’t get a copy tomorrow. Yes, it will be available in bookstores (maybe not yours unless you or I ask for it). Yes, I will work with an editor (and for those of you who have read a version of the story already, yes, it will have some changes). Yes, they will design the cover for me. No, you can’t do that for me. No, you can’t convince me to convince them to do that for me. Yes, I will have signings and readings. No, I don’t know (yet) where or how close to you they will be. Yes, I will sell copies on this website (and my publisher will sell it on theirs) and it will be available on Amazon. Yes, I will do media interviews and work my tail off to get media reviews. (You probably didn’t ask this, but I have lined up a bestselling author, not Patterson or King or anyone in that stratosphere, to review a copy and hopefully say something nice for the cover and online description, etc.)

Many of the other details I can’t answer just yet. A release date hasn’t been set, though this is not a quick process and there is much of the above to get done before a date is set.

But, as of this afternoon, I do know one thing: “Deep Background,” Rick Treon’s debut novel, will be published and available in bookstores.

How. Freaking. Cool.

Review: ‘Sharp Objects’ Episode 1, ‘Vanish’


Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Gillian Flynn’s debut novel, “Sharp Objects,” I was hoping HBO would make up for its “Fahrenheit 451” debacle. After all, the channel known for its great original content had one thing going for it this time: the ability to use the novelist, who is also a great playwright, to help with this adaptation.

If Episode 1, “Vanish,” is any indicator, HBO has proved that F451 was a minor blip in its superb track record of adapting great fiction.

The series opens differently than the novel, with young Camille and Marian visiting contemporary Camille in a dream that teases her cutting. I was a bit disappointed with this, as the revelation that she is a cutter, and the extreme nature of her cutting, is a fairly large reveal in the novel. Though Flynn does foreshadow the carving of words into her skin in the novel, it is in a much less obvious way (writing the words on her skin with pens, etc.).

The rest of the episode, however, stays pretty close to the novel, with some scenes being nearly direct adaptations. Of course, with the time and visual constraints of television, there are some distinct differences in timing that can’t be avoided. We’re introduced to Detective Richard Willis, John Keene, and Jackie O’Neele earlier than I’d anticipated, though to introduce them in the second or third episode of a limited series wouldn’t have been good television.

Perhaps the biggest change that I favor is where Camille works. In the series, she’s working for a fictional newspaper in St. Lous, which makes a lot more sense than one from Chicago, which is where Novel Camille works. When I read the novel, I always thought Chicago was a bit too far away for the Missouri Bootheel, though I understood that Camille having moved out of Missouri part of her character. However, The Tennessean (Nashville) or Oklahoman would have been closer, and more believable for me.

In terms of tone, I think the folks at HBO have struck a great chord. They included the flashback in the woods and Camille’s masturbation, which will help set up more of her character’s development down the line.

But, perhaps above all else, “Vanish” ends the way it needed to, with the reveal of the cutting and the highlighting of the word VANISH on Amy Adams’ skin. For those who didn’t read the novel, it’s a great way to get the audience to keep watching. And, for those of us who did read the novel (and, if you’re like me, re-read it before the show) having the word glow a bit is a nod to the novel, which has Camille’s skin “tingling” with the words “shouting” at her throughout.

Because this blog is focused on the series versus novel, I won’t dive into the acting too much, except to say that it’s stellar so far. Amy Adams is everything I’d hoped for, and Chris Messina has been a favorite of mine for a while. As for the children, Sophia Lillis as young Camille is excellent, and it will be interesting to see how Eliza Scanlan plays Amma as her character becomes increasingly more wicked.

A couple other differences between the series and novel:

  • Camille smokes a bit in this first episode. I don’t believe she did in the novel. It didn’t ruin anything for me, just seems unnecessary to add that to her character, which was made plenty interesting by the somewhat guilty drinking and constant urge to cut again.
  • There appears to be one girl missing from Amma’s crew. I wonder if they axed Jodes or the other Kelsey? They are also not all fair-haired beauties, which doesn’t matter a whole lot, I suppose.

Things I want to see in Episode 2:

  • Adora’s bedroom and its floor.
  • More of the interior of Amma’s dollhouse, including Adora’s bedroom floor.
  • An explanation of the iPhone-as-an-iPod (which I also have). My initial assumption is that it’s Marian’s old iPhone. This is one example of the updated technology in the adaptation since the novel is more than a decade old now. I also hope Camille uses either her phone or a digital recorder rather than the cassette recorder from the book.

One irrelevant gripe:

  • I find it highly unlikely that, in a southern town like Wind Gap, the barkeep would have played anything other than the Johnny Cash version of “Ring of Fire,” even if it was supposed to be a Karaoke bar.