Friday, August 14, 2009

P.F. Kluge's EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS and Those Wild Summer Nights

Jeff Schwachter of Atlantic City Weekly has written a wonderful article on the 25th anniversary of the classic rock and roll film Eddie and The Cruisers, based on the novel by P.F. Kluge. Here's a brief excerpt about the book behind the film:

"Many things inspired novelist, freelance writer (Rolling Stone, Life) and northern New Jersey native Kluge to pen the 1980 novel. "Two or three things came together," says Kluge from his office at Ohio's Kenyon College where he has been a teacher for more than a decade. "I always loved early rock 'n' roll ... doo-wop groups basically. ... Those songs just kind of worked their way into me and I've never lost them. I carry them with me [and] the way that they could come back to you all through the rest of your life and haunt you intrigued me. And the second thing was wondering about what happens to the survivors of a group after its star, its leader, perishes."
"[Eddie] is about some tapes that were supposedly made way back when [and] going back into the past to retrieve something, to consider what happened to other people, and what has happened to you and what might have been," says Kluge.

Another inspiration for Kluge's book was southern New Jersey, a landscape the young writer caught only a glimpse of one summer, long ago. "In the summer of 1962, I worked as a reporter -- a sort of summer job -- on the Vineland Times Journal," says Kluge. "And this acquainted me with a New Jersey that was quite different from the New Jersey I knew. Because the northern part of the state is sort of within the field of force of New York City. ... the southern part was entirely different. It was rural. It was eccentric. It was a little mysterious to me: the diners, the traffic circles, the little crossroad towns, the odd pockets of ethnic groups."

"I always liked the fact that the filmmakers did two things," says Kluge. "They stuck with the flashback structure [of the novel] -- so you're cutting back and forth between the present time, where Frank Ridgeway, the Wordman, is a high-school teacher in early middle-age, and going back to the summer on the Jersey Shore maybe two decades or so before. ... I like that they had the integrity to stay with that so that the past and present could play off each other.
"The other thing is [they] could have made it about a surf group in California and they made it in New Jersey," says Kluge. "That pleased me." Kluge always wanted his main character to be from South Jersey. "I think when I sat down to write Eddie in 1980, I realized that I didn't want him to be a suburban kid who was going into Greenwich Village on weekends," says Kluge. "I wanted him to be from that New Jersey 'down south.' And I thought Vineland was a good town for him to be from."

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