In 1982 The British Book Marketing Council unveiled a list of what it anointed the Best American Novels Since WW2. The list contained a stunner no one expected and barely a handful of people had read: Mrs Caliban by Rachel Ingalls. I immediately bought it to read out of curiosity more than anything else. What a book! A miniature masterpiece, totally unforgettable. A suburban housewife has an affair with a sea monster which has escaped from the abusive regime of an aquarium. Over the years this magical book has not acquired the readership it deserves and its author apparently reticent. Faber published collections of her novellas but they never seemed to garner reviews or sales. I am reminded of this great book today because the grand prize at the Venice Film Festival, the Golden Lion, has been awarded to Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, about a housewife who has an affair with a sea monster….
He ripped off Rachel Ingalls. I wrote a screenplay treatment for her book years ago and sent it around. It has been on the radar in Hollywood for years.
It seems as though the filmmaker owes a debt—and an apology—to Ms. Ingalls’. I read MRS. CALIBAN when it was first released in 1981 and it was a major inspiration for me in my novel about “otherness,” FIRST PERSON PLURAL. I gave credit to Ms. Ingalls here:
I have wonderedall along why nobody seemed to know about the similarity between shape of water and Mrs. Caliban. If Del Toro doesn’t give credit, this Is just unconscionable.
I, too, read Rachel Ingall’s novella around the time of its publication. And then I read it again. And again. When I went to see “The Shape of Water”, I fully expected to see her work acknowledged. It wasn’t and that must be changed. It’s a brilliant, weird and wonderful piece by an author of unsurpassed imagination and great literary skill.
Del Toro is also brilliant, but needs to give credit in order not to become just one of the many who fail to acknowledge the accomplishments of great women writers.
I read “Mrs. Caliban” around the time of its first publication. And then I read it again. And again. It is brilliant and original and ever so beautifully written.
When I went to see “The Shape of Water”, which I quite loved, I was astonished to see that no credit was extended by its director to Rachel Ingalls.
This must be corrected. del Toro is also a brilliant creator and it would stand as a serious stain on what he has done, were he to simply remain in the pantheon of male writers/directors/creators who fail to acknowledge the influence of brilliant women who have come before him whose ideas he has gained from using.
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