Picks and Pans Review: E.t.: the Book of the Green Planet
by William Kotzwinkle
It's damning Kotzwinkle with faint praise to say that his "novelization" of the movie E.T. was better than most such projects. In any case it was a best-seller and must have encouraged him to shelve his real writing—he's one of the most original novelists around when he puts his mind to it, as he did in Doctor Rat and Fata Morgana. This tale, based on a story outlined for Kotzwinkle by Steven Spielberg, picks up the E.T. saga after he leaves Earth. He has barely arrived home when he decides he wants to come back to be with his friend Elliott and his family. He spends the whole book trying to do it, since the benevolent despots who run his planet have decided his curiosity about Earth is unhealthy and have exiled him to a plant farm. (He's a botanist, in case you forgot.) The plants of the Green Planet are a lively lot. The Jumpums hold jumping contests; the Dagon Sabad holds a lot of mystical power. None of them seems to mind E.T.'s affinity for Earth slang (he keeps talking about being "in the soup," and "in an upscrew") or that he keeps trying to send telepathic messages to Elliott (his aim is always a little off, so the messages end up in the anchovy bin at a pizzeria or in the innards of a video game). Kotzwinkle keeps all this going with puns, malapropisms and jokes. At one point E.T. laments that he has mistreated some creatures: "They were good company, if a little impetuous. And what did they get from me?" "The shaft," something called the Flopglopple replies. If there had to be another E.T. book, at least this one is mildly amusing. It will no doubt give Spielberg something to think about if and when he begins the movie sequel. (Berkley, paper, $3.50)
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