The Longstanding Debate Between Novels And Their Adaptations, As Shown By 'Sweetbitter'

The Longstanding Debate Between Novels And Their Adaptations, As Shown By 'Sweetbitter'

Will the "Sweetbitter" TV show capture every sensation and emotion that the novel did?

When I read Stephanie Danler’s debut novel “Sweetbitter” last summer, I was not prepared or even sure of what to expect. I had my dream internship after completing my first year of college 900 miles from home and felt, for the first time, like I knew what adulthood truly was. Despite spending my days reading manuscript submissions at work, I read every single day on my train ride home. At the suggestion of a friend, I decided to pull my copy of “Sweetbitter” out from my never-ending pile of To-Read’s and settled in with blissful optimism.

Reading this book is like having the wind knocked out of you.

“Sweetbitter” was released around the same time as Emma Cline’s debut “The Girls” back in 2016. Both books depict young women on the precipice of something more in their lives and the way in which they both write their novels (I’ve described the style as “raw and unnervingly personal” to friends before) not only touches upon, but grips and defines something in readers that they did not previously know was present within them.

Danler manages to capture the sensations of coming of age, of defining individual identity, and of just existing as a young woman in the world despite centering it around a specific narrative. Although I worked in a bakery throughout high school (and learned an exorbitant amount about interpersonal relations from that experience), I cannot relate to the protagonist, Tess’s, involvement in the New York City restaurant scene. Yet, I could not shake the gnawing sense that Danler had seen the world exactly as I was seeing it every morning on my way to work and every evening on my way home because the way Tess saw the world, every morning and every evening, was so unbelievably relatable that referring someone to the book is the only way I could ever explain my experience.

As Danler herself explains, “Sweetbitter.. is about a moment when “you’re waiting for your life to start and it has already started.” It depicts a concept which I recently stumbled upon: liminal spaces. A liminal space is a point of transition when you’re standing on the precipice of something more, but haven’t quite gotten there yet (i.e. the sensation of entering adulthood based on the passing of milestones like employment and education, but without the sense that you have personally grown up in any specific way). “Sweetbitter” not only portrays a character in a liminal space, but depicts the liminal space in which all women find themselves in as they transition to adulthood in their 20’s.

The pain and the beauty and the relatability of the novel are all in the written narrative which makes it hard to translate to the screen; yes, Danler herself wrote the scripts for the show which is promising. However, bringing something so personally resounding as this novel to the life is borderline impossible because the novel isn’t about Tess as a character the way the show will likely be. Tess is not a character to root for, the way most TV protagonists are. Tess is the worst parts of you, the last remnants of your childhood that slowly slip away when you aren't paying attention. She is what about ourselves we don’t want to look at because we know those are the things that define and construct who we truly are. By putting a face to this emotion, this sensation and realization, one closes off the personalization of the narrative we all share and just makes it about a girl trying to find her way in New York City, something we've all seen before.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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13 Taylor Swift Lyrics About Love

“We could get married. Have 10 kids and teach em how to dream."


Taylor Swift is the only reason I've gotten through every love, and every break-up. Here's a list of 13 lyrics/quotes about love from Taylor Swift's albums.

“Losing him was blue like I’ve never known. Missing him was dark grey all alone. Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met. Loving him was red.”

"Red" from the album "Red." This song perfectly describes every feeling that radiates through your entire being when you love and then lose someone.

“I wish we could go back, and remember what we were fighting for. I wish you knew that, I miss you too much to be mad anymore. I wish you were right here, right now, it’s all good. I wish you would.”

"I Wish You Would" from 1989. Sometimes I wish it was acceptable to just blast Taylor Swift during an argument because I totally would.

“You learn my secrets and you figure out why I’m guarded. You say we’ll never make my parents mistake.”

"Mine" from Speak Now. Let's surpass everyone's expectations.

“My baby’s fly like a jet stream, high above the whole scene, loves me like I’m brand new.” 

"Call It What You Want To" from the Reputation album. Once in a lifetime, there's someone who looks at your scars and calls you strong and brave, instead of damaged.

“My mother accused me of losing my mind, but I swore I was fine.” 

"Dear John" from Speak now. Love makes you do crazy things.

“One night he wakes, strange look on his face. Pauses then says ‘you’re my best friend’. And you knew what it was. He is in love.” 

"You Are In Love" from the 1989 album. Swift gives me chills with this song. Every time you think you're in love, you realize that the last time wasn't even close. True love, happens once or twice, and not for everyone.

“You pull my chair out, and help me in. And you don’t know how nice that is, but I do. And you throw your head back laughing like a little kid. I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny cause, he never did. I’ve been spending the last eight months, thinking all love ever does is break, and burn, and end. But on a Wednesday, in a cafe, I watched it begin again.”

"Begin Again" from the Red album. One of my top five favorite songs. Real love shows you how you should've been treated all along.

“Why would you wanna make the very first scar? Why would you wanna break a perfectly good heart?”

"A Perfectly Good Heart" from the first Taylor Swift album. Some people are only here to take. Never to give or share.

“The rain came pouring down, when I was drowning that’s when I cold finally breathe. And by morning, gone was any trace of you, I think I am finally clean.”

'Clean' from 1989. It can take years, even lifetimes, to finally feel free from love.

“There I was again tonight, forcing laughter, faking smiles, same old tired lonely place. Walls of insincerity, shifting eyes and vacancy, vanished when I saw your face. All I can say is it was, enchanting to meet you.”

'Enchanted' from Speak Now album. Love at first sight?

“Romeo take me somewhere we can be alone, I’ll be waiting all that’s left to do is run. You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess, it’s a love story, baby just say yes.”

'Love Story' from Fearless album. This song makes me want to take a chance and escape with a stranger.

“I once was poison ivy, but now I’m your daisy.”

"Don't Blame Me" from Reputation. I'm only better when I'm with you.

“We could get married. Have 10 kids and teach em how to dream.”

"Starlight" from the Red album. Only certain people are worth growing with.

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