This Reuters article describes how the British publishing house, Jonathan Cape, was forced to release Ian McEwan’s new novel, Saturday, early because the Evening Standard broke a publicity embargo and ran an interview two weeks to soon. Naturally, other newspapers, not wanting to be scooped by the Standard, also ran stories about McEwan’s book too early. Suddenly, Saturday was getting tons of press, but the books weren’t in stores, and now Bertelsmann’s Random House, which owns Jonathan Cape, wants the Standard to pay for the lost revenue that resulted from the runaway publicity chain reaction. The subtext to all of this, especially if you consider the story in light of the creation of the new made-for-tv Quill Awards, is that publishing companies, most of which are now owned by media conglomerates, are trying to market and sell books in the same way they might market and sell movies or music. In Hollywood, the financial success of many a film is determined by the opening weekend, or even the opening night, and all the marketing resources go towards getting people into the movie theatre on the opening weekend. The primary – though unstated – purpose of awards shows is to convince people to see the movies or buy the music that is being honored, not simply to honor it. My experience as a bookseller tells me that books don’t work this way. The book is the ultimate “word of mouth” product. The desire to read a good book is many times more likely to be initiated by a recommendation from a trusted fellow reader (or bookseller) than by a piece of clever marketing or even a prominent review. It’s my opinion that publishers shouldn’t be pushing for the huge first week numbers – forcing a book to boom or bust – but they should give books a chance to survive and thrive on their own merits… the way McEwan’s last book, Atonement, did.
Scott Rudin the Hollywood producer known for bringing adaptations of contemporary literature to the silver screen - he was responsible for Wonder Boys and The Hours, for example - may be on his way out at Paramount. This means that several forthcoming literary adaptations could be in jeopardy, including big screen versions of three new books: Ian McEwan's Saturday, Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. Farther along in their development are The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon and, of course, Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. Though adaptations can be a risky proposition, I do hope that some of these end up getting made if only to satisfy my curiosity. Here's the story from the Hollywood Reporter.
You may have missed it in the New Yorker a few weeks back (if it weren't for my wife, I would've), but tucked away in the Critic's Notebook section of the magazine was the best piece of cinematic news I've heard all year. Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett's 1977 film about life in the Watts section of Los Angeles, has finally gotten a theatrical release. Because of issues clearing the rights of the music in the film (the single biggest pain in any independent filmmaker's neck), it's been locked away in a vault in the Library of Congress, shown only once every few years at a film festival or museum. I was lucky enough to catch a rare screening when I was in college, and it was unforgettable.The story, in so far as there is one, is simple. Stan, an employee of a South Central slaughterhouse (hence the title of the film), is depressed and retreating from his wife. Interspersed with scenes of Stan at home and at work (the footage of the sheep is both fascinating in its gore and haunting, like watching a lake before a storm) are snippets of kids playing, women gossiping, and men scheming to make a few dollars more. What makes Killer of Sheep so memorable is the depth and reality of the characters and the incredibly complex humor the film employs. Indeed, for a movie that says so much about poverty, it's surprisingly funny. And the new print - beautifully restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive - is a luscious 35mm blow-up of the original 16mm negative. I saw the film again last night, and it looked crisp and clean.In certain film-buff circles, Killer of Sheep has long been a trump card, an instant badge of street cred that could top anything. Oh, you saw a five hour performance of Gances' Napoleon with the London Philharmonic? Well, I saw Killer of Sheep a few weeks ago at Doc Films. Since it's never even been released on video, it has become legendary, a sort of a cinematic equivalent to J.D. Salinger's "Hapworth 16, 1920." But to leave it at this is to cheapen a tremendous film, and to discount the effect it's had on cinema since. David Gordon Green, Spike Lee, and the people who make "The Wire" all owe a debt to Mr. Burnett. As much as I loved being the only person in on the joke, I'd love even more if everybody went out and saw this film. Luckily, it might be coming to a theater near you.
There is something notable about the backlash when a television character is killed: fans take the opportunity to tear apart the writers’ choices beyond the decision to bump off an individual: across the show, all the indignities they’d have suffered through if everyone had been permitted to live.
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