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.
From the New York Times:A grandfatherly figure, his bearded face wrinkled into a smile, peers down from billboards around town. It is surprise enough that the man is Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, the once-exiled writer, Nobel Prize winner and, of late, octogenarian scold. It is even more so that the billboards advertise his adaptation - broadcast on state television, no less - of one of his fiercely anti-Soviet novels, The First Circle.While the article goes on to say that Solzhenitsyn is not being embraced by all, I think this is an interesting example of a melding of literature and media to attempt to deal with history - rather like "Roots" the miniseries here in the US.Another thought: In the comments of this post, Pete and I had a little back and forth about how, in light of "Brokeback Mountain," it would seem that the short story is more sensibly adapted to film than the novel in that novels so often have to be pared down considerably to fit into two hours of screen time. It follows, then, that the mini-series is much more suitable for the novel. Considering how many literary novels get slashed in film adaptations, I'd love to see a resurgence of the mini-series as the preferred format for novels. (Bearing in mind of course that the PBS' recent adaptation of Charles Dickens' Bleak House proves that the form isn't dead here.) And with novels like The Corrections (IMDb) and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (IMDb) in the Hollywood pipeline, I'd love to see them in their full splendor in a longer format.
Since several others have covered the most anticipated books of 2007, I thought I'd fill everybody in on which of their favorite books are going to be ruined by Hollywood in the coming year. Since almost every movie made is based on some previously existing material (can we count Spider Man 3 as an adaptation?), I thought I'd separate the kids movies and the horror/comic adaptations from the "literary" adaptations. Feel free to point out the movies I missed.Kids flicks. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (IMDb) will dominate the box office in July. The latest installment of the juggernaut will feature a script by Michael Goldenberg (who is also penning the adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are (IMDb)) and direction by David Yates, who is best known for his HBO movie The Girl in the Cafe. I've never read a Harry Potter book, and I've never seen any of the movies either. It's safe to say the phenomenon has completely passed me by, so I leave it to you to decide whether this movie will be better than the ones that Chris Columbus directed.His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (IMDb), which has been discussed before on this blog, will no doubt own the holiday season. After some turbulence during development and production, the first part of Phillip Pullman's trilogy will hit theaters on December 7.Finally, Bridge to Terabithia (IMDb) will get a new coat of paint, courtesy of Rugrats veteran Gabor Csupo. It's a live action version of the book, starring Zooey Deschanel, Robert Patrick, and a bunch of child actors with whom I am not familiar. No telling whether this will replace the vaunted 1985 TV adaptation as the definitive Terabithia for the screen.Gore filled fun-fests. Dominic West, better known as hard-drinking detective Jimmy McNulty on the greatest show ever to air on television, has a hand in two bloody adaptations this year. In Hannibal Rising (IMDb), he'll be playing Inspector. I can only assume that this Inspector is a hard-drinking Eastern European detective, but not having read the book, I can't say. The folks over at Slow Match are debating the merits of Thomas Harris' latest this month. Maybe they have the answer.In 300 (IMDb), adapted from a Frank Miller graphic novel, West will play Theron, the hard-drinking Spartan warrior. I wasn't that excited about either of these films before I found out West was in them. Now I'm planning on camping out, Star Wars-style for tickets.Mainstream Literary Adaptations. Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake (IMDb), directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair) will debut in March. Kal Penn, of Harold and Kumar go to White Castle fame, has the lead role. Here's hoping he has more lines than he did in Superman Returns.April will bring us showers, a new baseball season, and The Nanny Diaries (IMDb), starring Scarlett Johanson, Laura Linney, and Paul Giamatti. I'm sure the studio is hoping to hit the same market that made The Devil Wears Prada a huge success, but I'm skeptical. DWP had a tour de force performance from Meryl Streep (Don't you just get the feeling she's going to get snubbed for the Oscar, by the way?) and a generally likable cast. The Nanny Diaries has ScarJo, who I detest. Tough call.Also in April comes Atonement (IMDb). Directed by Joe Wright, whose version of Pride & Prejudice was almost universally lauded, Atonement features a bit of controversial casting. Yes, traditional English heavyweights Brenda Blethyn and Vanessa Redgrave have parts, but the lead role of Cecilia will be played by the skeletal remains of Keira Knightly. Fans of the book are less than pleased.In September, I will certainly be seeing Feast of Love (IMDb), adapted from the Charles Baxter novel. The cast features Selma Blair, Morgan Freeman, and Greg Kinnear (Tangent: Isn't Greg Kinnear having one of the most sneaky-successful careers of the last ten years? Who would've predicted it during his "Talk Soup" days?). It's an odd choice for an adaption. I've read the book, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, it didn't strike me as terribly cinematic.November will see John Burnham Schwartz's novel Reservation Road (IMDb) adapted starring Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, and Jennifer Connelly. This is the prototypical small-ish novel adaptation, along the lines of The Ice Storm. It could go either way, turning into another In the Bedroom or another We Don't Live Here Anymore.Also in November comes the granddaddy of all literary adaptations, Beowolf (IMDb). Robert Zemeckis directs a script from Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery. Beowolf features my favorite bit of casting for the year - Crispin Glover as Grendel. How perfect is that?And finally, in late December, comes Charlie Wilson's War (IMDb), starring Tom Hanks as the eponymous Texas congressman. Julia Roberts, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams are also aboard for this spy drama of which much is expected. Mike Nichols directs a rare film script from Aaron Sorkin, which means there will be lots of walking-and-talking scenes and probably too much pontificating, but hopefully no sketch comedy.Several literary adaptations of note, including the highly anticipated The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (IMDb), The Corrections (IMDb), and Motherless Brooklyn (IMDb) are all slated for release in 2007. My advice is don't hold your breath for any of them. Until I see an actual release date, I'm not buying it. 2008 sounds about right for all of those. Until then, you'll have to settle for Rush Hour 3, Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer, and Ocean's 13: The Baker's Dozen.
What is it about the English that draws them again and again to cross-dressing as a cornerstone of comedy? You'd think that three-hundred and some years on from Charles II's allowing women on the stage - thereby making pre-pubescent male Juliets a thing of the past - we'd have long ago seen the last of stubbly-faced ladies. Oh, but we have not, and it's a good thing too.The most popular recent incarnation of this phenomenon is Matt Lucas and David Walliams' two-man sketch comedy extravaganza Little Britain. If you've somehow managed to miss this, it is well worth a search on YouTube (at least). The cross dressing skits are hilarious (Emily Howard, Vicki Pollard, and Anne are fine examples), though my favorite pair is Andy and Lou, an indecisive faux cripple and his benevolently idiotic friend and minder.For those of a more venturesome disposition, I recommend the League of Gentlemen. The title refers to the four actors who play virtually all of the inhabitants of the eerie fictional town of Royston Vasey - Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith. While Little Britain occasionally verges into the scatological (a woman who vomits profusely whenever she encounters a racial or ethnic minority, for example), The League of Gentlemen can be utterly baffling and disturbing. There's a short, impenetrable skit with two minstrels - men in blackface - eating cereal and listening to a broadcast on the radio about the recent mass influx of minstrels. Explain that one if you will. I have suspicions that the writing of certain skits may have involved psychotropic substances. Nonetheless, for Tubbs and Edward, a husband and wife team who keep the "Local Shop," the show is worth a watch. (I wish I could find the one where Tubbs nurses a piglet - you are intrigued now, I know! - but, alas, I could only find this.)Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are also exceptional in drag and if you've watched House, M.D. and don't know where it all began, A Bit of Fry and Laurie is a must. Hugh Laurie in a head kerchief and over-applied rouge, speaking not a word, is a side-splitting, pants-wetting thing to beholdBut the inspiration for this post was my most recent encounter with this genre, a clip from a show called The Might Boosh. I warn the faint of heart against Old Greg, but for those fuzzy little man-peaches out there who dare to drink Bailey's from a shoe, chin chin!
To be a woman in a movie, you’re probably straight, and you’re probably white. You’re probably quite thin with great skin and a large wardrobe. Your living space is probably very clean and well decorated. You’re probably smiling. Or laughing. If you’re crying, you look really beautiful while the tears stream down your face, and men fall in love with you.