On today's menu:
1. A six-year-old guesses the plots of classic novels by their covers. Here's one:
“I think it’s about baseball. A person who likes to play baseball but also takes care of a plane.” Any idea what book she's talking about? Hint: look to your right.
2. Novelist Jenna Blum got this crazy notion in her head that she could write a screenplay adaptation of her novel Those Who Save Us. At the Grub Street Daily blog, she reports on lessons learned:
Here is how I did it. I spent several months of my deadline watching movies while eating twice my weight in popcorn per night, and then I spent another month dropping coy hints on social media that I was writing a screenplay, and then I spent much of Spring 2012 whining around the house, things like, “But I write BOOKS,” and “Maybe I’m just too FAR from having written that novel to go back and adapt it,” and “Why are we out of BUTTER?” Finally I grew so bored with myself that one night, while my partner was downstairs working, I sat fuming on the couch with my laptop. There was nothing good on Lifetime, nobody had posted anything new on Facebook or Twitter for two whole minutes, I had tweezed my eyebrows off. I opened the screenwriting software I’d bought and typed in a few sentences:
EXT. – NEW HEIDELBURG, MN, WINTER 1997 – DAY
I ran downstairs to my partner’s study with my laptop and showed him. “I’m a screenwriter!” I said, and we jumped around a little, and then we went back to work.
3. Here's a great article on the science of book covers and their appeal to our eyes and, subsequently, brains. It's all about Face Theory, Textual Plasticity Theory, Ju Jitsu Theory, and Turd Theory.
4. I don't know whether to be excited by this news or to scream "Nooooooo!" into a deep, echo-y canyon: one of my Favorite Novels EVER is being made into a movie. Variety reports that Lionsgate has acquired feature film rights to Jack Finney's illustrated novel Time and Again with Doug Liman (Swingers, The Bourne Identity, etc.) on board to direct. I first read Finney's novel years and years ago, shortly after another adolescent favorite of mine, Somewhere in Time, was released in theaters. Time and Again was, I thought, a perfect time-travel narrative, richly-illustrated with period photos and advertisements. There's no way Hollywood will be able to capture the innovative spirit of the book; it can only give us the basics of plot and character--which are pretty good in and of themselves. For the uninitiated, here's Variety's description: "First published in 1970, the romantic time-travel tale follows Simon Morley, a Manhattan illustrator who enlists in a secret government experiment and is transported from the mid-20th century to 1882 New York, where he falls in love and finds himself forced to choose between his lives in the present and the past." Yes, I know it sounds a lot like Superman Meets H. G. Wells--er, Somewhere in Time, but trust me when I say Time and Again has all the fun of that movie without all the mush. I just hope Hollywood gets it right.
5. Though he's primarily remembered as a short story writer, Raymond Carver was also a damned fine poet. At The Story Prize blog, Lucia Perillo (Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain: Stories) finds that “Carver’s sentences make use of a full metrical toolbox: inversion, repetition, and what Gerard Manley Hopkins called “sprung rhythm”—that is, the inclusion of more accented syllables than are naturally found in the language, in order to heighten the ordinary.”
6. “Writers should avoid opening stories with dialogue,” said Benjamin Percy in the Glimmer Train Bulletin. I'm not sure I completely agree with him--I've started many a story with a scrap of talk--but he makes a good case for crafting a narrative that orients the reader from the get-go. With one notable exception, which lovers of a certain book about a spider and a pig will recognize: “Where's Papa going with that axe?”
7. This just in from the Department of Too Much Time on Our Hands: a website devoted to matching books with bikinis. Because, you know, it's essential to coordinate your Catcher in the Rye with your swimwear.
8. Diane Prokop reports on Carlos Ruiz Zafon's recent appearance at Powell's and it's one of those cases where I wish I was sitting in the audience absorbing all the great and funny things he had to say. Diane's dispatch is the next best thing. Here's Mr. Zafon on our Nation of Readers:
There’s a big difference between the United States and many other markets. Books here are not in the mainstream. They’re not in the media. You will never see novelists featured on the media. Essentially readers know about it, but it’s not like movies that you get at the end of the nightly news. They tell you what movies are opening this Friday. Nobody’s telling you what books are coming, even if it’s a huge bestseller. When you have books featured in the media, they tend to be books that are not really books, or books by TV celebrities. They’re something else. They’re made of paper, but I don’t know…it’s a different thing. But when it comes to books and readers, readers in India, the United States, in Sweden, in Italy, in Germany, in Holland, they are the same kind of people. People who read have intellectual curiosity, they keep an open mind, and are interested in things. Their reaction to things is the same. What I’ve learned over the years is that readers are a nation of their own. They are very similar people. They’re interested in the same things: in language, in ideas and trying to find new things, learning, and having fun reading. To readers, their passport is a good book in their hands.
9. The Kenyon Review chats with George Singleton about his writing habits and the background to his story "Humans Being." George is, as always, a delight:
Stages of my writing a story: 1.) I have a first line come to me out of nowhere and it’s like a bad itch that I have to keep scratching. My buddy Ron Rash says he has a vision or image. Sometimes I have an image of a bunch of dogs chasing Ron down to a crossroads in Mississippi where he meets up with Robert Johnson and some other guy I can’t quite figure out. But that’s another story. Anyway, a first line hits me. Then I get completely obsessed. I think about how Shannon Ravenel used to tell me “A good story’s ending kisses the story’s beginning, George, and too many of your stories’ endings are groping the beginnings.” And then I just write toward the end, and I watch, figuratively, as the end nears my beginning.Did I mention George has a new story collection coming from Dzanc Books in a couple of months? I did? Good--now go and get it.