Will the world of Oz created by L. Frank Baum get a new TV adaptation?
NBC has reportedly ordered 10 episodes of a TV series titled “Emerald City” that will be based on Baum’s works. However, the series may take a more sinister turn than fans of the 1939 MGM musical would expect.
According to Deadline, the show will be “a modern and dark reimagining of the classic tale of Oz in the vein of Game Of Thrones, drawing upon stories from Baum’s original 14 books that include lethal warriors, competing kingdoms, and the infamous wizard as we’ve never seen him before.”
Famous protagonist Dorothy Gale will be featured on the show and will be a “headstrong 20-year-old” who “is unwittingly sent on an eye-opening journey that thrusts her into the center of an epic and bloody battle for the control of Oz.”
The show is coming from Matthew Arnold, who is the creator and showrunner for the NBC series "Siberia."
Another "Oz"-themed TV project on which we previously reported is a medical drama titled “Dorothy.” The show was in development at CBS at the time.
In his first interview since “60 Minutes” aired a 2011 exposé alleging fabrication in “Three Cups of Tea,” author Greg Mortenson appeared on NBC’s "Today Show" Tuesday admitting that he ignored concerns about fraud in his bestselling memoir and thanking the investigators who brought the allegations to light.
Since the 2011 investigation, Mortenson has admitted that events in the book did not occur in the sequence presented. In 2012, he was also ordered to return $1 million to the charity he created as part of a settlement over the mishandling of funds.
“It still has puzzled me and why there wasn’t, at some point, in your mind, an alarm that went off and said, ‘This isn’t right in some way,'” Tom Brokaw said in the interview.
“There were alarms, Tom,” Mortenson said. “I didn’t listen to them. I was willing to basically kill myself to raise money and help the projects.”
In “Three Cups of Tea,” Mortenson, with co-author David Oliver Relin, recounted his failed attempt to climb K2, the world’s second-tallest mountain in the Himalayas. When he stumbled, sick and exhausted, into the Pakistani village of Korphe and was nursed back to health, he vowed to repay the good deed by building a school. That led to the foundation of an ambitious nonprofit organization, the Central Asia Institute, and a follow-up memoir in 2009, “Stones Into Schools."
But in 2011, friend and fellow adventurer and author Jon Krakauer tipped CBS into investigating Mortenson’s book and charity. The investigation found key parts of the book were inaccurate and that charity funds were being misspent. CBS found that “nearly 30 of the 54 schools Mortenson’s charity built in Afghanistan … were empty, built by someone else, or not receiving support,” according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The revelations sent Mortenson’s book, charity, and life into a tailspin. His books dropped off bestseller lists, contributions to his charity were off by 80 percent or more, and Mortenson himself experienced severe stress and health problems. Co-author Relin committed suicide in November 2012.
But in the NBC interview, Mortenson said he owes a debt or gratitude to those who uncovered the issues.
“In maybe a strange, ironic way, I’d like to thank CBS and Jon Krakauer because, had they not brought these issues up, we could have gotten into more serious problems,” Mortenson said.
He also said that he continues to stand by the stories outlined in the book.
“I stand by the stories. The stories happened, but … not in the sequence or the timing,” Mortenson told Brokaw.
“What I regret is that we were under tremendous pressure to bring about a million words down to 300,000 words.”
As for the mishandling of large amounts of money – an investigation by the Montana attorney general’s office found that the Central Asia Institute spent $4.9 million advertising Mortenson’s books and $4 million buying copies of them to give away at publicity events, as well as illicit spending of charity funds on speaking fees to Mortenson, charter flights for family vacations, and clothing – Mortenson accepted blame, if obliquely.
“I always have operated from my heart. I'm not really a head person. And I really didn't factor in the very important things of accountability, transparency,” Mortenson told Brokaw.
Is America ready to give Mortenson a second chance?
Brokaw seems to think so.
"I think I speak for a lot of people when I say America is a country of second chances, if people learn from the first experience,” he said.
Mortenson appeared contrite: "I've been given the privilege to come back again and be committed to this and do it in a more humble and – understanding way. I'm gonna try as hard as I can never to make the same mistakes again."
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
The film “The Monuments Men,” the story of a group trying to save works of art and culture from the Nazis during World War II, is set to arrive in theaters on Feb. 7. The movie is based on a nonfiction book of the same name by Robert M. Edsel
“Monuments” is directed by George Clooney and stars Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, “Downton Abbey” actor Hugh Bonneville, Cate Blanchett, “The Artist” actor Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, and “Moonrise Kingdom” actor Bob Balaban.
The book by Edsel was first released in 2009 and the film adaptation changes the names of the people involved. “We’re not doing a documentary, and we wanted to be able to give these guys flaws,” Clooney told Entertainment Weekly. “They were real people, and you don’t want to give real people flaws. So we changed the names so we could mess with them a little bit.”
The movie was originally set to be released this past December but was moved to its current release date.
One trailer for the upcoming film shows Clooney, who plays Frank Stokes, gathering the group to save valuable works of art.
“I’m to put a team together together and do our best to protect buildings, bridges, and art before the Nazis destroy everything,” he tells Damon.
Later, Clooney describes the importance of their mission.
“If you destroy an entire generation of people’s culture, it’s as if they never existed,” he says. “That’s what Hitler wants and it’s the one thing we can’t allow.”
In his interview with EW, Clooney said he tried for a mix of serious issues and humor in the film.
“There was a lot of important stuff to talk about, but we wanted it to be fun and entertaining,” he said. “You want to be able to laugh at a lot of the stuff, too.”
Check out the full trailer.
Yes, Amazon currently offers suggestions for other products you might like based on what you’ve previously purchased.
But will the bookselling giant now ship items before you’ve even bought them?
Amazon recently patented what is called “anticipatory package shipping.” Through the system, the company would ship items based on such factors as a customer’s wish list, the purchases they’ve made before, and how long a customer’s cursor stays over a particular item, according to NPR.
Then the item could stay on a truck or at a nearby hub until the order actually takes place, if it does.
What would happen if a customer didn’t actually want the item? According to the patent, the company says it could give the item to a customer as a gift anyway or give the customer a discount on the item to prevent a return that could be expensive.
It all comes back to Amazon wanting to get purchases to customers as quickly as possible – the company stated in the patent that it sees wait time for shipping as something that “may dissuade customers from buying items from online merchants.”
When contacted by the Wall Street Journal, an Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.
Of course, Amazon may not move forward on this idea. But if they do, it remains to be seen how the public will respond. Is anticipatory shipping convenient – or intrusive and off-putting?
We have landed once again in January, the month in which, perhaps more than any other, readers are supposed to embrace financial restraint when it comes to buying new books.
The exuberance of the holidays is over, and with it, presumably, our no-holds-barred willingness to buy books as gifts for others – and even ourselves.
Now that the bills from another yuletide are starting to arrive in the mail, a tightening of the household book budget is apparently the order of the day. All of which means that, when we see a tempting title, either online or in our neighborhood bookstore, the better angels of our nature should compel us to keep our purses and wallets closed and leave that literary object of desire unpurchased.
But among those of us who like to buy books – and if you’re reading this blog, you probably count yourself in that number – passing up a chance to buy a book can lead to intense pangs of regret later on.
Just ask Alexander McCall Smith, the Scottish author known around the world for his bestselling mystery series “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.”
Smith has a heightened profile these days, thanks to the recent release of the latest installment in his “Ladies” franchise, “The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon.” Just published by Pantheon in a hardcover, the book promises to extend Smith’s popularity among whodunit lovers across the globe.
But in addition to being an accomplished writer, Smith is, not surprisingly, a voracious reader, too. He recounts some of his bibliophilic adventures in a recent nonfiction title, “What W.H. Auden Can Do for You."
Smith’s Auden book is ostensibly a celebration of the mystery writer’s favorite poet, but Smith’s narrative also includes a few asides about his book-buying adventures during his frequent travels. Among other anecdotes, he offers a cautionary tale about the complications of not buying a book that catches your eye.
“I once spotted a large tome on monastic sign language in a used bookstore in Toronto but caviled at the outrageous price. Returning to Scotland, I regretted my failure to buy the book; of course I would have loved to have had it, with its lengthy photographic section showing Trappist monks signing their various messages: ‘The Abbot says that bell must be rung... We must plant potatoes this year.’ That sort of thing.
“I returned to Toronto the following year and made my way to the bookstore in question. Going up to the desk, I asked the proprietor whether by any chance – and I said I knew it was a remote one – they had in stock a book on the sign language of monks. He looked at me in astonishment that shortly became delight. ‘As it happens,’ he began....”
Luckily, Smith’s The-One-That-Almost-Got-Away story about his bookstore find has a happy ending.
But the moral of his story is clear. Sometimes, when common sense tells us not to bring a treasured book to the cash register, it’s best to throw common sense to the wind.
Danny Heitman, a columnist for The Advocate newspaper in Louisiana, is the author of “A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House.”
Medieval scholar Elaine Treharne, an English professor at Stanford University, recently finished narrating the classic work “Beowulf” in its entirety in only 100 tweets. Treharne said she relied on multiple translations of the manuscript as well as its original Old English version in order to compress the dense epic poem into an even more compact form.
“For me, it was a worthwhile exercise, forcing me back to the Old English to try and capture, in the shortest possible length, what I thought were the essential components of the poem,” Treharne wrote on her blog.
She said the exercise addressed the issue she seeks to explore with her class.
"The underlying theoretical question for this course is 'What is (the) Text?' What constitutes ‘Beowulf’?" Treharne wrote. "What is its core and what do we understand by 'Beowulf'? In some senses, this seeks to address, for ‘Beowulf,’ F. W. Bateson's question, 'If the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre, where then are Hamlet and Lycidas?'"
Treharne's not alone – other writers have also created literature on Twitter. In 2012, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jennifer Egan released a short science fiction piece, "Black Box,” as a series of tweets on the New Yorker’s Twitter account. The story was later also published in print.
More recently, novelist Teju Cole, author of “Open City,” created a story last month by retweeting others. The author had solicited contributions from his followers in advance for the story, which was titled "Hafiz.”
“I was fascinated by how clean a retweet can be, how you can make someone else present on your timeline," Cole told the New York Times. "This is usually a cause for anxiety (an anxiety people express with the plea ‘retweets are not endorsements’), but I thought it could also be an occasion for grace, for doing something unusual together. ‘Hafiz’ was a small attempt to put a number of people into a collaborative situation, to create a ‘we’ out of a story I might simply have published in the conventional way.”
Cole had live-tweeted stories before, most notably his Small Fates nonfiction project and drone series. However, this was the first time he had brought his followers together by combining their tweets to create one large narrative.
Good news for bibliophiles: not only have print books pulled through the digital revolution, traditional books remain the bread and butter of Americans’ reading habits.
Some 28 percent of adults read an e-book in the past year, up 23 percent from 2012, according to the Pew report. But that didn’t cut into print books: 69 percent of adults read a print book in the past year, up four percentage points from 2012.
“Though e-books are rising in popularity, print remains the foundation of Americans’ reading habits,” the report concluded. “Most people who read e-books also read print books, and just 4 percent of readers are ‘e-book only.’”
E-readers are continuing to grow in popularity, however, Some 42 percent of adults now own tablet computers, up from 34 percent in September 2013.
That rise may be contributing to an overall growth in reading. Some 76 percent of adults read a book in some format over the previous year, up slightly from the same period in 2012.
How many books does the average American read or listen to? According to the survey, the “typical American adult” read or listened to five books in the past year, and the average for all adults was 12 books.
And when it comes to format, readers have become less discriminating, reading across multiple formats that include print, e-book, and audiobook, with significant overlap.
Some 87 percent of those who read e-books also read a print book and 29 percent additionally listened to an audiobook. By contrast, some 35 percent of print book readers also read an e-book and 17 percent listened to an audiobook.
Although it’s not likely to get as much attention as the Oscar race or the Golden Globes, the Library of America has just celebrated an awards event of its own that might attract a little applause from readers.
We’re talking about the LOA’s Top 10 List of the most popular “Stories of the Week” from 2013, its recap of the superstars in its regular online feature for the publisher’s fan base.
Founded in 1979, the Library of America is a nonprofit publisher that produces definitive editions of the works of the nation’s classic writers. Its signature product line – elegant, hand-stitched volumes covered in distinctive, black-and-white dust jackets – has become a fixture of literary class.
In its more than three decades of operation, LOA has published landmark anthologies of literary luminaries as varied as Mark Twain, Ring Lardner, and James Baldwin – in short, the pantheon of American literature.
But in recent years, LOA has been making a special effort to broaden its audience of readers with an aggressive online outreach. That effort includes “Story of the Week,” a free feature in which e-mail subscribers sample a story or essay from an LOA author every seven days.
Recently, LOA released its most popular “Story of the Week” features from the past 12 months, and an eclectic list it is.
Among the honorees are Kate Chopin, whose short story “Athenaise” chronicles a newly married woman who seeks her brother’s help in escaping her unhappy union; Eudora Welty’s “Petrified Man,” a darkly comic tale involving a traveling sideshow; and “Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln,” in which Frederick Douglass recalls the Great Emancipator.
The No. 1 “Story of the Week” for 2013 was “John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving,” a curious holiday narrative by Nathaniel Hawthorne in which an unexpected guest brings a few surprises to the household of a village blacksmith.
Readers can check out a complete list of LOA’s Top 10 “Stories of the Week” here.
Readers can subscribe to “Story of the Week” here.
Danny Heitman, a columnist for The Advocate newspaper in Louisiana, is the author of “A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House.”
New actors including “Jurassic Park” actor Jeff Goldblum, "The Big C" actor Oliver Platt, and Aubrey Plaza of the TV series “Parks and Recreation” have been added to the film adaptation of Kyril Bonfiglioli’s “Mortdecai” series, according to Deadline.
The “Mortdecai” books, which were originally released in the 1970s, center on art dealer Charlie Mortdecai and his adventures with his servant, Jock, which include entanglements with the police, art theft, and more. The series consists of the novels “Don’t Point That Thing At Me,” “After You with the Pistol,” and “Something Nasty in the Woodshed.”
It had already been announced that actors Johnny Depp (who is reportedly starring as Charlie), Ewan McGregor, and Gwyneth Paltrow were on board for the project. According to the website IndieWire, actors Olivia Munn of “The Newsroom” and Paul Bettany of “Margin Call” have also signed on for the project.
Besides the original three books, the novel “The Great Mustache Mystery,” which was started by Bonfiglioli, was completed by writer Craig Brown and released in 1999.
McGregor recently appeared in another literary adaptation, this year’s film “August: Osage County,” which was based on the play of the same name by Tracy Letts. Meanwhile, Depp is reportedly starring in the film “Alice in Wonderland 2,” based on author Lewis Carroll’s work, and has long been rumored to be involved with a remake of the “Thin Man” films, which were based on the short stories by Dashiell Hammett and which originally starred actors William Powell and Myrna Loy.
Mantel, who is best known for her series set in Tudor England which includes the novels “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies,” will reportedly release a short story collection titled “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher” in September.
“Where her last two novels explore how modern England was forged, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher shows us the country we have become,” Mantel’s editor Nicholas Pearson told the Guardian. “These stories are Mantel at her observant best.”
According to the Telegraph, the collection will consist of 10 short works set in the modern day and Thatcher is a character in "Assassination."
Mantel is a two-time winner of the Man Booker Prize, the first female and British author to win the award twice. Adaptations of her novels “Wolf” and “Bodies” are currently being performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
When she won the Man Booker Prize for "Bodies," Reuters reported the third book in her planned Tudor trilogy, titled "The Mirror and the Light," would most likely be released in 2015. But now the Guardian is reporting "fans must wait" for the new book – no word on whether there's a new release date. Mantel told the Guardian she plans to finish "Mirror" this year.