A film version of a book that’s raced up the bestseller charts seems like a natural fit, but that’s a little less true for “Grey” – since the book is an erotic novel, some wonder how the story’s events can be adapted to the screen and yet still stay within the limits of an R rating.
“I think that’s going to be a collaborative process,” James told Entertainment Weekly.
James told the magazine that Jeb Brody, who serves as Focus Features president of production, was the person who convinced her that Focus was the group she wanted to go with for her movie adaptation.
“I really like clever men who challenge you," James told the website, "and with Jeb, I thought, yeah, I can work with that!”’
The author will retain the right to approve the script for the movie and the choice of the two leads, college student Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, a young billionaire.
James said Focus’s previous projects also helped convince her that they were the ones for her book.
“They have a great background in handling difficult material,” she said in the Entertainment Weekly interview.
The prospect of a “Grey” movie had many studios competing for rights to the novel before Focus Features and Universal Pictures won out.
“Like so many readers all over the globe, we've fallen in love with 'Fifty Shades of Grey'," Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson and Universal co-chairman Donna Langley said in a joint statement. “It's a special story and working with Focus, we hope to bring audiences a film they can enjoy as much as they loved the book.”
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
When her mother died, Cheryl Strayed was cast into an abyss. To pull herself out of it, she tried sex, drugs, and long-distance hiking – although not simultaneously. She put drug use and empty relationships behind her (although just barely) before she set off on a solitary 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.
That's not to say that Strayed was well prepared for what she was undertaking. She had never backpacked before and spent the night before she left pulling brand-new outdoors equipment out of its packaging.
Yet despite all the odds, Strayed's journey was at least as transcendent as it was turbulent. She faced down hunger, thirst, injury, fatigue, boredom, loss, bad weather, and wild animals. Yet she also reached new levels of joy, accomplishment, courage, peace, and found extraordinary companionship.
I recently had a chance to talk with Strayed about her trip and her new book Wild. Here are excerpts of our conversation:
One of the last things your mother said to you was, “You’re a seeker.” What were you seeking and did you find it on the trail?
I think what she really meant by that – and I think this has been true throughout my life – is that I’ve always been somebody who asked a lot of questions and I think that was what made me a writer. I was always curious about other people’s lives and wanted to know why they did certain things. Even as a child I would say things like, “Why did you fall in love with your wife?” So I was always curious about the underneath things. When I decided to hike the trail I was very literally seeking a different way of being in the world. I was having such a difficult time [due to] grief over my mother. And so I think that I knew that I needed to go somewhere that was like home and the wilderness was that.
What was the best gift the trail gave you?
The greatest gift was a sense of my own resilience. By that I mean something deeper than what confidence is. When we feel confident I think that a lot of times we think that that means that we’re going to be able to succeed at something and dominate something and master something. You know, it’s all those kind of winning and on-top things. The kind of confidence that I got on the PCT was more like, "Whatever it is that happens I’ll be OK." To carry everything that I needed on my back ... to say “Here’s what I actually need to survive” and it’s stuff that I can carry on my back. That’s really powerful. And to do it while carrying it over this difficult terrain and in difficult weather. It just gave me this sense of my own strength and resilience.
What was your worst moment?
There were times all along the way when the physical circumstances would meet the negative thought patterns. I would just get so angry at myself. I would say why do I have to be out here? You know, think of all the other things a 26-year-old woman could be doing right now. And I’m just out there in the wilderness and so when it would be really searingly hot and my feet would be absolutely killing me I would be hungry and just thinking about all the things I did not have. I would get into one of those negative thought patterns and that was so hard. I just wanted off.
You mailed yourself some wonderful books that you could collect at way stations along the way. What did the books contribute to your trip?
They very important to me. They were my entertainment. Remember, this is 1995. Now people take their iPods, their MP3 players, podcasts of radio shows. They’re listening to books on tape, audio books, and music. They have a different relationship to silence than I did. Every chance I got, every time I’d be sitting down having a snack or a break or having a meal at night, I’d be reading those books. I felt that, the way we get lost in a book in regular life was just amplified and magnified by about 1,000 when the only world that you can lose yourself in is that book.
You tell some amazing stories about “trail magic” – the kindnesses that seemed to be showered on you out there. Was that because you are a woman and were traveling alone?
I think I would have encountered trail magic [anyway], I think that everyone does. But I think that you get a lot more trail magic when you’re a woman alone. The flip side of being seen as weak is that nobody’s threatened by a woman alone. So people open themselves up to you. Also they saw me as vulnerable so they wanted to help me. It was very interesting to experience this endless kindness. When people understand that you are on this wilderness journey, people are so excited about that. Even people who would never want to do it themselves. They kind of want to live it vicariously through you. Any long-distance hiker ends up being a little bit like a celebrity.
Were you underprepared for the experience?
In a lot of ways I was prepared. I spent months preparing, organizing my boxes, and doing all the planning and stuff. The part that I was really unprepared for was the part about what it was like to really be out on the trail. I certainly could have been way better prepared. For example I could have gone backpacking before. Or tested the equipment. There are all kinds of rules I broke. On the other hand, and others who have hiked long distance will agree with this, there is only a certain amount you can do to be prepared. You can’t replicate hiking for a long, long time unless you hike for a long, long time.
Who would you be if you hadn't taken this trip?
I think that if I hadn’t hiked the PCT, I would have found myself out of that sorrow in some other fashion. Maybe the PCT was the hardest and fastest way to sort of shake myself back into the life that I needed to live, so it sort of sped that process along because it was so intense.
You're sure to have wanna-be Imitators who will consider hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. What advice would you give them?
The book’s only been out a day, and already I’ve received a few e-mails from people saying, "I’m going to this. I’m going to do what you did." And it’s funny to me because, on the one hand, that’s wonderful. Because, aside from having kids and marrying my husband, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is the best thing that I’ve ever done. Absolutely no question. I would do it again in a heartbeat. And I also would recommend to anyone else to do it. But it’s also true that everyone has to find their own journey, their own path, and I don’t know that they necessarily need to follow mine so literally. There are all kinds of journeys that we can go on. And they don’t necessarily even involve leaving your city.
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's Books editor.
The novella, titled “Basic Training,” is said to be autobiographical and centers on protagonist Haley Brandon, who visits a relative known as the General who is determined to win Haley over to his perception of American values.
“Basic Training” was rejected by the publications “The Saturday Evening Post” and “McCalls” when Vonnegut shopped his work around in the 1940s. He was still working at the publicity department of General Electric at the time and was not yet well-known as a writer.
The book is being published as a Kindle Single and is available for purchase for $1.99.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
Will we never tire of "Star Wars"? Apparently not.
Novelized versions of stories inspired by the "Star Wars" universe created by George Lucas continue to be commercial successes, debuting on at prime spots on bestseller lists.
The newest "Star Wars" novel, “Apocalypse” by Troy Denning, is currently at No. 8 on the The New York Times combined e-book and print fiction bestseller list for April 1 and is the second-bestselling book on the hardcover fiction list for the same date. It is currently also at No.2 on the hardcover fiction bestsellers list aggregated by Publishers Weekly. The book was released March 13 and follows various Jedi knights, including Luke Skywalker, his son Ben Skywalker, and Jaina Solo, the daughter of Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa, as they battle the evil Sith forces.
“Apocalypse” is the last book in the "Fate of the Jedi" series, which has released at least one new installment each year since 2009, often at least two. The last new book in the "Fate" series, “Ascension” by Christie Golden, secured the No. 7 spot on The New York Times combined fiction list its first week of publication, while the book released before “Ascension,” titled “Conviction” and written by Aaron Allston, debuted at No. 12. The previous book in the series, “Vortex” by Denning, attained the 20th spot on the list.
There have been more than 160 novels for adults released with stories set in the Star Wars universe, not counting books written for younger readers, guides to the movies, or books such as “Lego Star Wars” by Simon Beecroft, which explores the "Star Wars" Lego toy series and made the Children’s Picture Books New York Times bestseller list.
Other "Star Wars" novels aimed at adults, including “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” by Sean Williams and “Heir to the Empire” by Timothy Zahn, which is often credited with revitalizing the Star Wars novel franchise, have reached the number No. 1 spot on The New York Times fiction bestseller list.
Some new book series, such as the "Fate of the Jedi," take place in the future beyond the last "Star Wars" film chronologically, the 1983 movie “Return of the Jedi.” Other books, such as “Plagueis,” serve as prequels to the movies. The last "Star Wars" film, “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” was released in 2005, but a George Lucas-approved animated series titled “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” currently airs new episodes on Cartoon Network. Other "Star Wars" novels, including “Mercy Kill” by Aaron Allston and “Lost Tribe of the Sith: Pandemonium” by John Jackson Miller, are planned for release later this year.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
The doll is only the latest in a slew of “Games” merchandise that’s been produced to accompany the new movie. Other items have included action figures of main characters, nail polish (which also seems a an odd match with the dystopian world of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy), multiple book tie-ins, and even a workout class titled “Train Like A Tribute,” to be offered in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and other cities.
Dolls of other popular movie and TV characters like “Twilight”’s Bella Swan and “Mad Men”’s Don Draper as well as doll versions of real-life figures like Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton have been created, but a plastic Katniss seems like an odd fit for many, especially since some associate the Barbie brand mostly with sequined outfits, small plastic high heels, and luxurious toy cars.
Cafemom writer Julie Ryan Evans expressed concern that a Katniss Barbie would go over the heads of girls who are too young to read Collins’ series anyway.
“The problem is that by the time girls are old enough to be reading ‘Hunger Games’ they're probably getting too old for Barbies,” Evans wrote.
However, Mattel told the Hollywood Reporter that the newest Barbie will be aimed at adult collectors rather than the usual Barbie audience.
The Katniss Barbie is scheduled to be released later this year.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
Movie of the moment “The Hunger Games” raked in a massive opening weekend gross of $155 million, making its opening weekend the third best ever and winning the title of best opening of all time for a non-sequel movie.
The only two movies to have had better opening weekends are the 2011 movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2,” which grossed $169.2 million, and the 2008 Batman film “The Dark Knight,” which earned $158.4 million. But because “Harry” and “Knight” are both sequels, “Hunger Games” now holds the record for best opening weekend for any film that is not a sequel.
The movie also earned $68 million on its opening day, which gives it the fifth-best opening day ever for a movie. The movie was also well-received by critics.
“Catching Fire,” the next installment in the planned movie quartet, is due in 2013.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
“He works for a company thirty-six years this March, opens up unheard-of territories to their trademark, and now in his old age they take his salary away.... For five weeks he’s been on straight commission, like a beginner, an unknown.”
That’s Willy Loman’s wife, Linda, enlightening and admonishing her irresponsible and inconsiderate sons. Their 63-year-old father, who has worked for the same company all those years, is about to be terminated. One termination leads to another.
Tragically, in addled desperation, Willy Loman drives himself to bequeath a death benefit to his irresolute sons. Dramatically, with the text of “Death of a Salesman,” Arthur Miller set up what might well be thought of as a literary inter vivos trust – and a gift in perpetuity – with millions of theater-goers and script-readers as beneficiaries.
“Death of a Salesman” debuted at the Morosco Theatre in New York, February 1949, with Lee J. Cobb as Willy Loman; with direction by Elia Kazan. The play has been translated into more than 29 languages and has been performed throughout the world (including China) with a resonance and impact transcending cultures and borders.
In 1975, the play was brought to Manhattan’s Circle in the Square with George C. Scott in the lead.
In 1984, the play returned to Broadway, at the Broadhurst Theatre, with Dustin Hoffman as Willy.
In 1999, the play had still another Broadway revival, at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, with Brian Dennehy in the lead.
This month, Philip Seymour Hoffman is delivering Willy’s sorrowful and sorrowing self-doom at the Barrymore Theater, under the direction of Mike Nichols.
In January 1999, before a standing-room-only audience at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, Arthur Miller responded to a question about the state of the theater by observing that a play’s chance of success can turn on a casting decision. A finely-crafted work, thoughtfully-staged, deftly-directed, and brilliantly acted may nevertheless disappear (if it appears at all) if the lead performer is not a hot young property, or at least a notable marquee name. My recollection is that Miller rued that, “We’re always discovering new people; we’re never discovering old people.”
That concern would not seem to apply to the various high-profile stagings of “Death of a Salesman.” But, the lament surely does apply to Willy Loman’s employment plight – and to the plight of thousands and thousands who (at least in some respects) feel Willy’s woes. In the play, we fear the worst; we see it coming. Nevertheless, the delivery is crushing:
Employer: Willy, you can’t go to Boston for us.
Willy: Why can’t I go?
Employer: I don’t want you to represent us. I’ve been meaning to tell you for a long time now.
Willy: ... are you firing me?
Employer: I think you need a good long rest, Willy.
That most unsettling exchange speaks to so many of us who, tired as we may be, cannot afford to take a rest.
The play can be a preview; serve as a simulation, a crystal ball, a premonition, or a mirror for those who:
– believe they still have something to prove at their workplace
– thought they had already proved, at their workplace, everything that had to be proved
– have fallen victim to the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” way of thinking
– have been passed over in the awarding of perks and promotions
– weren’t able to see things at work as they really were, or as they really are
– held on to understandings that weren’t to be honored or even understood
– hold on to “what ifs” and “what might have beens”
– haven’t been honest with themselves
– haven’t registered reality
– have had to absorb the frustrations and disappointments, exhaustions and indignities of a job search
“Death of a Salesman” also speaks to anyone who has ever:
– doubted a dream they held dear, wondered if the dream was the wrong dream, and wondered what the right dream would be
– dreamed of a better way of making a living
– missed a good career opportunity
– “lost” a job
– had to prepare for a job interview
– left a job interview regretting what he said, how he said it, and how he conducted himself
– left a job interview disappointed
– left a job interview humiliated
– wondered if there would ever be another job interview
Willy, himself, is beyond resurrection, but the unsentimental, close-to-the bone account of his final 24 hours (laced with revealing flashbacks and telling hallucinations) can be revived on stage, and screened via videotape (Fredric March in the 1951 film) and DVD (1985, Dustin Hoffman; 2000, Brian Dennehy) – and can be refrained from the shelves of any public library or book shop worthy of being called a library or a bookshop.In the family realm, Arthur Miller’s gift speaks to parent-child alienations, depicting the strains and stresses of:
– a parent whose labors, efforts, endeavors and struggles have not been sufficiently appreciated, a parent who has suffered a child’s ingratitude
– a child who did not appreciate a parent’s predicament, when it would have been helpful to recognize that predicament
– a parent who has a hard time abandoning a special hope for a child’s future
– a child who has had a hard time living up to a parent’s very special hopes and expectations
– a parent who can’t relinquish a dream even though it does not square with reality
– a child who hasn’t been able to get a parent to pull back from exaggeration, and relinquish a fantasyFor those of us who have the great good fortune to be lovingly appreciated by our children – children who have done so nicely by us and their respective communities – the Loman family’s disappointments, dysfunctions, and despair provide a stark contrast. And much cause for gratitude.
Like banks, families are subject to stress tests. “Death of a Salesman” reminds of how much human capital we have in reserve – and how friendship, self-awareness, and good fortune keep us mentally and emotionally solvent.
Without shame or embarrassment, we can admit that the missteps and misadventures, the embarrassments and shame of others can serve to make us all the more grateful for what we have and what we have been spared.
Reading Willy – reading the Lomans – can serve as a cautionary tale for anyone harboring regrets, resentments, reservations. The play is a reality-based fable for anyone who doesn’t want to live a life of regret.
Joseph H. Cooper was editorial counsel at The New Yorker from 1976 to 1996. He teaches ethics and media law courses at Quinnipiac University.
Overdrive, the publisher that will work with the website Pottermore to provide schools and libraries with Harry Potter audiobooks and e-books, announced on its website Monday that pre-sales for the books have been suspended.
“This is only a postponement, and libraries will soon be able to resume pre-ordering the titles in preparation for launch in April,” Overdrive social media and public relations specialist Michael Lovett wrote on the e-book distributor’s website.
The blog post said that the postponement was needed to plan the launch of the books with Pottermore, but that pre-sales would be available again soon. The library and school program is scheduled to begin April 30.
“The postponement is just to coordinate the marketing efforts,” Lovett told School Library Journal. “There hasn't been any effect on the ultimate availability of the books.”
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
Say it ain’t so!
The March 13 edition of the New York Times dining section included a fascinating story about cookbook ghostwriting, revealing to many foodies that celebrity chefs (and in some cases, plain old celebrities) – like Rachael Ray and Gwyneth Paltrow – don’t actually write their own cookbooks. The story made waves among the reading public, inspiring crestfallen Facebook posts, suspicious second glances at beloved cookbooks, and misgivings about cookbook authors like Ray and Paltrow.
Well, both Ray and Paltrow say it ain’t so.
“Many real-world cooks have wondered at the output of authors like Martha Stewart, Paula Deen and Jamie Oliver, who maintain cookbook production schedules that boggle the mind,” wrote Julia Moskin in The New York Times. “Rachael Ray alone has published thousands of recipes in her cookbooks and magazines since 2005. How, you might ask, do they do it? The answer: they don’t.”
The article goes on to name Wes Martin as a sort-of ghost-cook and ghostwriter for Ray. “It’s like an out-of body experience,” Martin told the Times. “I know who I am as a chef, and I know who Rachael is, and those are two totally separate parts of my brain.”
The day the story – and those damning passages – broke, Ray tweeted a message denying the Times’s claims.
“3-Part tweet: Longtime fan of NY Times dining section, but today they got it wrong re: article on celebrating ghostwriters. My friend Wes (my longtime food stylist) does get me, but does not ghost me. Proud of Wes and proud to be the author of all my cookbooks. I remain a NY Times subscriber.”
Later, she spoke to Eater, a restaurant blog, more strongly denying the article’s claims. “In well over a decade of writing recipes for many cookbooks, television shows, and magazines, I have not now nor have I ever employed a ghostwriter,” she told the blog.
Paltrow also denied the article’s claims in a tweet sent Saturday. The Times story ran with a picture of Paltrow’s cookbook and a caption that read, “Gwyneth Paltrow’s ghostwriter is Julia Turshen.”
Paltrow responded, “Love @nytimes dining section but this weeks facts need checking. No ghost writer on my cookbook, I wrote every word myself.”
The issue, writes the Huffington Post, may be “discrepancies between The New York Times version of what a ghostwriter is, and what Ray and Paltrow call a ghostwriter. The titles are a bit blurred – it can be hard to draw the line between ghostwriting and assisting with a cookbook.”
Moskin tries to clarify in a Dining Journal blog post Monday, in which she said Jamie Oliver, Rachael Ray, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Mario Batali have all acknowledged working with collaborators on their books, but objected to implications that “they were not authors of their own work.”
She goes on to define ghostwriting as such:
“Ghost-cooking is rarer than the routine work of wrestling hot, messy, complicated recipes onto the page in comprehensible English. That work can include transcribing scribbled notes into logical sentences. Measuring out ingredients and putting them in order. Producing the routine bits of the book like the glossary and the guide to ingredients.... The food itself, and the story that surrounds it, usually comes from the chef in varying stages of page-readiness.”
It remains to be seen whether other cooks and chefs will come forward to deny claims of ghostwriting, still a stigma in the food world. Nonetheless, the article sheds light on a fairly common practice in the publishing industry of which few outsiders are aware.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Another beloved Seuss book will get the big-screen treatment. A new adaptation of “The Cat in the Hat” is being planned, but this one will be animated.
Following on the box-office and critical success of “The Lorax,” the film’s producer Christopher Meledandri and Dr. Seuss's widow Audrey Geisel will be working with Universal Pictures on a CG-animated 3-D adaptation of the beloved story of the wild and wonderful cat who comes by to play when Mother is out. “Lorax” was produced by Universal and Illumination Entertainment, the company for which Meledandri is the founder and CEO.
The news of the “Cat” adaptation surprised some because the Seuss classic has already been made into a movie. The 2003 adaptation starring Mike Myers had more adult humor than many expected and received negative reviews. The film did not make as much money as had been anticipated. Geisel disliked the movie and made a statement after it was released that future Seuss adaptations would only be animated.
Rob Lieber, who co-wrote the 2006 movie adaptation of the children’s book “Hoot,” is set to write the screenplay for “Cat.” Lieber is also penning the script for the movie adaptation of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.