Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Yes, books... 

Today I'm gonna try (ineptly, compared to our beloved maven) to do a proper Confessions post -- i.e. focus on books:

On Saturday, the Boston Globe ran a piece on...guess what?...The Da Vinci Code, which stated a -- to me -- shocking figure:

The theological thriller by New Hampshire's Dan Brown is still [after a year] selling an astonishing 80,000 to 90,000 hard-cover copies per week. Last week, the book went into its 56th printing, bringing the number of copies in print to 7.35 million.

Now, I certainly have dreams of becoming what's termed a "best-seller". However, these kinds of numbers were beyond my imagining. I also lived a year in Florence, and I imagine these kinds of figures would have sent Signore Da Vinci into convulsions of ecstasy.

The Seattle Times has a chat with Morning Edition's Bob Edwards (oh, that voice I remember so well!) about his Edward R Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism. One point he makes is about a bad habit Murrow had: his long silences during interviews. Last year I went with a journalist friend to interview an American officer training Iraqi resistance here in Hungary just before the war began, and I noticed he did the same thing. To me it looked like bad behavior, and I wanted to fill those silences. But then I saw his technique: it was to make the interviewee nervous, to fill the silences in just the way I wanted to do. Did it work with this officer? I'm afraid it didn't.

This is a little old, but I ran across a Houston Chronicle interview with John Grisham about his new film, Mickey, in which Grisham tells, among other things, why this story is a screenplay and not a film:

I wrote about three pages as a novel and found it very difficult to capture in prose the action on a baseball field. A ground ball to short, a sharp curveball that buckles a guy's knees, a long fly ball to center -- it's too visual. The story itself is too visual.

I'm interested in this (even if the answer is rather brief) because I'm in the midst of this sort of decision-making these days. I began work on a screenplay that a friend convinced me was a novel, and then decided that a novella I'd been batting back and forth for years was actually a screenplay. Why did one become the other? My answer would be that it's about the arc of the story, and how it's best represented in the individual scenes. One series of scenes works in a visual medium, the other just doesn't.

And on a different tangent, the San Francisco Chronicle reviews Dark Age Ahead, a treatise on the dangers of modern living by Toronto 80-something Jane Jacobs with the message that "Lazy thinking and a lack of accountability could combine to unhinge many of the advances that fuel our modern life." Another over-the-hill doom-speaker? John King thinks not.

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