Larry McMurtry’s New Myth of the Old West

(Reblog of ALEXANDRA ALTER’s article for wsj.com)

Top 5 Must-See Horror Film Adaptations

Horror stories have captivated audiences for years.  What most likely began as stories around a campfire, has evolved to over 100 years of frightening and formidable films.  If you recall from our post “Top 5 Must-See Sci-Fi Film Adaptations”, Georges Méliès is credited with creating the first science fiction film.

Méliès is recognized as the creator of the first horror film too, Le Manoir du Diable, a three-minute short film (above) made in 1896.  The plot dances through the world of vampires, demons, and skeletons, which was sure to send shivers throughout the terrified audience when it was first released on Christmas Eve, 1896, at the Théâtre Robert-Houdin, in Paris.  On this ‘Friday the 13th’ we want to share with you some of our favorite adapted horror films.  If you have seen these films or have a suggestion for a must-see we may have missed, leave a comment below.

Jaws (1975)

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Did you visit the beach this summer?  You might not want to go back after watching Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.  The film is based on Peter Benchley’s novel, who was inspired by real-life shark attacks.  The story takes place in a fictional town, Amity, and was filmed mostly on-location in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.  The major difference between the book and the movie was Spielberg’s decision to eliminate most of the minor subplots that occur throughout the novel.  When working to adapt the story, Spielberg proposed to “…change the first two acts, basing them on original screenplay material, while remaining true to the book for the last third of the film,” because that was his favorite part of the book.

John Williams composed the iconic Jaws theme, which received an Academy Award for Best Original Score.  Interestingly enough, the music that is so well-known today, was laughed at by Steven Spielberg himself, thinking it was a joke that only two notes would sound menacing enough for a shark.  If you’re brave enough to DIVE into this one, don’t expect to see the shark right off the bat.  Similar to Alfred Hitchcock’s method, Spielberg suggests a more impending presence.  And if you ask me, that’s what makes this book/movie a thriller!

The Exorcist (1973)

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In the world of horror stories, The Exorcist is one of the most frightening because it was loosely based on true, demonic events.  William Peter Blatty published this novel in 1971, but the inspiration is rooted in a 1949 exorcism case that Blatty heard about as a student of Georgetown University in 1950.  Without ruining the incredibly thrilling story, the novel revolves around the demonic possession of a girl named Regan MacNeil.

In order to stay true to the story, and live up to its horrific potential, director William Friedkin executed many unorthodox methods during the production of The Exorcist.  Friedkin manipulated his actors to extreme limits, and even caused physical damages to some of the cast members.  The decision was also made to shoot some scenes, specifically the ones at Georgetown University, on-location.  If this story doesn’t sound scary enough, many involved with the production have claimed that the film was cursed.  On several occasions, a priest was even brought in to bless the set.

The Birds (1963)

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Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds, was inspired by a novelette of the same name written by Daphne du Maurier.  Although the original story is short, it is absolutely haunting with its detail of birds violently attacking humans for seemingly no reason.  In the film’s adaptation, even more detail is provided, with more instances of attacking birds.  It is widely known that Hitchcock was never a typical Hollywood director.  While filming The Birds, he brought in live birds to unknowingly attack his leading actress, Tippi Hendren.  Despite Hitchcock’s enormous approval of Hendren, she only filmed one more movie under his direction, Marnie.  The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Special Effects, and Tippi Hendren shared the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year with Ursula Andress and Elke Sommer.

Dracula (1931)

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If you are looking for sparkling vampires and romance, you’ve come to the wrong place.  In 1897, Bram Stoker first introduced the character Count Dracula.  But, Stoker did not invent the creatures we know as vampires, he simply defined a modern form.  Although there are countless adaptations of this story, Dracula (1931) is one of the most well-known versions.  In order to stay true to the story, the writers studied the Broadway stageplay, and the unauthorized silent film Nosferatu (1922) created by F.W. Murnau.

Although the film was not silent, the director Tod Browning was accustomed to that style and struggled to transition into sound.  Inter-tiles and and a newspaper closeup used in the film, display the silent film techniques that still remained in 1931.  The film did very well at the box office, and even caused movie-goers to faint at the horrors on-screen.  With its success, the movie increased the novel’s popularity, creating an instant-classic.

The Shining (1980)

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The name Stephen King is synonmous with horror.  The Shining was only King’s third novel published, and it established him as an author in the horror genre.  The story takes place in an isolated hotel in the Colorado Rockies.  Jack Torrance has just accepted the job as winter caretaker of the hotel and moves in with his wife, Wendy, and five year old son, Danny.  The horror begins when Danny’s psychic abilities allows him to view the hotel’s terrifying past.  Soon, a winter storm hits and Jack becomes possessed with the hotel’s evil nature.

The film adaptation, directed and co-written by Stanley Kubrick, did not receive an immediate positive reception.  Later on, the film received better reactions and higher critical ratings.  However, Stephen King has been quoted expressing his distaste with the film, and being the only adaptation of his that he “hated.”  I would recommend enjoying the film and book yourself, and then you can decide who told the story better.

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photo credits: doobybraintwm1340David Reecepds209Adam Polselli via photopin cc

THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING BOOKS!

“Art of various kinds is often expensive, and filmmaking especially so. Thousands of gifted filmmakers, young and old, have waited hat in hand at the studio gates, only to be turned away with nothing. That’s why Kickstarter and like organizations—which secure funding through donations from people with an interest in art-to-be—are a healthy and adventurous way to go. Let the studios eat cake, as a famous lady once said.” — Larry McMurtry

Thanks to you and the KICKSTARTER community, we have reached our STRETCH GOAL of $12,000 and are now in the position to finish production on BOOKS: A DOCUMENTARY!

Our journey is just beginning and we would LOVE for you to STAY INVOLVED!  Please LIKE us on Facebook, FOLLOW us on Twitter, and SUBSCRIBE to our Blog for all the latest news and updates.

If you missed us here on Kickstarter, you can check out our website BooksMovie.org, for all the details on pre-ordering the film, purchasing merchandise, future screenings etc…

We are thrilled and overwhelmed by all of your support throughout these past two campaigns and sincerely THANK YOU for believing in BOOKS.  We can’t wait to save you a seat at the theatre.

— Mathew & Sara

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Larry McMurtry: May the Books Flourish!

Larry wrote a piece for The Daily Beast today and we have it here for you… Enjoy!

“For writer Larry McMurtry, auctioning off part of his vast book collection was bittersweet, but they are off on a new adventure in the hands of new readers. He writes to urge readers to support a film on Kickstarter documenting this remarkable sale.”

Art of various kinds is often expensive, and filmmaking especially so. Thousands of gifted filmmakers, young and old, have waited hat in hand at the studio gates, only to be turned away with nothing.

That’s why Kickstarter and like organizations—which secure funding through donations from people with an interest in art-to-be—are a healthy and adventurous way to go. Let the studios eat cake, as a famous lady once said.

Writing prose, on the other hand, is a solitary endeavor (unless one has a fine writing partner, as do I). And as such, it’s not very expensive. Paper, a typewriter, and a place to write is all I needed; that is, until I was given a laptop computer.

I came to the world of computers at least 20 years late, thus missing whole generations of pods, tablets, and the like, which is too bad. Diana Ossana, my writing partner and close friend, purchased a MacBook for me recently, at my request. I let it sit for six months and then made a cautious approach to the keyboard, as one might approach a wary woman. I respect it greatly, and though I work at it every day, we are not yet on familiar terms. But maybe, if time allows, I’ll improve.

At present, the fledgling artistic project nearest to my heart is a worthy one called “BOOKS, A Documentary,” a film about my own passion for books, a passion that led me to create a book town in my home place of Archer City, Texas.

At its peak, my book town harbored between 500,000 and 600,000 volumes, not counting my own 28,000 volume personal library. I love my books, all of them. Holding them in my hands, leafing through the pages, is a comfort to me. But this is a lot of books: my son and grandson might not be so inclined as to simply sit and appreciate their presence.

So, I held an auction in Archer City over three scorching summer days in August 2012 to reduce the burden of books that might be left to my heirs, should I depart before my inventory does. I managed, during said auction, to launch two-thirds of said inventory back out into the world, all taking up residence with new and enthusiastic owners. The adventures of those books will be documented, should the smart young filmmakers have their way.

It’s been a bittersweet experience for me, parting with my beloved stock, but they’ve been given a second life, on bookshelves and in storefronts all across America.

The filmmakers are my goddaughter Sara Ossana and her husband Mathew Provost. May they–and the books–flourish! — Larry McMurtry

Support Books by becoming a backer –http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/studioseven7films/books-a-documentary-take-2

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What we’re listening to…

The Mighty Good Boys

Mighty Good Boys, Mighty Good Yes!  Not sure if that makes sense, but we’re going with it.

The Might Good Boys can be summed up… like you’re sitting at a picnic table surrounded by your favorite people about to dive into a mound of steamed Chesapeake Bay shellfish.  This combination of talented gents, are similar to a tasty mix of blue crabs, oysters, clams, crawfish, green beans and corn on the cob steamed in a bath of old bay, which will leave you wishing for more, or at least a napkin.

Hailing from Providence, RI, Corey, Travis, Nick, Jeff, Benny and Mike have been delighting crowds with their heavy influence of Appalachian & other American folk music styles.

Looking to plan summer trip?  Try ‘Taking a Train’ out of the city.  Fair warning, you might not want to come back.  Check out The Might Good Boys at reverbnation.com/themightygoodboys

As always, don’t forget to share your favorite songs of the summer on our Facebook Page or on Twitter using the hashtag #SupportBooks.

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Book Towers

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Stacking books has been a long tradition and necessary tool of those wanting to organize, carry or build.  Build???  Well if you’ve ever spent time in Detroit, you may have looked up to see the Book Tower, a stunning 38-story skyscraper in the Washington Boulevard Historic District.  Unfortunately the tower was not made of books, but rather named after three brothers, J. Burgess, Frank, and Herbert Book determined to turn the Detroit’s Washington Boulevard into the “Fifth Avenue of the West”.

Lucky for us though, in 2011 Buenos Aires was named World Book Capital by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  What better way to celebrate than build a spiraling tower built with over 30,000 donated books.  Artist Marta Minujin designed the Tower of Babel, as she named it, creating the installation 25-meters high.  Although the shelf life of the tower was only a month, when it was time to take the sculpture down visitors were encouraged to pick out a book and take it home with them.  Now that’s an idea worth building upon.

photo credits: UpNorth Memories – Donald (Don) Harrison & Guillermo Puglia via photopin cc

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Screening Room: ‘Books: A Documentary’

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Chris Barsanti

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This is the killer Kickstarter pitch for a new proposed film project with the can’t-go-wrong title of Books: A Documentary:

This past August over 300,000 antiquarian books from Larry McMurtry’s Booked Up were sold at auction: This is the story of those Books.

Color us intrigued.

For those not already in awe of the man, Lonesome Dove and Brokeback Mountain author McMurtry also owns one of the nation’s great used-book emporiums. He told the tale of last fall’s great blowout sale at the New York Review of Books.

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According to Publishers Weekly, the filmmakers (husband-and-wife Sara Ossana and Mathew Provost) have already shot about half of the doc and need $50,000 to finish it up. Ossana notes that the film, which uses McMurtry’s sale to explore the modern book landscape, might be expected to be a downbeat tale about an industry and way of life in decline:

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The Last Book Scout…

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The world of the book scout is a changing landscape.  The very technology that seemingly threatens to submerge it has recently switched polarity and infused it with an unexpected resurgence.  The renaissance may be short lived, as the overall trend has shown book scouting to have gone from a popular pastime to an obscure practice.  What was once a busy profession abounding with hordes of enthusiasts, has turned into an archaic vocation kept alive by a handful of skilled connoisseurs.  Recently however, they have been joined by an influx of pickers armed with digital scanners, smart phones and online book selling savvy.

An old school book scout would scour classified ads for estate sales, garage sales, library sales and yard sales, paying particular attention to how they each were worded.  He, or she was wary of ads using the word “treasures” which translated to “junk” and kept a sharp eye out for buzz phrases like “English grad student moving” or “Philosophy professor passed away” which could have spelled pay dirt.  Armed with a vast knowledge of books from a lifetime of reading and a finely tuned intuition for locating quality print, they set out for these sales.  The goal: to unearth gems among the rubble, to buy them cheap and then sell them for profit.

One such man is none other than author Larry McMurtry, who explains having embarked on a career as a novelist in order to support his book buying habit.  He is the central figure in the upcoming indie film by Studio Seven7 Films called Books: A Documentary.  The film by Sara Ossana and myself tells the story of the three hundred thousand plus, of Larry McMurtry’s antiquated acquisitions that were auctioned off in August of 2012.  The event, which lasted just two days, was aptly named The Last Book Sale.  This historic occasion marks the culmination of forty years of Larry’s work as a book scout, and two thirds of what was amassed, being released back out into the world.

The auction no doubt drew book scouts cut from the same cloth as the proprietor of the four Booked Up storefronts in Archer City, Texas.  However, there was also a new breed of book buyer lurking about among the paperbacks and first editions.  The 21st century literary curator still combs through the classifieds for listings of book sales, but they rely more on technical gadgetry than upon applicable knowledge to cull profits from the piles of pages.  They use a handheld electronic scanner to weed through many volumes in one day, looking for titles that can be sold for profit.  Their scanner runs a book’s UPC code across a snapshot of the Amazon catalog.  The software then calculates the book’s worth.  Books with a high value are bought if a low price can be arranged and then re-sold online.  Many rare books are pre-UPC, where scanning a code is not an option.  In this case, they then pull out a smart-phone, loaded with latest apps and booked marked websites, and with a few clicks, now has all the information needed.

Similar to the world of baseball, an old-school scout would simply have taken the findings, cross referenced with years of gut instinct and stuffed notebooks, to bookstores or private collectors they had built relationships with over the years.  The new school scout harnesses the power of the internet, which although impersonal, has not necessarily cheapened the trade.  Online book reselling is highly competitive because there is money to be made.  This current model is a recent improvement on what was being done just a few years ago.  Before electronic scanners, new school book scouts had to use their cell phones to call friends or partners who were waiting at computers to look up titles that may have been valuable.  This resurgence in the popularity of old books is a refreshing development.  Perhaps the digital world will not yet fully render the analog world of information obsolete.

However, this begs the question: what improvements on the current strategy might the book scout of tomorrow employ?  Perhaps tomorrow’s book scout will find a title, scan it and take a picture of it all at once.  They could then post it online, find a buyer and collect the money digitally before ever paying for it and leaving the store.  Perhaps when teleportation is an everyday practice the process will go one step further and the scout will beam the book over to the buyer right then and there.  Sounds like a plot to a futuristic novel…

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Top 5 Must-See Romantic Film Adaptations

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Prince William and Kate Middleton have just had their first child, George Alexander Louis, but you may address the baby as ‘His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge’.  Everyone loves to hear about a Royal Romance, doesn’t it just get you in the mood to watch some breathtaking romantic films based on books?  I know you answered yes!  Here is our top five must see Romantic film adaptations.

The Notebook (2004)

When you think of romantic movies, The Notebook always comes to mind.  Based on Nicholas Sparks’ novel of the same name, you can’t help but fall in love with the characters Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams).  Although their love story is an intense one, the ending is the perfect payoff.  If you haven’t seen this flick already, go find it today, just make sure you have a box of tissues ready nearby.

The African Queen (1951)

Based on C.S. Forester’s novel, The African Queen, is an exciting adventure-romance starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.  The film has been selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry, for its culture, historical, & aesthetic significance.  On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie holds a 100% fresh rating.  Have I convinced you to watch it yet?  You really should.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

If you watched the Oscars this year, you already know that Silver Linings Playbook received eight nominations, with Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Actress.  Adapted from Matthew Quick’s novel, the film was written and directed by David O. Russell.  In order to maintain the romantic comedy, yet emotional and troubled nature of the story, Russell claims to have rewritten the screenplay over twenty times.  Go see/read it for yourself and find out if the movie did the novel justice.

Wuthering Heights (1939)

In 1847, Emily Brontë’s published her only novel, Wuthering Heights.  Emily’s sister, Charlotte, made the decision for Wuthering Heights to be published after the success of her own novel Jane Eyre.  The novel revolves around the destruction that jealousy and vengeance can cause on individuals and their communities.  The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning Best Cinematography.  So, if you’re in the mood for some romantic vengeance, check this one out!

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

The infamous story of Pride & Prejudice was published in 1813, written by Jane Austen.  The well-known love story begins with the introduction of Mr. Darcy, a proud and condescending man, and his conflicting relationship with Elizabeth Bennet.  The film, written by Deborah Moggach, strived to remain as faithful to the novel as possible.  The movie had a positive critical reaction with Kiera Knightly portraying Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as her romantic opposite.  If you are looking for a classic love story, draped across the stunning English country side, this will sure to please.

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Drinking Through Some Issues

What we’re listening too…

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Music has always played an important role in our inspiration as writers and filmmakers.  So much so that we have decided to share some of our favorites.  Share your favorite songs on our Facebook Page or on Twitter using the hashtag #SupportBooks.

This past October Sara and Mathew were excited to see James McMurtry play a solo show at Fête Music Lounge located in Olneyville R.I.   We were happily surprised with the opening act: Smith & Weeden.  S&W has been described as Dirty Country meets Early 70’s Stones, which absolutely nails this emerging Providence, Rhode Island band.
We have been fans ever since.  You can check them out at reverbnation.com/smithweeden – Right now our minds are drifting along dusty a Texas highway with “Drinking Through Some Issues” on loop.