The Oscar buzz is already building for Up in the Air, the latest film by Oscar-nominated director Jason Reitman (Juno). Based on a 2001 novel by Walter Kirn, the movie debuted last weekend at the Toronto Film Festival to glowing reviews. Kirn's novel features a well-traveled "Corporate Transition Counselor" (played in the film by George Clooney), who yearns to make a break from his grueling job, but has his eyes fixed on an elusive prize: one million frequent flyer miles. Readers interested in checking out Up in the Air before the U.S. premiere of the film on November 13 will find a new movie tie-in paperback edition available next month, along with a new audio version and mass market paperback.
From USA Today comes word that Jason Reitman's next directorial project might involve a novel of particular interest here: Joyce Maynard's Labor Day. Reitman is said to be adapting a screenplay of the book, which tells the surprisingly tender tale of a mother and son in a small New Hampshire town who shelter an escaped convict during a long holiday weekend. Deb Donovan reviewed the novel in the August issue of BookPage, and I blogged about its attractive cover design a few weeks ago, a subject that elicited several interesting emails from Maynard herself. It seemed appropriate to save my own reading of the book for Labor Day weekend, when two plane flights gave me some uninterrupted reading time. Despite my initial compulsion to shake/scream at/lecture any woman who would give a ride to a smooth-talking prison escapee (do NOT let that man into your car!), I found myself drawn into the story of this poignant threesome and particularly taken with the voice of 13-year-old narrator Henry. It would be fascinating to see how a talented director like Reitman would bring this unique coming-of-age story to the screen.
On the other end of the book-to-movie spectrum is The Road, the grim Cormac McCarthy novel that has encountered a series of delays in reaching the screen. Let's be honest here, a novel that features seered earth, cannibalism and raw terror always seemed like a longshot for movie success. The Wizard of Oz, it's not. But I still believe Viggo Mortensen is an ideal choice for the lead role and despite mixed early reviews, I'm still eager to see this movie. As Mortensen said in an interview with Canadian television, McCarthy's message in The Road is ultimately a hopeful one: "This film really makes you appreciate life," Mortensen tells CTV. "Sure you can have a bad day. You can have physical ailments and problems in life. But I wouldn't trade this life or this world for any other. Life is short, you know? You've got to pay attention to that." The film is now set to debut on November 25.
In a recent column, Hollywood Reporter Editor Elizabeth Guider offers an interesting take on why we don't see as many books made into movies these days: "Much has shifted in the past quarter-century. Novels used to be the bedrock of movie adaptation because they were the basis of the culture's general education. Practically every best-seller got made into a movie, and some more high-toned works did as well." Now, Guider says, it's comic books that generate excitement among studio execs: "Comic books have emerged from kids' bedrooms into the mainstream as the coolest source material for movies. They and their snootier cousins, graphic novels, are now talked about in the same hushed tones that were once reserved for the works of Thomas Pynchon or John Barth." Point well taken.
Do you have a favorite novel that Hollywood is ignoring? What book would you most want to see made into a movie?
The universe of superheroes is unfairly dominated by guys, don’t you think? What we need is a little gender equity to balance SpiderMAN, SuperMAN and BatMAN. Children’s book author Jarrett J. Krosoczka is doing his part to promote female omnipotence with a new series that features a school cafeteria worker with special powers. The series debuts in late July with the release of book one, Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute, told in graphic novel format for ages 7 to 10.
Now, before the first book even hits shelves, comes the exciting news that Universal has snapped up film rights to the series with Saturday Night Live’s Amy Poehler on board as star and executive producer. We can’t wait to see Poehler as the apron-clad Lunch Lady who dishes out justice along with chicken patties and sloppy joes. And we’re thrilled to see the talented and super-nice Krosoczka get this very special recognition. So thrilled, in fact, that we immediately had to find out if he'd ever imagined something like this in his wildest dreams:
“Well . . . let's not get too far ahead of things,” Krosoczka says via email, proving that his feet are still on the ground. “The books aren't out just yet, so I don't want to jinx anything. But there is so much momentum as I head into the release date. I've been promoting these books in my school visits for years now and people are eager for new age-appropriate graphic novels. And of course the news about Universal and Amy Poehler's interest is just incredible!”
Of course we couldn't resist a few more questions for Jarrett:
How did the movie deal come about?
Back in January, The Gotham Group (who manages the film rights to my books) asked if I was interested in their being attached to Lunch Lady as producers for a possible live-action feature. I was thrilled by this news and signed on. I've been a fan of Amy Poehler for a very long time now, so we sent her a copy of the first Lunch Lady book. She loved it! Two writers were attached (Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern) and they, along with Ms. Poehler pitched the project to Universal. And Universal loved it!
How did you come up with this character?
Back in 2001, I visited my old elementary school (Gates Lane School) to speak about the publication of my first book, Good Night, Monkey Boy. There, I ran into Jeannie, my old lunch lady. She started telling me about her grandkids—which blew my mind! My lunch lady had kids, who then had kids? She had a life outside of the cafeteria. So it got me thinking . . . what would a lunch lady do when she wasn't a lunch lady. She'd fight crime!
What’s your favorite thing about the Lunch Lady?
I'm having a blast with the action and the absurd humor in these books. On one page I can have Lunch Lady fighting robots with her fish stick nun-chucks, on another page she is elated that she'll be making chicken patty piazza for lunch. She's a very fun character and I hope people love reading about her as much as I've enjoyed writing about her.
A second book in the series, Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians, will also be published on July 28, with a third title planned in December and a fourth next summer. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Krosoczka has written and illustrated nine picture books, including two Punk Farm titles. For more fun facts about this imaginative and clever guy, check out his website, which includes a bio, a short bio, a serious bio, a fake bio and a faker bio. And don't miss the audio clip that reveals how to pronounce his last name—a name we'll all be hearing more about.
The words “famously reclusive” are paired with the name Cormac McCarthy like white on rice. Despite his televised interview with Oprah in 2007, McCarthy is still considered one of the least talkative, most private authors around. No book tours for this man! No website, no blog and definitely no Twitter. Nonetheless, this acclaimed writer generates plenty of press coverage, as we see in three recent developments:
NEWS ITEM #1: McCarthy has been chosen as the recipient of the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, to be presented at a ceremony Tuesday tonight in New York. Will McCarthy accept the award in person? A PEN spokesman didn’t respond to that question, so your guess is as good as ours. This is a career achievement award, and in describing the honoree’s body of work, PEN notes that “McCarthy’s fiction parallels his movement from the Southeast to the West.” McCarthy’s first four novels are set in Tennessee, where he grew up and attended Knoxville Catholic High School. (Through a classmate, we’ve seen charming school newspaper clippings from the late 1940s in which the author, then known as the more pedestrian “Charlie McCarthy,” showed scant signs of future greatness.) McCarthy later moved to Texas, and eventually to Santa Fe, where he currently makes his home.
NEWS ITEM #2: An archive of McCarthy’s papers opened to researchers today as part of the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University-San Marcos. Access is by appointment only, so forget about dropping by to thumb through the original manuscript of All the Pretty Horses.
NEWS ITEM #3: The film version of McCarthy’s devastating apocalyptic novel, The Road, now has a firm release date (October 16) and an official trailer. Only two and a half minutes long, but still extremely unsettling:
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of months, you’ve probably seen a trailer for The Soloist, a new movie about the remarkable bond between a Los Angeles journalist (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) and a homeless, classically trained musician (Jamie Foxx). But did you know the movie is based on a book by that L.A. journalist, Steve Lopez?
Any other readers out there see this as a very strange piece of casting? I never pictured Patricia Cornwell's famous medical examiner as frumpy, but I didn't see her looking like Lara Croft either! Especially in the early books (Body of Evidence, All That Remains) Cornwell presents Scarpetta as more of a restrained, professional, all-business type. Hollywood, of course, has its own priorities, and fidelity to books isn't one of them. We're especially interested in reports that the first movie won't be based on one book in the series, but several. Does this mean they'll simply take the Scarpetta character and come up with a whole new storyline?
Also, we're wondering who'll play Scarpetta's niece, Lucy. And her policeman pal, Marino. Nominations anyone?