If you liked A Man Called Ove…

then here are some are things at the library you might want to try.

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Now He Belongs to the Ages

now he belongs to the ages

Celebrate Illinois’ 200th birthday and learn about Abraham Lincoln at the same time!

Red Rising Ditto

Big fan of the series or pumpded about book 4, Iron Gold? Here are some others things you might enjoy.

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Tinsel Tales: 10 Great Books About Movie Icons

Photo © Shutterstock

Movie icons symbolize so much to us that their roles and personas become jumbled with who they are in life. Rita Hayworth delivered the steamiest sexuality in “Gilda” (1946) but later complained, “Every man I know went to bed with Gilda and woke up with me.” It is impossible for a person to embody all that is enlarged on the screen. Stars have writers to give them the exact perfect words to say, cinematographers to make them look their ideal best, and directors to guide and cut together the performances that turn them into icons. As Jimmy Stewart’s character says in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962), in which everyone believes it is he and not John Wayne who did the shooting, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

These are my ten suggestions, in no particular order, for seeing icons in a more nuanced light.

The cover of the book Hitchcock

Hitchcock

Francois Truffaut

More than fifty years on, these conversations between the old master and the young director/critic are as enjoyable and revealing as any of the films made by each.

 

The cover of the book The New Biographical Dictionary of FilmThe New Biographical Dictionary of Film

David Thomson

Now in its sixth edition, this vastly informed and wildly idiosyncratic compilation makes for compulsive reading. Whether or not you agree with Thomson’s 800-plus pages of insight on more than 1,000 actors, directors, screenwriters, and studio heads from (in the third edition) Isabelle Adjani to Adolph Zukor or quibble with who he left out of this farraginous, nearly all-encompassing chronicle, you will become more cinema literate every time you dip into it.

The cover of the book My Wicked, Wicked Ways

My Wicked, Wicked Ways

Errol Flynn

The original Tasmanian Devil, Flynn displayed unbuckled swash as Robin Hood and Captain Blood, but his private life was even more cinematic than his movies.

 

 

The cover of the book Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood

Richard Schickel

This book presents the life and work of The Man With No Name, Dirty Harry, and one of our finest directors. (Schickel’s The Disney Version: The Life, Times, Art, and Commerce of Walt Disney is cultural history at its best.)

 

The cover of the book Mary Astor's Purple Diary

Mary Astor’s Purple Diary

Edward Sorel

Astor won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her work in “The Great Lie” (1941) but she is best known for playing the duplicitous, seductive, cold-blooded killer Brigid O’Shaughnessy the same year in “The Maltese Falcon.” The titillating revelations in her diary that her scheming, fortune-hunting ex-husband filched and presented in their child custody trial detailed her affair with the playwright George S. Kaufman and contained grades for the sexual prowess of her various lovers.

The cover of the book Kate Remembered

Kate Remembered

A. Scott Berg

Katharine Hepburn was as well-known for not playing the Hollywood game as she was for her parts in “The Philadelphia Story,” “Woman of the Year,” and “The African Queen.” Kate Remembered is an intimate portrayal of a private person in her voice but through Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer A. Scott Berg’s lens. (Berg’s Goldwyn is an essential account of the mogul and the establishment of Hollywood.)

The cover of the book Bogart

Bogart

Ann Sperber and Eric Lax

Okay, a little self-dealing here, but Ann Sperber spent seven years interviewing hundreds of Bogart’s associates before her untimely death, and I undertook to finish writing what she so ably researched and started. Sue me for saying it is the best book available about a complex man who was “tough without a gun.”

The cover of the book David Lean: A Biography

David Lean: A Biography

Kevin Brownlow

Kevin Brownlow’s biography of David Lean is as long and sprawling as Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” and equally as enthralling.

 

The cover of the book Orson Welles, Volume 1: The Road to Xanadu

Orson Welles, Volume 1: The Road to Xanadu

Simon Callow

All four volumes. Really. (But ya gotta love Welles. A shorter read is This Is Orson Welles by Welles and Peter Bogdanovich, edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum. It features two knowledgeable, witty guys in riveting conversation about actors, movies, directing, radio, television, Hollywood, and dozens of other things.)

 

The cover of the book The Magic Lantern

The Magic Lantern

Ingmar Bergman

Bergman’s autobiography is as revelatory a look into the soul as any of his films, told in flashbacks.

 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Eric Lax’s books include Woody Allen: A Biography, an international best seller and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Bogart (with A. M. Sperber), and Conversations with Woody Allen, which comprises forty years of interviews with Allen. Lax has written for The Atlantic, Esquire, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Magazine, and more. He lives in Los Angeles. His latest book, Start to Finish: Woody Allen and the Art of Moviemaking, is now available.

Books to Film: February Releases

The 15:17 to Paris by Jeffrey Stern

28691794Image resultMovie: The 15:17 to Paris
When it comes out: February 9
What the book is about: On August 21, 2015, Ayoub El-Khazzani boarded train #9364 in Brussels, bound for Paris. He was heavily armed and his mission was clear.  Another major ISIS attack was about to begin. Khazzani wasn’t expecting Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone. All three were fearless. But their decision-to charge the gunman, then overpower him even as he turned first his gun, then his knife, on Stone-depended on a lifetime of loyalty, support, and faith.

Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James

13536860FiftyShadesFreed.jpgMovie: Fifty Shades Freed
When it comes out: February 9
What the book is about: Now, Ana and Christian have it all—love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Ana must somehow learn to share Christian’s opulent lifestyle without sacrificing her own identity. And Christian must overcome his compulsion to control as he wrestles with the demons of a tormented past.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

19321Image result for peter rabbit movieMovie: Peter Rabbit
When it comes out: February 9
What the book is about: When Mrs. Rabbit beseeches her four furry children not to go into Mr. McGregor’s garden, the impish Peter naturally takes this as an open invitation to create mischief. He quickly gets in over his head, when he is spotted by farmer McGregor himself. Any child with a spark of sass will find Peter’s adventures remarkably familiar. And they’ll see in Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail that bane of their existence: the “good” sibling who always does the right thing. One earns bread and milk and blackberries for supper, while the obstinate folly of the other warrants medicine and an early bedtime.

The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine

23968Image resultMovie: The Female Brain
When it comes out: February 9
What the book is about: This comprehensive new look at the hormonal roller coaster that rules women’s lives down to the cellular level, “a user’s guide to new research about the female brain and the neurobehavioral systems that make us women,” offers a trove of information, as well as some stunning insights into the female brain from birth (“baby girls will connect emotionally in ways that baby boys don’t”) to birthing (“Motherhood changes you because it literally alters a woman’s brain-structurally, functionally, and in many ways, irreversibly”) to menopause (when “the female brain is nowhere near ready to retire”) and beyond.

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

17934530Image resultMovie: Annihilation
When it comes out: February 23
What the book is about: Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer. This is the twelfth expedition.

Every Day by David Levithan

13262783Image resultMovie: Every Day
When it comes out: February 23
What the book is about: Every day a different body. Every day a different life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

The War with Grandpa by Robert Kimmel Smith

766671Image result for the war with grandpa movie posterMovie: The War with Grandpa
When it comes out: February 23
What the book is about: The hilarious story of a boy who leaps into battle when he’s forced to share a room with his grandfather. Peter is thrilled that Grandpa is coming to live with his family. That is, until Grandpa moves right into Peter’s room, forcing him upstairs. Peter loves his grandpa but wants his room back. He has no choice but to declare war! With the help of his friends, Peter devises outrageous plans to make Grandpa surrender the room. But Grandpa is tougher than he looks. Rather than give in, Grandpa plans to get even.

2018 Golden Globes Nominees Are Chock-Full of Literary Adaptations

From left to right: Elisabeth Moss in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ © 2016 Hulu; Claire Foy in ‘The Crown’ © 2016 Netflix; Judi Dench in ‘Victoria & Abdul’ © Focus Features; Timothée Chalamet in ‘Call Me by Your Name’ © 2017 Sony Pictures Classics; Reese Witherspoon in ‘Big Little Lies’/Hilary Bronwyn Gayle © 2017 HBO

It is officially that time of the year – awards season is upon us.  As usual, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has kicked things off with the announcement of the 2018 Golden Globe Awards nominees. The literary world is represented in this year’s lineup with a smattering of great adaptations leading the charge in both film and TV. While the slate of nominees is populated with a few of the marquee titles you’d expect – “Game of Thrones” got it’s annual nod, for instance – a few surprises cracked the surface as well. It looks to be another interesting year at the Golden Globes. Let’s have a look.

Starting with the Best Motion Picture Categories – “Drama” and “Musical or Comedy” – “Call Me By Your Name,” based on the 2007 novel by Andre Aciman, joins a field arguably led by Christopher Nolan’s historical epic “Dunkirk,” although “The Post” feels purely calibrated to make some awards season noise. On the “Musical or Comedy” side of the aisle, “The Disaster Artist,” based on the memoir by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, will be contending with likely favorite “Ladybird” for the top spot. In perhaps the oddest bit of news to come out of the nominations, “Get Out” did indeed garner a Best Motion Picture nomination…as a “Musical or Comedy”. While the film did sport a handful of excellent jokes, we find it a bit hard to categorize its depiction of racism – no matter how Jordan Peele presented it – as “Comedy.” Here’s what Peele himself had to say.

The acting categories for a motion picture were anchored by a number of strong performances from adaptations. On the women’s side of the aisle, Michelle Williams picked up her fifth Golden Globe nomination for her performance in “All the Money in the World,” based on the book Painfully Rich by John Pearson. She’s joined by fellow five-timer Jessica Chastain for “Molly’s Game” which is based on the memoir of the same name by Molly Bloom. Dames Helen Mirren and Judi Dench each picked up nominations for their respective performances in “Leisure Seeker” and “Victoria and Abdul” – each film was based on a novel of the same name. Mary J. Blige also snagged a nomination for her supporting performance in “Mudbound,” an adaptation of the novel by Hillary Jordan.

The gentlemen had an equally strong showing on the literary front with Timothee Chalamet snagging a nomination for his role in “Call me By Your Name.” Chalamet, however, will be up against a host of awards season heavyweights with Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, and Daniel Day-Lewis rounding out the best actor in a drama category. Day-Lewis is an obvious favorite for the acting categories anytime he deigns to grace us mere mortals with a performance, and Gary Oldman is said to have turned in a career best performance in “Darkest Hour,” so it will likely be tough going for Chalamet in a particularly crowded slate.

In the “Musical or Comedy” category, James Franco’s performance as Tommy Wiseau in the “Disaster Artist” has finally – if a bit circuitously – given the the bizarre Wiseau the recognition he craves. The Supporting Actor category featured one of the biggest surprises of the morning as Christopher Plummer picked up a nomination for his role in “All the Money in the World.” The role had originally been filmed by Kevin Spacey. Following the myriad allegations of sexual misconduct against Spacey, he was dropped from the role and Plummer stepped in at the literal last minute. All of Spacey’s scenes were refilmed with Plummer. This nomination situates Plummer as perhaps a pinch hitter in film history. Plummer will be up against Armie Hammer’s performance in “Call me by Your Name.”

Now for the Television categories. HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” already a big winner at the Emmy’s, also dominated the Golden Globes nods. The adaptation of the novel by Liane Moriarty picked up nominations for Best Limited Series, Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series (Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon), Best Performance by a Supporting Actress (Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley), and Best Performance by a Supporting Actor (Alexander Skaarsgard). “Big Little Lies” will duke it out with “The Sinner,” based on the novel by Petra Hammesfahr, in the Limited Series category. “The Sinner” star Jessica Biel also picked up a nomination in the best actress category.

In the Best Television series – Drama category, perennial nominee “Game of Thrones” will be up against likely favorite “The Handmaid’s Tale,” based on the novel by Margaret Atwood. However, “The Crown” and “This is Us” are each poised for an upset here. Interestingly, “Game of Thrones” was shut out of each of the possible acting categories despite a couple of strong performances from Lena Headey and Kit Harrington.

To round out the acting nominations for adaptations not called “Big Little Lies,” Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer each pulled nominations in their respective categories for their roles in “The Wizard of Lies” based on the book by Diana B. Henriques. De Niro will vie for best actor against Geoffrey Rush for his performance in “Genius,” an adaptation of Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. Ann Dowd picked up a nod for her supporting role in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” In the best actress category, Elisabeth Moss is the odds-on favorite for her brilliant turn in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Caitriona Balfe picked up a best actress nod for “Outlander” – based on the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon – and Katherine Langford rounds out the nominations with her performance in “13 Reasons Why,” an adaptation of the novel of the same name.

As is becoming the norm, streaming services and premium networks once again dominated the Television categories. HBO made its usual big showing and Netflix’s latest critical darlings – “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” – appear to have replaced former awards favorites “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards.” The question is whether Hulu will beat its streaming service brethren to the punch and pick up that coveted Best Drama statue as it did at the Emmy’s this year? We’ll have to wait for the January 7th broadcast to find out. Will you be tuning in?

‘Ferdinand’ The Peaceful Bull Gets His First Full-Length Film

In the late 1930s, The Story of Ferdinand briefly out sold Gone With the Wind. Penguin Young Readers

Millions of people have read Munro Leaf’s The Story of Ferdinand since it was first published in 1936. Two years later, Disney turned it into it an Oscar-winning short film. Now, the peaceful bull who prefers sniffing flowers to bullfighting is getting an update from 20th Century Fox. And that bull has been on quite a journey to get here.

John Cena, the actor who voices Ferdinand in the new movie, recently read the original story to hundreds of DC public school kids at the Library of Congress. On a table next to him were two early editions of the book from the library’s collection. One was from 1938, the other from 1936.

“We’re going to look at the 1936 edition but not touch it,” Cena told the students. “It’s very delicate and very important, and the people from the Library of Congress were very thorough in saying like, ‘Hey, don’t touch the first book.'”

Precious Ferdinand, even when he grows to be bigger than all the other bulls, still doesn’t want to fight. He just wants to sit under the cork tree and smell flowers. But when he sits on a bumblebee, he goes berserk, puffing and kicking. The matadors watching are ecstatic.

The Story of Ferdinand is one of Time magazine’s “100 Best Children’s Books of All Time.” At one point in the late 1930s, it was outselling Gone With The Wind, which is pretty astonishing for something that was written in less than an hour.

NPR interviewed Munro Leaf’s widow, Margaret, in 1986, ten years after her husband’s death. “The depression was nearly over,” she recalled. “We were very poor.” One Sunday afternoon, she was reading a manuscript for a publisher to make some extra money.

“I was going to get $25 for reading it, so it was very important, and he kept bothering me, trying to interrupt me. So I finally said to him, ‘Get lost, go and amuse yourself. Do something.’ About 35 to 40 minutes later, he said ‘Listen to this,’ and he read me Ferdinand. And there it was in pencil on six sheets of yellow legal pad.”

Leaf gave the story to his friend, illustrator Robert Lawson, who brought it to life with detailed, whimsical, pen and ink drawings. The book took off.

There was the Disney short, Ferdinand merchandise, a balloon at the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, songs and author interviews.

In 1948, Leaf talked to the Chicago radio show, The Hobby Horse Presents. Children on the show asked him what books he read when he was ten and a half.

“Oh gee, I read everything I could get my hands on really,” he said. “Couple of them I know that I read about that time that stand out as vividly today, and that’s Treasure Island was one, and The Wizard Of Oz to me was one of the nicest books I ever found.”

In the late 1930s, The Story of Ferdinand briefly outsoldGone With The Wind.
Penguin Young Readers

The book’s popularity coincided with the Spanish Civil War. In 1937, Leaf told an audience he received letters complaining that “Ferdinand was red propaganda,” others that “it was fascist propaganda.” A woman’s club said it was “unworthy satire of the peace movement.” It was banned in Spain; Hitler burned it.

But Margaret Leaf told NPR that Munro wasn’t trying to be political. “He wasn’t a pacifist, but he was a peaceful man,” she said.

Director Carlos Saldanha is the latest to interpret Ferdinand, in the new feature film adaptation. “I think Ferdinand is this misinterpreted, misjudged character,” he says.

Munro Leaf’s story is only about 800 words, so with the Leaf family’s permission, Saldanha did some fleshing out. The director created new characters, like a goat who lives in Ferdinand’s stall, and he gave voices to the other bulls in Munro Leaf’s story. When they’re young, they make fun of Ferdinand’s refusal to butt heads. And then Ferdinand outgrows them.

“He is trying to show them a different side of life, a different understanding of life,” Saldanha says. “And for him, you don’t really need to fight to be a fighter.”

For the voice of Ferdinand, Saldanha picked someone who fights for a living, a 6’1, 251 pound wrestler with the WWE — John Cena.

“He almost represents, visually, Ferdinand,” Saldanha tells NPR. “Like he’s so big and massive and people interpret him as this massive guy that picks fights and all this stuff but actually he’s not at all. And he’s super gentle.”

Cena confirmed that he’s misjudged for his size. He says it’s a universal feeling. “There isn’t a human walking the earth that [can] say ‘Everybody gets me all the time.’ That’s why I think, another reason the book is timeless. We’re all misunderstood.”

Munro Leaf died in 1976. He wrote other books, but none that had the global success of Ferdinand. His son, Andy Leaf, says his father was amused by all of the different interpretations. “He was very smart that way. He just let people interpret it as they wished.”

In the end, Ferdinand stays true to himself, sitting under his favorite cork tree, smelling the flowers quietly. Ferdinand, the movie version, comes out later this week, but the book will likely be around forever.