September 26, 2003


Diane Lane in 'Under the Tuscan Sun' (Steve Sailer, Sept. 25, 2003, UPI)

Here's the book's plot: Mayes, a creative writing professor at San Francisco State, and her husband Ed buy a 300-year-old house outside Cortona, a splendid hilltop village an hour from Florence, to use as a summer home. Over the next four years, they and a host of construction workers fix it up. Mayes is ecstatically happy the entire time.

That's it. The book consists of 260 pages of present-tense prose-poetry about the simple but voluptuous glories of their daily life in Tuscany and 28 pages of recipes.

It's easy to criticize Wells for distorting and vulgarizing Mayes' lyrical tribute to the Italian genius for fine living. The more interesting issue, however, is why anyone in Hollywood ever thought this book was filmable.

Indeed, producers keep buying the rights to upscale books that the clerk at your local Blockbuster could tell them wouldn't make a decent movie. (The dozens of failed Henry James adaptations are only the most obvious examples).

Although you wouldn't guess from watching the output of the studios, the simplest explanation for why film people are suckers for classy books is that they really do have refined tastes. Unfortunately, they believe, with more than a little marketing research to back them up, that the rest of us are, on the whole, boors and morons.

So, what's poor Audrey Wells to do with a beloved bestseller possessing no more dramatic momentum than "The Baseball Encyclopedia?"

A lot, it turns out, much of it vapid.

Hey, wait a second, the Baseball Encyclopedia is one of our Five Desert Island books. Then again, the Henry James shot more than makes up for it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 26, 2003 7:59 PM

If the Red Sox win the Series using Bill James' theories on the use of relief pitchers, maybe the "Baseball Encylopedia" movie will have a more dramatic ending.

As for the Hollywood trend of buying classy books that turn into bad movies, the idea is no so much that the producers, directors and stars have such refined taste, but that some of the book's intellectual luster can rub off on them by their being associated with it in some shape or form.

Of course, this "good taste" scam never worked for Herschel Bernardi in all those Charlie the Tuna Star-Kist commercials, but there's no fault in trying so long as someone's willing to pony up the cash to make the movie.

Posted by: John at September 27, 2003 1:28 AM

What's next, the film adaptation of Terrence Mann's "The Boat Rocker?"

Posted by: Mike Morley at September 27, 2003 6:30 AM



Posted by: oj at September 27, 2003 7:28 AM

Wings of a Dove was one of my all time favorites. The last scene was positivley inspirational.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 29, 2003 5:20 PM