Adaptation: An expert panel on literature in motion

**The following is an adaptation of a conversation that actually happened, more or less, between actual booksellers, give or take, with undisclosed reliance on/participation of the internet.**
Today at Diesel we unpacked our first wave of DVDs, now on sale at all our Diesel locations. The selection is small (wait, what’s a positive word for “small”--intimate?), six “classic literature” adaptations, many of which have become classics in their own right. When I pulled the PBS Macbeth out of the box, for example, Patrick Stewart all bloody-handed on the cover, my co-worker was like:

THAT is an excellent adaptation. Lady MacBeth is chilling.

And I was like:

Oh really.

You should watch it, Kate Fleetwood, you know, she played “Woman with Baby” in Elizabeth: The Golden Age.  And she did some voice work in the last Harry Potter movie.

So, she’s never been in anything else...

Okay, it may have been the Harry Potter video game. But the film is very true to the play, it’s an excellent modernization, none of that Kenneth Branagh Hamlet business where the setting is some vague Euro cloud-land.

But it’s not that difficult to adapt a play, is it? I mean, it’s written to be performed. It doesn’t require the slash-and-burn of adapting a behemoth novel. War and Peace. Anna Karenina. Actually, Tom Stoppard is doing a new adaptation of Anna Karenina that’s coming out in the fall, I think. I’ve never been more excited to see the film of a book I haven’t read.

You didn’t read Anna Karenina?

That’s not true. I dressed up for the midnight premieres of all three Lord of the Rings films before I ever read the books. Which, by the way, might be my favorite adaptations of all time.

You dressed up for the Lord of the Rings premieres?

I mean, the battle scenes are a little mixed up and a few characters are missing, but who’s really sorry that Tom Bombadil got the boot? If you want to talk LOTR, who is Tom Bombadil even supposed to BE? What does he mean? Why won’t he help them fight?

Yeah, I don’t want to talk LOTR with you.

Aragorn. I went as Aragorn. I actually was able to use the same brown robe to be Aragorn, Obi Wan at the Star Wars premieres, and Dobby for a few of the Harry Potter’s. And then lit it on fire while waiting in line for The Hunger Games. Just Kidding. I went as a mockingjay.

How are you going to re-purpose your robe for Anna Karenina?

Do you think there’ll be a midnight showing? I may have to invest in some new pieces.

Well, I’m looking forward to the Cloud Atlas adaptation. I hear they had six different directors tackle the six distinct segments of the novel. I mean, it sounds like a terrible idea, doomed to result in a disjointed product, but isn’t that what you would have said about the novel if you knew what David Mitchell was up to?

I just hope they do the book justice. There’s such margin for error. Things I’m sorry I wasted two hours on that had no reason to be terrible: The Rum Diary. WHYYYYY?

That was really awful.


Never Let Me Go. That was a tragedy.

More like “Never Let Kiera Knightly Play A Complex Character.”

Robert Redford as Gatsby.


Stop it.


DiCaprio as Gatsby might turn out alright. But I don’t believe in Tobey Maguire. He ruined Spiderman. Was Seabiscuit a bad movie or do I just hate Tobey Maguire?

The Cider House Rules. That was an epic movie.

It was an epic movie because John Irving wrote an epic book and then a mostly good cast acted it and Michael Caine huffed a lot of ether. I’m not giving Tobey Maguire a pass because Charlize Theron is cute.

He was good in The Ice Storm. Totally solid performance. Great book by Rick Moody. Adaptation win. New question: Has Tobey Maguire ever been in a movie NOT based on a book?


WHOA, he’s going to be in the film of Life of Pi as well. But yeah, he made that creepy Brothers movie about coming home from war and being a psycho. Not a book. You know what was great? October Sky.

That wasn’t Tobey Maguire, that was Jake Gyllenhaal.



You know, Tobey Maguire is sort of a poor man’s Jake Gyllenhaal.

Who, coincidentally, stars in my favorite adaptation of all time.

Lord of the Rings?

Brokeback Mountain. Based on one of Annie Proulx’s short stories. The dialogue is almost word-for-word. Very impressive.

I miss Heath Ledger.

I miss him too. I miss him too.


DIESEL A.V. Club: Indie-Love from Natalie Serber


 Natalie Serber, author of Shout Her Lovely Name, for the ABA's Why Indies Matter campaign at our Oakland Store.


Store Sightings: Literary Tattoos


Check out the great literary tattoos of some of our customers.

Have a bookish tattoo you'd like to share? Show us, via email or in person, and we'll post it on the blog!




Three Good Things: Experiments in Theater, Workspace, and on the Home Front


1. Page to Stage.

 Hebbel am Ufer, an experimental theater group based in Berlin, has taken on a 24-hour-performance-project of adapting David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, not just for the stage, but for the city of Berlin. Slate's Aaron Wiener writes: "This isn’t entertainment in the traditional sense. It’s Wallace-style capital-E Entertainment, whose primary purpose isn’t to bring enjoyment—though it can be enjoyable—but to captivate, to incapacitate, like the novel’s deadly eponymous film whose viewers are so thoroughly entertained that they cease to eat, drink, sleep and, eventually, live."

Read more.


2. Getting Out More.

 There's a general consensus, when it comes to the myth of the productive writer, that one can only battle writer's block in a Kaczynski-chic cabin with a fifth of whiskey. I'm not saying that that doesn't sound like fun, but a new study from the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that the moderate commotion of, say, a crowded coffee shop actually boosts creativity. It has something to do with the mind's natural response to distraction--or perhaps it is the by-product of fighting distraction--it's very scientific. Read the article in The Atlantic


3. Building a Child's (digital) Library.

 Every year it gets more and more difficult for books to compete for a child's attention. These aren't the green-slime evils of Nickelodeon anymore, friends, kids have their own iPads and those iPads have Angry Birds. Here are some great tips for re-purposing those touch screens as e-readers in a productive way. I love that the second tip is "co-reading," that is, reading with your child. We may find entertaining substitutes for a good book, but there's no substitute for story time, just the two of you.

On Display: The School's Out for the Summer Book Review

Many thanks to Mr. Villarreal's 5th grade class from Chabot Elementary School (also known as "The Crazy Bald Guy Clones") for all their wonderful book reviews. Each student wrote a recommendation for a book they read this past year and helped us build a "School's-Out-For-The-Summer" Book Review display in our Oakland store. The class visited us last week to check out their handiwork--a great time was had by all!


The display will be up all month. Come by and see what all the hip kids are reading.

The Short Story Month Takeaway

Short Story Month might be over, but that doesn't make short fiction any less sweet. Check out these links and keep up with shorts all year round.

1. Glimmer Train: Glimmer Train started in 1990 to publish great literary fiction by established and emerging short-story writers. They've launched many a career by paying unknown authors for their unsolicited stories. Subscribe. Submit.

2. HOOT: Hoot is a miniature literary review, featuring artwork, poetry, quotes, and works of fiction under 150 words on a postcard. You get a whole year's subscription for just $14. Order it for yourself or send it to a friend!

3. NYC Midnight: This organization hosts competitions for filmmakers, playwrights, and all manner of storyteller (they just finished their 2012 Short Story Writing Comp)--challenging them to produce original work under constraints of time and topic. The competition is fierce and the payout is pretty decent. Enter.

4. Coppyblogger: Here are the results of the Twitter Writing Contest, a challenge to tell a whole story in just 140 characters. If you have the gift of Tweet, consider entering next year.

5. Best American: You can scour the internet for great short stories, or you can put your trust in the people who do that sort of thing for a living. Last year's The Best American Short Stories , edited by Geraldine Brooks, is particularly stunning, featuring authors who are both masters and innovators.

6. The New Yorker: The other old stand-by, of course, is The New Yorker...and Harper's, and The Atlantic, etc...magazines with a commitment to great writing, the support of great authors, and the health of the literary community. Read this story from Maile Meloy and then renew your subscription.

Video from World Book Night

World Book Night is an annual celebration designed to spread a love of reading and books. This year, it saw tens of thousands of people go out into their communities to spread the joy and love of reading by giving out free World Book Night paperbacks.

Below are some videos starring a few of the many people who came through to World Book Night at all three DIESEL Bookstores. Check 'em out!

Photo Gallery: World Book Night

Thanks to all who made World Book Night 2012 a great success!


Happy Short Story Month!

Of all the arbitrarily assigned, date-oriented celebration-periods, Short Story Month is my favorite (except Talk-Like-A-Pirate-Day, which I think goes without saying). This is the month where we celebrate the short and sweet; those authors who possess great economy with words; those who waste not and, therefore, leave us wanting for nothing. I will not sully the concise spirit of Sho-Sto-Mo (better abbrv. forthcoming) by rambling on--instead I will share with you two of my favorite short-short stories: the first from Auguston Monterros and the second from Ernest Hemingway.




30 Poetry Videos in 30 Days

National Poetry Month Banner


For the month of April, we have created a video poem for each day. Spread the word and, most importantly, enjoy!