Friday, 30 January 2009


A welcome online fiction showcase has been launched by Harper Perennial, as reported by 3:AM. Curated by Cal Morgan, Fifty-Two Stories will publish new work every week this year by both established and emerging writers of the form.

The series got off to an auspicious start with its first offering. Simon Van Booy's 'The Missing Statues' has a classic storytelling set-up: two strangers meet and fall into conversation about events from another time and place that are somehow connected to the here and now. One of them tries to comfort the other, saying: “I simply want to know why a missing statue has reduced a young American businessman to tears.”

Like the statues of the title, everything in the story is at one remove from reality: the narrator speaks of Venice, but only as it is reimagined in Las Vegas. His tale involves a man who pretends to be an Italian gondolier, mimes the voice of Enrico Caruso and recognises his own daughter in a woman whose small child he befriends.

British-born Van Booy's writing is highly coloured and romantic, but manages to skirt sentimentality. There is real feeling behind these facades, these masks and wishful imaginings.

The story is taken from a forthcoming collection called Love Begins in Winter, which is published in the US in May, and in the UK in November. It should be worth investigating, as should the rest of Cal Morgan's choices for Fifty-Two Stories this year.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009


The Roving Editor started life blogging about the links between literature and movies under the title The Word on Film. It seems appropriate to return to this relatively unexplored zone via Zoetrope All-Story, the literary magazine published by Francis Ford Coppola.

This time last year we knew of two forthcoming films based on F Scott Fitzgerald stories, The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttton and Pat Hobby. Here is screenwriter Eric Roth in the current issue of Zoetrope on adapting Benjamin Button. The magazine also carries the story itself, though it's not available to read online. It was originally published in the collection Tales of the Jazz Age.

Meanwhile the only update on Pat Hobby is that it is being lined up for production this year; the film company's synopsis reads: 'Fitzgerald’s beloved hack fights for a writer’s buck in the Hollywood studio system.'

The author himself was no stranger to penury, of course, but these days he'd have found it a lot less difficult to make a beautiful dollar in Tinseltown: as well as the aforementioned adaptations, there is also news of yet another remake of The Great Gatsby, this time by Baz Luhrmann. However Variety has this cautionary tale of the mixed artistic and box-office fortunes of F Scott on screen.

Francis Coppola should be watching all of this with especial interest: he wrote the screenplay for the faithful but unloved 1974 adaptation of Gatsby.

Friday, 9 January 2009


Among a handful of literary names on the Observer's 'hotlist' for 2009 is the young New Zealander Eleanor Catton. From what I have seen of her work, the interest is entirely justified. 'The Outing' has the mingled humour and menace of a Hitchcock movie in miniature, while 'Necropolis' is a beautifully observed depiction of a dead-end job. It's no surprise to see that the author is a fan of Muriel Spark.

'The Outing' has apparently been reworked as a scene in Catton's debut novel The Rehearsal. According to the Observer this is due to be published by Granta in the UK in July, though this edition is not currently listed on Amazon, and the publisher does not appear to have a website at present. More details when we have them.