Academy Awards prove yet again that books are rich pickings for filmmakers

A number of winning actors, producers and directors at this year’s Academy Awards owe their Oscars to Standing on the shoulders of giants finalan author’s inspiration. Birdman, which won awards for best film, director and original screenplay, is based on a Broadway stage adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’. Publishers Weekly reports that print sales of the short story collection of the same name have jumped 121% in the 12 weeks since the film opened in October.

This particular short story of Carver’s has an interesting history. In 2009, Vintage UK published it as a standalone story under Carver’s original title, Beginners. In addition to renaming it, Vintage removed the extensive edits and textural additions made by Carver’s first editor, Gordon Lish. The publication sparked an international debate about the role of an editor in deciding the final version of an author’s work and where to draw the fine line between editing and rewriting.

After British publication, Beginners was also published as a standalone title in 22 territories. However, in America it has only ever been released as part of the Library of America’s 2009 publication of Raymond Carver: Collected Stories.

Now, Vintage US is planning to release the first standalone American print edition of Beginners, that is, of the unedited manuscript version of ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’. Vintage will also release e-book editions of both titles in September 2015, marking the first time any of Carver’s works have been published in digitally. It’s a sad reminder of how many good books from previous generations are still not available to those book lovers who prefer reading digitally. On the plus side, it’s a perfect example of how a good story never dies.

Other movies based on books that picked up awards were:

  • Still Alice is based on Lisa Genova’s novel of the same name (S&S), for Julianne Moore as best actress,
  • The Theory of Everything is based on Jane Hawking’s memoir Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen (Alma Books) for Eddie Redmayne as best actor (Eddie Redmayne),
  • The Imitation Game, which won best adapted screenplay, is based on Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges (Vintage),
  • American Sniper won the Oscar for best sound editing and based on American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle &  Scott McEwen (HarperCollins), and
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig, won four Oscars – for best original score, production design, costume design, makeup and hairstyling.

Do you enjoy movies based on books, or do you wish filmmakers would use more original screenplays?

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