Portland's "The Phoenix" let me know today about an ambitious new plan by Powell's Books to promote various titles at their stores. Called Out of the Book, it's an attempt to supplement or sometimes completely replace the traditional author reading tour, and instead deliver a short film that introduces both the book and the author to a much wider audience. The film is then distributed to a series of independent bookstores around the world, where each will build an entire evening's worth of entertainment and lit-lover fellowship, all of it based around a screening of the film in a special setting. The first film of the series has just been released (trailer embedded above), regarding Ian McEwan's teeny-tiny new novel On Chesil Beach.
Hmm -- hmm, hmm, hmm. What do you think? Because I'm not sure what to think, frankly. On the one hand, of course, I'm always a proponent of interesting new ways to promote the arts, and if a series of social events based around a digitally distributed film is what it takes to do the trick, then so be it. But then again, doesn't a film about a book defeat the purpose of it being a book in the first place? I love books and I love films, but I love them for two entirely different reasons, and in general feel that it's usually a disaster when trying to combine the two mediums into one project. Plus, does this really supplant the traditional author tour, when all is said and done? Sure, it's nice to see a writer read from their work while on tour, something that could definitely be replaced via short film, but that's not the main reason I go to author appearances in the first place -- I mostly go to watch that author interact extemporaneously in the unrehearsed moment of that event, to see what they have to say when unexpected questions are thrown at them by random strangers. Watching movies can be fun for sure, but in my mind simply can't compare to the dynamic nature of physical, face-to-face events between an artist and his/her fans.
Anyway, for what it's worth, the Chicago screening of "Out of the Book" will be at the Chopin Theatre in Wicker Park (1543 W. Division), on Tuesday, June 19th at 7pm; it's sponsored by local store The Book Cellar, and will cost you $22 to attend, i.e. you must purchase a copy of the book to be allowed inside. (And by the way -- seriously, you're charging $22 for a 180-page book? When we all know it's going to be in the remainder bin for five bucks just a couple of months from now? Sheesh.) As you can tell, I probably will not be attending; if any CCLaP readers do end up going, or attending the screening in another city, do make sure to write up your thoughts and I'll post them here as a guest entry.