Chabon Lectures on Poe

Following the news that he’d been hired to revise the script for Disney’s John Carter of Mars, Michael Chabon took to Northwestern University on Monday to deliver a lecture on — what else — Edgar Allen Poe.

The Daily Northwestern reports that Chabon recited Poe’s poem “Ulalume,” “his rendition was more performance than presentation.” A blog maintained by three MFA graduates in Montana says Chabon then went on to discuss how to instill horror into writing. He also could relate to Poe, the Northwestern reports.

“Bookish, homely, clumsy, bright, friendless, arrogant and self-pitying – I was all those things at the same time,” Chabon said. “The tag of ‘nerd’ did not come into general use in the school corridors of my hometown until the following year and words like ‘geek’ or ‘fanboy’ or even, in its full derogatory richness, ‘loser’ remained years away from finding their way onto the ‘kick me’ sign I wore taped to my back.”

The Chicago Tribune, in an article previewing the lecture, asked Chabon why he chose to lecture on Poe.

“Well, it was either Poe or Robert Ludlum,” Chabon said. “In the end, I just pulled the trigger and picked Poe. [Laughs] I’m totally kidding. The writers I tend to like are the writers who meet you at any point you return to them. So, you know, when you read Poe when you’re a kid, you notice the obvious, surface appeal of Poe — a lot of the gothic horror and the extreme states of consciousness and the macabre imagery. But when I go to Poe now, at the age of almost 46, I’m a lot less interested in that sort of stuff now. When I go to Poe now, there’s the incredible sense of loss. The ache of loss that permeates Poe.”

The Tribune diverged from Poe to ask Chabon about other topics. The author says he thinks a Kavalier & Clay movie will “eventually” get made, despite past road bumps. Asked if he was worried if the Mysteries of Pittsburgh movie might give a new life to questions about his sexuality, Chabon said he “didn’t care.” The reporter then asked if he was “uncomfortable” being identified as a bisexual author.

“Yeah, well, uncomfortable because I’m not bisexual,” Chabon said. “Uncomfortable isn’t even the right word. It would be like if I was identified as a Mennonite novelist. To quote Seinfeld — not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not the case. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter one way or the other.”

Chabon Discusses Next Book

More details about Michael Chabon’s next novel leaked out during a talk he gave Monday in San Francisco.

During the Q&A session, Chabon said he was writing a “naturalistic” novel about two families in Berkeley, author Frances Dinkelspiel wrote on her blog. Dinelspiel speculates that Chabon’s previous writings on Berkeley may suggest what themes may appear in the book, including suburban homogenization.

Chabon previously has said the novel would be set in and around the contemporary Bay Area. “I would like to get a new novel going,” Chabon said during a chat hosted by The Washington Post in 2007. “I would like it to be set in the present day and feel right now the urge to do something more mainstream than my recent work has been.”

The novel has been reported to be tentatively scheduled for 2011.

Chabon also gave an update on the film adaptations of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. The latter has finally found a distributer and should hit theaters sometime in the future, Dinelspiel says. Kavalier & Clay, on the other hand, “is not going anywhere,” she reports.

Kavalier Next for Daldry?

Will The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay be Stephen Daldry’s next film project?

Hard to tell, based on a series of often contradictory interviews and articles with Daldry that appeared during the last month in various publications in connection to his newest film, The Reader. Often, he says he doesn’t know. Yet as recently as Monday, Bloomberg reported that the long-delayed Kavalier would be his next gig.

On December 8, Daldry told ComingSoon.Net that the adaptation of the book isn’t dead yet. “I sincerely hope that Kavalier & Clay hasn’t been lost and forgotten and that Scott and I do get back on the track as soon as we can,” he said. That said, Daldry noted money could be an issue. “Kavalier & Clay is an expensive movie and I do think in the end it will depend on how confident or not Paramount feels about spending that kind of money,” he said.

A day later, IFC Film News asked if Kavalier was in trouble since Daldry didn’t have another film lined up. “No,” Daldry replied. “You know, I went into the comic book world hugely and vastly, and enjoyed that enormously. I do sincerely hope that that will come back into the fray. I love it, and all of Michael’s work. He’s an amazing writer and he wrote a fantastic script for it himself.

The next day, New York Magazine asked him point blank if Kavalier was next. “I don’t know. TBD,” Daldry said. “Call [Paramount Pictures CEO] Brad Grey now and ask him. [Laughs] He’s the one holding the keys to the kingdom of Kavalier & Clay.”

All those interviews would suggest it’s stuck. Yet in the last few days, news agencies have reported the movie is Daldry’s next project. Bloomberg and The Independent both reported this week that Daldry plans to or hopes to next direct Kavalier, though no supporting quotes were provided. The Independent did note Daldry also hopes to film an adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s children’s tale The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

Kavalier Script Review Online

A blog that says it obtained a copy of Michael Chabon’s screenplay adaptation of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay calls the script “a skillful and faithful adaptation of wonderful source material.”

Big Shiny Robot!, a blog that describes itself as a source for “nerd news,” posted the positive review today of what it says was the seventh draft of Chabon’s script, dated May 12, 2002. The reviewer says while the story was compressed, “not for a minute did I feel like I was missing any part of the story.”

“Chabon included just about everything he could and he does it in a way that truly keeps the spirit of the story and makes you feel like you got the gist of the book,” the blog says.

The site acknowledges that the script was six years old and that Chabon had likely polished it more since the seventh draft. Indeed, Chabon told Comics Continuum back in October 2002 “it took eight drafts of the screenplay before the producer Scott Rudin finally said, ‘OK, you did it.'”

It is one of only two reviews to ever surface online of the script. In July 2002, the now-defunct site Coming Attractions posted a negative review of an unknown draft of the screenplay. The reviewer, Darwin MayFlower, called the script “the merest, most basic trace outline of the novel. I think it’s safe to say this is one of those cases where a novel simply could not be made into a movie, unless you wanted to go the Sergei Bondarchuk route and make it five hours long.”

Big Shiny Robot’s review disagreed. While the ending was “slightly different, it still had very much the same sentimental resonance.” Still, there were changes. The movie was narrated by Thomas Clay, and rather than ending in the 1950s, it ends in 1945 as World War II comes to a close. Thomas is only four when Joe Kavalier returns and isn’t into magic and escapism. “No rubber-band jumping off the Empire State, either,” the review adds.

But the review says other parts are still in, including Kavalier’s stint in Antarctica. The reviewer concludes saying producer Scott Rudin should “get this script into a meaningful production stage before it’s too damn late.”

Kavalier to ‘Come Back Together’

The producer behind the film adaptation of Kavalier & Clay has told Michael Chabon that the movie “will all come back together again,” the author said Tuesday.

During an online chat hosted by The Washington Post, Chabon said the producers had green lighted the movie last summer, with Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman set to star and Stephen Daldry set to direct.

“The production designer had taken his kids out of school in LA and was ready to move to London where the principal interiors were going to be shot,” Chabon said. “And then last fall it all fell apart. I’m not entirely sure why; I’m not privy to the inside information, but my sense is that the studio (Paramount) underwent one of those financial panics that studios are regularly prey to, and many plugs were pulled–including K&C’s.”

“Oh, well, that’s showbiz,” he added.

Nevertheless, Chabon said producer Scott Rudin “assures me that there is no reason to despair and that it will all come back together again.”

“I have no reason at all not to believe him,” he said.

During the chat, Chabon also hinted at what his next project might be.

“I would like to get a new novel going,” he said. “I would like it to be set in the present day and feel right now the urge to do something more mainstream than my recent work has been.”

He also said no new graphic novels starring the Escapist were lined up.