Fifty Shades hits sales milestone

In Thursday’s Times Arts, Briefly, James’ Fifty Shades of Grey has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. Other series that have reached 100 million are Harry Potter, Twilight and Nancy Drew. I seem to remember reading Nancy Drew books in one summer, along with marathon games of canasta.

On the same page was an article about dropping lines of dialogue and the names of forgotten actresses in a new play, “The Tribute Artist.”  (They were Mary Astor, Margaret Sullavan, Norma Shearer, Charo, Pearl Bailey and Verdura Jewelry.) My score was perfect except for the jewelry. Dang!

“The Forever Girl”

One of Alexander McCall Smith’s newest titles is “The Forever Girl.”  The prolific McCall Smith has so many series going that it is difficult to accurately state if this is his newest book. 

“The Forever Girl” is a stand-alone novel, but like so many of his other books, the chief characters are women.  This contemporary story is set in various places around the world:  the Cayman Islands, Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Singapore.  Clover, the daughter of an American mother and a Scottish father, was born and grew up in the Cayman Islands.  She is part of a small community of ex-pats who live on the island.  As a child she formed deep friendships with two other children of ex-pats:  Teddy and James.  At an early age, she realizes that she has deep feelings for James.  These feelings mature into love.  She will be his forever girl.

Unfortuantely, Clover can’t express her feelings for James.  As the years go by, and they both leave the island to go to schools in the UK, she can’t forget her feelings.  Friends tell her to move on, but she can’t.   The few times she crosses paths with James, she gets the feeling that he will never love her because he sees her as a sister.

In the hands of another writer, this plot would be very much like a soap opera.  However, McCall Smith really understands Clover and her inability to forget James.  He has created a fully-formed character, and even though the reader might be thinking, “Come on Clover do something or forget him,” in the end we come to admire her persistence.

VIDA – Women in Literary Arts

I’m not sure what kind of an outfit VIDA is, but they had an article in the NYTimes that revealed book reviews by men greatly outnumber those by women. New York Review of Books, 212 to 52, Atlantic, 14 to 3, Harper’s, 24 to 10.  Their goal is to point out the gender bias and hopefully reduce it. There has been some improvement recently: The New York Times Book Review, 2012 400 to 327, 2013 412 to 393. And the Paris Review, 2012 70 to18, 2013 47 to 48!

Academy Award films

I have set up a display of recent, as well as, older Academy Award winning films in the Best Picture category.  Currently, we have three 2014 nominated films in this category:  “Captain Phillips,” “Gravity,” and “Nebraska.”  Next week we will add “Dallas Buyers Club,” and “12 Years a Slave.”

Recently, I saw “All Is Lost” starring Robert Redford.  According to many critics, Redford gave the performance of his career.  I agree.  Set in the Indian Ocean, Redford plays “The Man.”  Sailing by himself, his sail boat is damaged, and he must somehow get to land.  Redford is the only character in this film, and there is really no dialogue.  This does not seem to be a winning combination, but it truly is.  The acting and direction, J.C. Chandor directed,  are superb, although neither Chandor or Redford received Academy Award nominations.  Redford did received the New York Film critics award for best actor.  If you get a chance, definitely see this movie.

20 Feet from Stardom

This is a fabulous documentary about backup singers who perform, well, backup for famous singers.  Actually, it was a “job” I never had thought about.  The singers they interview are fantastic as singers and as people  –  their talent is in their being able to blend and add depth to the star’s sound. Their personal stories are interesting and the stars that “sing their praises” make the case for the broad and special talent backups have.