Between the covers: What's really going on in the world of books

Good news and bad news for fans of George RR Martin...

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The Independent Culture

Writers are typically pretty vocal when it comes to the horrific experience of having their books adapted into films – with the rare exception of the recent EL James/Sam Taylor-Johnson/50 Shades collaboration, about which apparently the less said the better. Louis de Bernières said that watching the film of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was like seeing your baby with its ears put on backwards.

Harlan Coben advised, when dealing with Hollywood, that writers should “drive into a desert with a barbed wire fence, and you throw the manuscript over, they throw the money over, and you run and they run”.

The process of being adapted for the theatre has not been the source of as much public discourse, but all that should change at this weekend’s Page to Stage festival at the Hampstead Theatre in London. Kathy Lette, who appeared on Friday, told Between the Covers: “Asking a novelist if they like the film or stage adaptation of their novel is a little like asking a turkey if it likes Christmas.” Her first experience involved a screenwriter “with the cold, hungry stare of a raptor about to seize a rabbit”.

Most producers, she says, “couldn’t produce a urine sample”. But fortunately, “stage adaptations are usually a happier experience”. Today’s speakers include Paul O’Grady, Celia Imrie, Lynda la Plante, Ian Bostridge, and Doris Kearns Goodwin, a White House speechwriter – which makes her the real life Rob Lowe from The West Wing (hampsteadtheatre.com).

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Good news and bad news for fans of George R R Martin, with the announcement that he is ditching the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga and this year’s San Diego Comicon ... so that he can get on with writing the next novel in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. Many of his fans are never happy, of course. He writes them so well; but he writes them so slowly .... So, the final, teasing sentence in his most recent blog is sure to send them into a tailspin. “Should I complete and deliver Winds of Winter before these cons roll round,” he writes, “I reserve the right to change my mind.”

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Many thanks to a new book, Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World, (Square Peg, June), for a delightful Japanese word tsundoku – or “leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled together with other unread books”.

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