Tuesday, 3 December 2013

My Movie Business

My Movie Business
My Movie Business
John Irving
   John Irving's memoir begins with his account of the distinguished career and medical writings of the novelist's grandfather Dr Frederick C. Irving, a renowned obstetrician and gynaecologist, and includes Mr Irving's incisive history of abortion politics in the United States. But My Movie Business focuses primarily on the thirteen years John Irving spent adapting his novel The Cider House Rules for the screen - for four different directors.
   Mr Irving also writes about the failed effort to make his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, into a movie, about two of the films that were made from his novels (but not from his screenplays), The World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire; about his slow progress at shepherding his screenplay of A Son of the Circus into production.

   Regular readers of this blog will know how much I adore John Irving’s novels. He crafts stories of epic length, populated with fascinating and memorable characters, with a writing style that is at once sweet and loving yet outrageous, sexual and bawdy.
  Regular readers will also know that, despite my love and respect for his novels, I cared little for his first memoir, The Imaginary Girlfriend. While I still loved Irving’s writing and story telling, the subject matter simply left me cold.
  I’m delighted to report that his second memoir, My Movie Business, didn’t have this problem. I was hooked from the start and raced through the book.
   As the title suggests, My Movie Business deals with Irving’s experiences with the film industry in general and the process he undertook in adapting his novel The Cider House Rules for the screen in particular.
   It was a subject I was interested to read about as typically, Irving’s novels have had a tricky time making the leap into the movie theatre. The Cider House Rules, while very enjoyable, feels far too slight compared to the epic novel that spawned it, the adaptation of A prayer for Own Meany differed so much from the novel that the entire cast was renamed, giving us the film Simon Birch. The less said about the shambolic adaptation of The Hotel New Hampshire the better.

   I was surprised therefore to learn that Irving has been for the most part, pleased with the adaptations to his novel. While only The World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire are mentioned, he says he enjoys them very much and it is obvious, from his notes on the Cider house screenplay that he is passionate about the film.

   Most books centring around the film industry are written either by critics or people working within the industry. It was interesting to read a book written by an outsider to the bizarre world of the movies and readers will be fascinated to learn how difficult the act of producing a film can be during the course of the book, Irving writes numerous versions of The Cider House Rules over the course of thirteen years for four separate directors, as well as drafts of a screenplay of his novel A Son of the Circus, which has yet to see the light of day.
   During all of this we’re treated to several amusing and enjoyable anecdotes from Irving as well as some insight into his writing process.

   If you’re a fan of Irving or a movie lover in general I’d recommend you pick this one up. It’s a quick, entertaining insight to Irving’s creative process and the frustrations he encountered in bringing characters he loves to the screen. You’ll love it.
John Irving

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