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March 27, 2009

I'll Bring the Popcorn!

Posted by carol
Read, watch and discuss. contributor and North Carolina bookseller Jamie Layton shares some of her reading groups's most successful book and movie pairings.

Most of the year my bookstore closes at 6 p.m., so our reading group meets here as we can have the whole place to ourselves to talk and discuss our books with abandon.

That said, every now and then it is fun for us to "get out of the house" --- particularly in the summer when the store is open (and busier) later. A regular excuse for holding a meeting somewhere else is our "Book and a Movie" night. We rarely do these more than once every eighteen months, thus ensuring memorable evenings.

There are literal hordes of books out there with film adaptations. In fact, check out the dedicated Books into Movies section over at! I've found that a good rule of thumb is to make sure the movie is less than two hours. This is more of a social meeting for us, and people need time to have a bite to eat, a drink and some chit chat. Then it's on to a (highly recommended) abbreviated discussion which, depending on the number of members you may have, is still going to take at least half an hour. So even if you get started at 6 p.m., you're not going to find yourselves sitting down to watch the movie until probably 8:00. With a run time of 120 minutes that puts your movie end time around 10 p.m., and you still need some time for post-movie discussion.

A few, very successful pairings our group has done:

Lolita, book by Vladimir Nabakov, film by Stanley Kubrick (1962). A lot of the black humor in Nabakov's novel can be hard to understand and appreciate until you see the portrayals of Shelly Winters andPeter Sellers and, of course, James Mason as Humbert Humbert. I've never even seen the newer remake with Jeremy Irons because, in my opinion, this version is a masterpiece that cannot be improved upon.

A discussion of any of Iris Murdoch's novels --- The Sea, The Sea; The Bell; Under the Net --- can be followed with a viewing of Iris, the movie adaptation of her husband John Bayley's memoir, Elegy for Iris, which chronicles Murdoch's tragic descent into the Alzheimer's disease which claimed her in 1999.

Coming up for our group soon is Bernhard Schlink's The Reader, which we are all looking forward to. (DVD releases on April 14, 2009). A few other upcoming or recent releases are Richard Yate's Revolutionary Road (June 2), Stephanie Meyer's Twilight (out), Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks (out) and a book club favorite, Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees (out).

A book/movie pairing I was assigned by a college professor that required both reading and watching, was John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman. The legendary Harold Pinter wrote the screenplay, and the equally talented Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons star in a movie I could watch again and again. Pinter's adaptation is stunning.

Once again, take some time to ensure that the book in its original state is one that is going to provide fodder for discussion. After all, between movie channels, NetFlix and your local video store you can watch a $1.99 movie any old time. But getting together with your book club in order to screen the film adaptation of a good book --- that's priceless. Please pass the popcorn!

---Jamie Layton