[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Not really bookarts, yet related...
- To: BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
- Subject: Not really bookarts, yet related...
- From: "Peter D. Verheyen" <pdverhey@DREAMSCAPE.COM>
- Date: Mon, 8 Dec 1997 15:07:17 -0500
- Message-Id: <199712082007.MAA21546@SUL-Server-2.Stanford.EDU>
- Sender: "The Book Arts: binding, typography, collecting" <BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
Forwarded without permission:
A Hollywood Gift Says 'I Love Literature'
By ALEX KUCZYNSKI
>From The New York Times, December 7, 1997
Brad Pitt gave one to Alan J. Pakula to celebrate the completion
of "The Devil's Own." Johnny Depp and the director Paul Thomas Anderson
("Boogie Nights") are collectors, and the high-flying agents of Creative
Artists Agency are such repeat buyers that they telephone daily to an
emporium on Melrose Avenue that supplies Hollywood's latest status
Mercedes-Benzes? Prada suits? No. Rare books.
Expensive, first-edition volumes of classic works of literature
are hot properties in Hollywood, where reading has traditionally been
limited to the single-page "coverage" of scripts, and books are often
bought according to an interior decorator's color scheme.
The trend has spread to the film community in New York as well.
"There's no doubt about it, it's become sort of the thing to do," said
Andreas Brown, the owner of Gotham Book Mart in Manhattan, where Frank
Langella bought a volume for Whoopi Goldberg, and Peter Bogdanovich and
Woody Allen poke through the rare-book offerings with some regularity.
According to rare-book dealers on both coasts, most books bought
by the film community, for prices ranging from $500 to $45,000, are gifts
-- from actor to director, or from agent to client.
Michael Ovitz, the former chief of Creative Artists Agency, kept a
list of clients at the Heritage Book Shop, a store on Melrose Avenue in
West Hollywood that is the industry's favorite rare-book source. Lee
Biondi, the store's manager, says Creative Artists agents order when they
are looking to appease a disgruntled star or welcome a director or
screenwriter to a project.
Another Los Angeles shop, William Dailey Rare Books, also on
Melrose Avenue, keeps lists of agents and their clients' birthdays on
file. "They'll call up and say, 'In April, it's so-and-so's birthday, and
he's interested in first editions,' or 'So-and-so is interested in nature
books,"' William Dailey, the owner, said.
The trend might be traced to Hollywood's current fad of adapting
classic authors like Jane Austen and Henry James -- the latest such film,
"Great Expectations," based on the Dickens novel, with Ethan Hawke and
Gwyneth Paltrow, is scheduled to open Dec. 31. But the craze probably owes
even more to Hollywood's age-old insecurity over the enduring cultural
value of its output.
In an industry where writers are perennially stuck at the bottom
of the totem pole, the punchline to the rare-book fad is that many old
editions are not meant to be read. To read them risks damaging their musty
pages and frail vellum bindings. The new class of Hollywood literati can
take credit for being passionate about literature without having to do the
"It looks like you've put some thought into the gift," said Biondi
of the Heritage shop, which also does business regularly with Walt Disney
Co. and the production management company Brillstein-Grey. "It looks
complimentary because it assumes that the recipient is capable of
appreciating good literature."
Lou and Ben Weinstein, who have owned the Heritage shop for 34
years, often know what books are being made into movies before the trade
papers like Daily Variety do, because they get calls for rare copies of
the book to be sent as a gift to lure a potential writer.
"First, there's the development-deal courtship gift," explained
Biondi, who speaks in the intricate, insider lingo of the film community,
not the muted, professorial tones one might expect from an antiquarian
book dealer. "When they take the first meeting, they'll often enclose a
first edition of the book. Then there's the start gift, when development
is over and there's a start date. You know, when the production has been
green-lighted. Those seem to come mostly from management and agents."
The last phase: the "wrap gift," which often comes from the
members of the cast to other people involved in the production. For
example, Mitch Glazer, the screenwriter who adapted "Great Expectations,"
received a rare first edition of the book from the cast.
Pitt's wrap gift in late 1996 to Pakula, his director, was a first
edition of James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake," worth from $2,000 to $5,000.
Winona Ryder bought a manuscript in longhand by a 19th-century author for
Martin Scorsese from Heritage. "I can't tell you what it was," Lou
Weinstein said. "Maybe it's a Christmas present. We don't want to spoil
It was probably inevitable that the latest Hollywood fad would
show up in -- what else? -- a movie. The writer-director Neil LaBute,
whose "In the Company of Men" was a surprise independent hit last year,
has set several scenes of his new film, "Your Friends and Neighbors," in
Arundel Books, an antiquarian shop in Hollywood.
"In L.A. it seems to be a common theme that people are exchanging
rare books or first-edition books," Stephen Pevner, a producer of the
film, said. "So on a chance meeting all the characters end up passing
through this bookstore. It signifies how hip first-edition books are."
LaBute, who recently considered buying a set of antique books that
once belonged to the producer Michael Todd, said: "Californians love to
have material in their life that is pre-approved. You know, 'I have walked
where Valentino walked. I have slept where Flynn slept. I have read what
Michael Todd read.' There's something about a rare book, a book that
belonged to someone else, that stands the test of time. That's as
comfortable as it gets out here."
Some dealers speculate that the trend started when Jeffrey
Katzenberg and the journalist Kim Masters squabbled over an article Ms.
Masters wrote for Vanity Fair in 1994.
As a peace offering, Katzenberg, who that year had resigned as the
chief of Disney's film studio, sent Ms. Masters an expensive early edition
of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." The volume was all "green leather,
gilt, gold-edged, the works," recalled Ms. Masters, who returned the gift
three times on ethical grounds before Katzenberg stopped sending it back
Last year, Cynthia Parsons McDaniel, a public-relations
representative for Gramercy Pictures, gave Daniel Day-Lewis, for whom she
once worked as a press agent, a limited, illustrated first edition of
Arthur Miller's "Homely Girl, A Life: And Other Stories" on the occasion
of his wedding to Miller's daughter, Rebecca.
David Watkin, a cinematographer who is in New York shooting Sidney
Lumet's remake of "Gloria" with Sharon Stone, wandered into Argosy Books
on East 59th Street recently to buy a rare book as a gift to a major
figure on the set, said Judith Lowry, the store's antiquarian specialist.
She declined to name the intended recipient.
Finding nothing suitable, Watkin summoned James Cummins, an
independent rare-book dealer, to the set.
Cummins, whose clients include the actor James Spader, brought
several rare-book catalogs and wound up spending hours on the set. But the
day's biggest thrill was when his son, 14, had his picture taken with Ms.
"David is a very serious book collector," Cummins said. "And he
does give them to people in the industry."
A few dealers bemoan the antiquarian arrivistes, who in the eyes
of some tend to be less well-educated in the subtleties of rare-book
collecting and more ambitious about proving that they've got the best,
rarest, most expensive edition of "Moby-Dick."
"The phenomenon is really about surface money," said Larry
McMurtry, the author, who is a part-owner of several bookstores around the
United States and a rare-book collector himself. "People who buy books
like that have a lot of money, and it's fresh, new, Hollywood money.
Hollywood is a town where to spend $15,000 or $20,000 on a present is
common, whether it's a jewel or a watch or a car or a rare first edition."
For some Hollywood figures, however, the preference for books over
other costly baubles is a welcome development.
Lynda Obst, the producer of "Contact" and "One Fine Day," said: "I
would say this is a great leap forward for a group of people who have been
known to order books by the yard. In the past, books have been decorating
issues in Hollywood. The fact that they're being ordered individually, by
title and author, is a great leap forward." And what rare books does Ms.
Obst receive from the stars she knows?
"None," she sighed. "I guess I'm not in the right gift bracket."
Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company
>>> I love working in the library. There is <<<
>>something to be said for working in a place bound in leather.<<
Peter D. Verheyen <wk> 315.443.9937 <fax>315.443.9510