"Virtual tour" means that a film of McEwan is being sent around to bookstores instead of the author himself. The brainchild of Powell's Books in Oregon, the film was unveiled at BEA and has been widely discussed in the trade and on blogs such as GalleyCat. Thompson went to the premier screening in Washington, sponsored by Olsson's, at the "funky" Warehouse Theater on 7th St.
The lights go down, the credits roll, and heeeeere's Ian. He's mild-mannered, soft-spoken and as up close and personal as he could be without actually being there....I just viewed the trailer for the film on the WaPo site, which means that I watched:
What else does the film offer that you wouldn't get at an in-person reading?
Well, there are countless moody pictures of Chesil Beach itself, on the Dorset coast. And there are numerous commentators, among them McEwan's Doubleday editor, Nan Talese, who talks about being astounded at McEwan's insight into women's feelings. When she brought this up with him, Talese reports, "He was very sweet and said rather quietly: 'Oh, well, I've known a few women.' "
But for an author event to work without an author, both McEwan and Weich believe, it has to be about more than watching a movie.
"It's really what happens the moment the film is finished that matters the most," McEwan said at a recent publishing conference in New York, where he saw the finished Powell's product for the first time. It's "what readers then say to each other -- the idea of communities of readers responding to this."
- a commercial for Windows Mobile;
- a commercial for a film that's a commercial for a book.
The trailer is icky-sticky treacly, more suited to genre romance than "literary" fiction. From the outset, with McEwan intoning over soulful strings, "They were young, educated and both virgins..." I was rolling my eyes. By the time he read a passage describing Our Hero licking Our Heroine's nipple, I was squirming. No way I could watch the entire film without groaning, howling or laughing uproariously. Probably all three.
News flash: McEwan's a lousy reader, even after (presumably) multiple takes.
"The reader in me doesn't especially want to see this before I read the book," says [Susan] Coll, who seems the most skeptical of the three novelists [who helped lead a discussion after the DC screening]. And "at what point, I wonder, does it feel like an infomercial?"Answer: Immediately.
Here's another news flash, per my previous post:
People don't want to be read to; they want to connect with the author. The audience in Washington was connecting to Susan Coll and the two other authors who spoke with--not at--them, not Ian McEwan.
Bella concludes: PLENTY!
As for McEwan himself, he's a happy camper. After the New York screening, he pronounced the Powell's film "very lightly and carefully done,"....
Besides, compared with what he described, with restrained horror, as "the three-week stab around the United States and the 25 media escorts" -- well, what's not to like about a virtual tour?
Publishers, how about taking the money you'd spend on a fancy-shmancy bookfommercial (TM) and using it to send a real live author--with a real live personality--out on a real live book tour? I'm sure you'd get plenty of takers. I could even suggest a few myself.