Space porn: These images are (quite literally) out of this world
Joyce Maynard is back in the spotlight with the release of “Labor Day” — and she wants to talk pie.
The novelist and avid baker has seen her 2009 novel get adapted by “Young Adult” director Jason Reitman — and though the film picked up a Golden Globe nomination for star Kate Winslet, Maynard was focused on specifics of the set dressing. She told Salon that she taught director Reitman to make a pie, baking as he recorded with his iPhone. “I didn’t know you could make an iPhone movie,” she marveled.
Hollywood, indeed, isn’t the natural environment for a novelist perhaps best known for scurrilous misreadings of her life story; her memoir dealing in part with her relationship with the late J.D. Salinger has in many ways defined her public image. “I’m accustomed to this situation; I’ve lived with it for 41 years,” she told Salon, explaining that she was similar to the so-called desperate convicted murderer who, played by Josh Brolin, alternates the quasi-kidnapping of a mother and son with tenderly joining them in pie making. Both, she explained, contain more than meets the eye.
Maynard told Salon that the state of contemporary fiction is not where it ought to be in terms of gender parity — “Women writers get categorized and the whole category of ‘women’s fiction’—there is not a ‘men’s fiction.’” But perhaps the scent of pie will lure in men and women alike to the multiplex, and then the bookstore, this weekend.
I was wondering if you could describe the involvement you had in the film adaptation of “Labor Day” — specifically the pie-making scenes?
Sure. That literally was my involvement. Before then I understood very well that when, as a writer, you’re being adapted, you’d better be willing to let it go and put it in other hands. The best thing you can do is just put it into good hands and I did because I had huge respect for Jason Reitman and I was familiar with his earlier film. But I did say to Jason when he first called me up and said he wanted to make this movie, I said … well, he actually asked, “Can I come over to your house to watch you make a pie?” Which confirmed my sense that he had his priorities straight, and he did do that. He did a beautiful little iPhone movie — I didn’t know you could make an iPhone movie — of the pie. Then, when the cast was assembled, on day one of the shoot, Paramount flew me to Shelburne Falls, Mass., to teach Josh how to make the pie and that was really important to me. I don’t know if you’ve seen the film but the scene is really crucial and I wanted him to look like someone who really had command of pie. And I wanted the pie to look like a pie made by a real person, not a food stylist, which is how a pie looks to a good pie-maker, I should say. But I’m not a recipe follower. I wanted it to look very instinctive and organic and sexy, and it did. I mean, I wanted the heat of the relationship of those two to come through in the baking, and to my mind it did.
It still must be a little nerve-wracking to put a novel you really love in someone else’s hands …
Sure. I think the best thing you could do is put it in the hands of the right director. I don’t think it works to sort of — you know, having done that — be second-guessing and try to make too many suggestions. Jason had no obligation to do this, but he showed me the screenplay in a couple of versions and I suggested a few small things. I know what that boy’s voice sounds like very well because he lived in my head for a while. So there would be half of a sentence here or there that I would suggest be changed. But Jason, himself, had said that this is probably the closest adaptation he has ever made or will ever make.
And the big thing that I hope is that when people see these movies they will be moved then to read the book and if they do that, then, of course, they will find parts in the story that couldn’t be in the movie. I don’t fault Jason for it. But the book always has layers and textures that a two-hour movie can’t. So, for me, my ultimate goal is to always get people reading my books.
Also, because the movie has a visual point of view. A book is able to have an internal quality that can’t be depicted on film.
Absolutely. You know I wrote this novel in the voice of the boy and the man that he became. So this enormous amount of, the thinking of this boy, this is between the novel and the film probably — one difference would be the degree to which the story is an aspiration of the coming of age and a young adolescent boy’s own developing sexuality and that would have been very hard to put in the film the way it was in the book. He has a very rich, sort of young, curious, confused, excited, terrified sexual life and we see more of that in the book. And what we get is that girl — that sort of wondrously beauteous girl — showing him the ropes. She was a bigger character in the novel, too.
I wonder the degree to which you feel as though you’ve been appropriately heralded as a novelist versus your personal writing. Do you wish people had read your novels versus your more personal writing, like, for instance, your relationship with Salinger?
Oh, I would love it if they read that book! They don’t read that book is the problem.
They just read about the book …
They read the Google thing. No, by all means I would love to have them read “At Home in the World” and if they do I think they will discover many things that are different than the Google version. It’s rather like “Labor Day.” Is Frank Chambers accurately portrayed as a desperate convicted murderer? Well, there is a little bit more to his story. Certainly there is more to mine. But I’m accustomed to this situation; I’ve lived with it for 41 years. Meanwhile, I’ve published 15 books, only one of which mentions the name of Salinger, and that book is not a book about Salinger either; that’s a book about me and the part of my life that he chose to enter into which was not a story that has been very accurately portrayed.
All I can do is keep on writing my books and I have. It certainly feels very good at this moment in my life, after working so hard and so long, to have a novel that sort of came out a few years ago just get discovered in a very big way. It wasn’t really a bestseller when it first came out but now it is. I can’t describe how I feel.
Do you think the expectations for the sort of books you were meant to write are different for you as a female writer than they would be for a male writer?
I’m sure that that is true and we get categorized. I think it’s very insulting to men as much as it is to women; that it would be supposed that books that deal with relationships and love and emotion would be the territory of women only. I never thought that. I don’t even think in terms of an age group that I write for. I just want to tell a good story and whoever finds it is a welcomed reader. But yes, for sure. Women writers get categorized and the whole category of “women’s fiction” — there is not a “men’s fiction.”
My experience watching people watch this movie — I never get to see people reading my books; it is a very private act, reading — tells me that this is absolutely a story that men relate to as well as women … I make a point at the end of every screening, and I think I’ve done about 12 of them now, to sign books and sometimes it’s long lines, you know, two hours of people, and I want to talk to them all. And the men are at least as much as the women. I think its a story — well, I mean, don’t tell me; I won’t tell them — I think it’s a story that speaks to them.
Were you satisfied with the pies that ended up on-screen?
Oh! Yes! They might be just a little prettier than my pie, which is probably a good idea, but absolutely. In fact, when I went to the first screening of the movie my two sons — who contributed to the inspiration of the character of Adele and Adele’s son — came with me. And my son Charlie, who is now 31, actually got up from his chair and said, “That’s your pie, Mom!” Which, what I think when I see that pie is that’s my mother’s pie and pie is a container for all kinds of history beyond the history of pie.
So yes, I am. I sound like a bit of a Pollyanna and I certainly am not always. But in the case of this film I’m really happy with the job that Jason did bringing a story that was within my head to the screen. I hope that if it’s on the screen people then will come back to how it was in my head.
I hope you make a pie!
Daniel D'Addario is a staff reporter for Salon's entertainment section. Follow him on Twitter @DPD_More Daniel D'Addario.
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