Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Tingle

“Although we read with our minds, the seat of artistic delight is between the shoulder blades. That little shiver behind is quite certainly the highest form of emotion that humanity has attained when evolving pure art and pure science. Let us worship the spine and its tingle.”
― Vladimir Nabokov

Thursday, August 9, 2018


When people ask why I stopped writing screenplays, I tell them about MEG.
MEG was the ultimate high-concept picture. Box office gold in two words: "Jurassic Shark." What studio exec or marketing department wouldn’t chomp at that? Total no-brainer. A global slam-dunk.
All it needed was a good story. I was writing scripts at the time and was hired to write the book/movie pitch, based on Steve Alten’s well-researched but flabby unsold manuscript (his first) called “White Death.” It had been turned down by over forty publishers. Steve’s literary manager and I re-titled it “Megalodon,” then MEG, re-wrote the first 100 pages, and re-structured and outlined the remainder of the story. Instead of taking it to New York first, he sent it straight to the studios.
Chomp, chomp. The 100 pages + outline sold overnight to Disney for “seven figures”--the writer’s Holy Grail. Took that to NY and made a two-book deal for another seven (double what it fetched in Hollywood).
Pop the champagne!
That was back in 1996. We thought the movie would be in theaters in a year. It's taken twenty-two.
Twenty-two years in development hell. Endless succession of producers, directors, screenwriters, stars. World’s longest slam-dunk. To the point that the movie--out this weekend--is nearly unrecognizable to me.
Imagine how many years you can waste trying to get your not-high-concept screenplays produced. (I don’t have to imagine. I tried.) Meantime over those decades, Steve Alten wrote a shelf-full of books and built a successful career.
Moral: Life’s too short. Want to tell stories? Write novels.

Monday, August 6, 2018


"Destruction" from "The Course of Empire" (1836)
Thomas Cole
"We have not fully recovered from the Dark Ages: the insecurity that excites greed, the fear that fosters cruelty, the poverty that breeds filth and ignorance, the filth that generates disease, the ignorance that begets credulity, superstition, occultism—these still survive amongst us; and the dogmatism that festers into intolerance and Inquisitions only awaits opportunity or permission to oppress, kill, ravage, and destroy. In this sense modernity is a cloak put upon medievalism, which secretly remains; and in every generation civilization is the laborious product and precarious obligating privilege of an engulfed minority."
~Will Durant - "The Age of Faith: The Story of Civilization, Volume IV"