For that kind of money, I think I could learn to love Tolstoy

[Via Ta-Nehisi Coates] Ray Bradbury is interviewed in this season’s Paris Review (full interview here).

INTERVIEWER: How important is it to you to follow your own instincts?

BRADBURY: Oh, God. It’s everything. I was offered the chance to write War and Peace for the screen a few decades ago. The American version with King Vidor directing. I turned it down. Everyone said, How could you do that? That’s ridiculous, it’s a great book! I said, Well, it isn’t for me. I can’t read it. I can’t get through it, I tried. That doesn’t mean the book’s bad. I just am not prepared for it. It portrays a very special culture. The names throw me. My wife loved it. She read it once every three years for twenty years. They offered the usual amount for a screenplay like that, a hundred thousand dollars, but you cannot do things for money in this world. I don’t care how much they offer you, and I don’t care how poor you are. There’s only one excuse ever to take money under those circumstances: If someone in your family is horribly ill and the doctor bills are piled up so high that you’re all going to be destroyed. Then I’d say, Go on and take the job. Go do War and Peace and do a lousy job. And be sorry later.

The King Vidor War & Peace came out in 1956. Using the Consumer Price Index, $100,000 then is the equivalent of almost $800,000 now. There are jobs I’d refuse — or ought to refuse* — even for that kind of money, but in a case like this, I think I’d take the gig and then hire my wife to act as Tolstoy’s cheerleader. Your mileage may vary, obviously.

* * *

*After Robert Harris wrote this shameful op-ed piece for the New York Times, Lisa and I had a conversation about what I would do if Roman Polanski offered me serious money to adapt Bad Monkeys for him. The easy answer: say no, and then maybe write a novel about someone who says yes to such a proposal, and comes to grief because of it.

…and two nice blog reviews

Guy Savage over at Mostly Fiction calls Bad Monkeysa genre-bending roller-coaster ride.” There’s also an interview with yours truly.

And Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray suggests Monkeys may have teen crossover appeal. Hey, I’ll take the high-school crowd if I can get it—just please, kids, don’t kill anyone who isn’t really evil. (Thanks to sdn for alerting me to this one.)

I bet Oprah doesn’t do this sort of thing for her guests

One of the lesser villains my protagonist Jane Charlotte encounters in Bad Monkeys is a “serial maimer” named Arlo Dexter. Arlo booby-traps toys and other child-attracting objects with explosives, and leaves them in public places. Jane first learns about this when her handler, Bob True, gives her a child’s notebook filled with crayon drawings depicting Arlo’s crimes in a gruesome comic style. Because the shadowy organization Jane and True work for has a habit of camouflaging its intelligence reports, she at first thinks this notebook is an official document… one in really poor taste. But no, True tells her, it’s a replica of a notebook found during a search of Arlo Dexter’s apartment—he drew the pictures himself.

Paul Gude of was so amused by this scene that, before coming to interview me last month, he created his own replica of Arlo Dexter’s notebook, complete with all of the drawings described in the novel. His initial plan was to spring this on me during the interview, but on the drive over to my house he thought better of it and decided not to risk freaking me out on camera. I actually loved the notebook—it very much appeals to my twisted sense of humor—and while it didn’t make it into the interview footage, it definitely deserves a viewing:

The reason the notebook is in a plastic bag is that Paul, going for that extra dose of psychotic verisimilitude, decided to burn off part of the back cover along with a number of the pages. The final effect is quite cool but means the notebook now sheds ash like crazy. Paul’s wife, who like mine seems to be the Designated Practical Spouse, reportedly asked while the smoke was still rising: “Shouldn’t you have scanned the drawings before you set it on fire?”

Paul’s next interview is with artist-turned-author Mark Ferrari, whose novel The Book of Joby has just been published by Tor. After that, Paul will be looking for other Seattle-area authors to talk to. If he asks you for an interview, say yes—he may be insane, but he uses his insanity for good, and he brings neat gifts. When’s the last time Nancy Pearl gave someone a burnt offering?