Friday, February 23, 2007

Books for Ballots

Long ago a writer I knew wanted a new law: “Why don’t they license typewriters? You have to be tested to drive an automobile, and ideas are more dangerous than metal and rubber.”

His proposal is recalled by a New York Times piece yesterday on the flood of books by Presidential candidates.

Except for Obama’s best sellers, they are mostly extended bumper stickers, manifestoes of the vision and courage the authors may not always show in real life or memoirs that tug at our heartstrings to make us pull the right levers in the voting booth. At the very least, books prove they can read and write.

The Web has made my friend’s legislation moot, but he was right to mistrust what people put on paper. Memory is a too-forgiving editor, as I often remind myself with the Samuel Goldwyn story.

Goldwyn, the movie producer, had commissioned a script based on a classic novel. After months, one of Hollywood’s best writers gave up, telling him there was no way to make a movie out of it.

With a team of hacks, Goldwyn went ahead, made the picture and it bombed.

Years later, in a story conference, someone suggested the original writer for an assignment.

Goldwyn was adamant. “Not him. He was associated with one of my worst failures!”

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