Mister Rogers & Simple Kindness

Mister Rogers is certainly having a moment these days. For those of you keeping score at home, here's the summary: There was a documentary film that came out in June. A forthcoming biography is due next month --  And a big-budget Tom Hanks movie is on its way next year. To top it all off, you can now find any number of fun sweater- and trolley-themed gift items. (And we've got some here at The Bookloft – see below.) Cue the cheers from Generation X as one of their soft-spoken heroes gets a pop-culture encore.

But why is this happening all of a sudden?

The timing of all this is noteworthy. Fred Rogers' message of simple kindness and Just-The-Way-You-Are acceptance is clearly resonating in American culture right now. If you saw the excellent documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor, you were most likely struck by one of the film's most powerful scenes: Fred Rogers goes to Washington to testify before a Senate subcommittee on behalf of PBS. It's 1969 and committee chairman/curmudgeon Sen. John Pastore is ready for a fight in an attempt to decimate PBS' funding. But what you see in the archival footage is shocking. Even the meanest political ogre is visibly shaken by the gentle goodness that Rogers displays. That scene alone from the documentary shows with emotional clarity how our world craves the simplest acts of love and kindness.

(Watch the archival footage on Youtube here.)

(Watch the "Won't You Be My Neighbor" trailer.)

 

Marielle Heller, director of next year's film You Are My Friend starring Tom Hanks as Rogers, says “It’s a story for our times, a story about kindness and family connection and trying to tap into our better self. God knows we need that right now!”

 

The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King (out September 4th) will be the first full-length biography of Fred Rogers, and tries to convey why he has become such an enduring American icon. You can pre-order it now. The audiobook version is read by Reading Rainbow's LeVar Burton (nostalgia high-five!) and Libro.fm is hosting an audiobook giveaway that you can enter.

 

Fred Rogers had said that “love is at the root of everything...love or the lack of it.” It's easy to see both sides of that equation in America today. And if there's an upside to the landscape of unkindness all around us, it's that the simplest act of love, gentleness, and compassion stands out like a light in the darkness. Right now is a perfect time to remember Mister Rogers' mission "to make goodness attractive." The host of a bygone era's children's television show succeeded at that, and reminds each of us that we can succeed at that, too.

"There are three ways to ultimate success," Mister Rogers said. "The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind."

Love and acceptance truly do make a beautiful day in any neighborhood.


Get your Neighborhood Goodies!

Five Books that Would Have Made Oscar-Worthy Films

by Will McIntosh (Via TOR.com)


Hyperion cover art by Gary Ruddell

You often see speculation about the next SF/F book series Hollywood should make into a trilogy of big-budget films. That’s understandable, since spec fic is rife with action-packed series played out against visually impressive backdrops. But there are others SF/F novels out there. Some are beautiful, lyrical novels that aren’t suitable for blockbuster trilogies, but would make the sort of film that takes home Academy Awards. Where has Hollywood missed out on SF/F novels with emotionally powerful, memorable stories that might have merited a Best Picture Oscar? I’m going to consider only older books—pre-2000—because it’s always possible newer books are currently in development as films.


Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Bantam, 1992)

 

How is this book not a movie? Not only is Doomsday Book an emotionally wrenching and unforgettable story, it has something else Hollywood loves: a premise that can be summarized in one line. A time-traveling researcher who is sent back to the Middle Ages is accidentally dropped into the middle of the Black Death pandemic. It’s a bleak novel, and it would make for a bleak film, but with all of the films out there about theoretical pandemics of apocalyptic proportion, isn’t it time for a film exploring the actual pandemic of apocalyptic proportions humanity survived?


Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop (Bantam, 1994)

 

In Bishop’s gorgeous baseball period piece, young shortstop Danny Boles leaves home to play minor league baseball in the deep south during World War II. His roommate is the well-read and articulate Henry Clerval, who is seven feet tall and hideous. Brittle Innings came very, very close to getting the big-screen treatment. So close, in fact, that the cover of some editions includes a Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture tagline. The film was set to star Arnold Schwarzenegger as the eloquent giant Henry Clerval. And then, as so often happens in Hollywood, things fell apart, and the film was never made. It’s a shame, because it’s a wonderful story with a brilliant twist.


The Moon and the Sun by Vonda McIntyre (Pocket Books, 1997)

[Currently out-of-print.]

A sentient sea monster is captured and placed in the fountain at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV, and a woman at the court forms a deep emotional bond with the creature. The plot is reminiscent of The Shape of the Water, although The Moon and the Sun was published twenty years before Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning film. For my money, The Moon and the Sun is the richer of the two stories, and the critical success of The Shape of the Water hints at how The Moon and the Sun might be received if it ever reached the big screen. This one is an odd case, because as it turns out, The Moon and the Sun has actually been filmed! It was set for release in 2015, then just three weeks before it was to come out, Paramount cancelled the release. The film was then retitled The King’s Daughter, and here we are, three years later, with no release date set.


Hyperion by Dan Simmons (Doubleday, 1989)

 

Hyperion follows seven pilgrims, each of whom tells their story as they travel to the time tombs to encounter the mysterious shrike. This would be a challenging novel to adapt, and veers closer to big-budget Hollywood blockbuster territory than the others, but if it were well-executed a Hyperion adaptation might look something like Cloud AtlasHyperion has been almost continuously optioned for film since its publication, but evidently no one was able to create a satisfactory screenplay. The entire Hyperion Cantos series is now in production as a TV miniseries, slated to air on SyFy. Perhaps a TV series is a better medium for such an ambitious novel, although it would have made quite a film.


The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (Villard, 1996)

 

Powerful and gut-wrenching, delving into questions of theology and ethics, The Sparrow recounts the story of a Jesuit Priest’s experiences on a planet that is home to two distinct sentient species. Not one, but two attempts have been made to bring The Sparrow to the big screen, the last with Brad Pitt slated to play the lead role of Father Emilio Sandoz. On her blog, Ms. Russell wrote that neither screenplay had much in common with her novel. She has since revoked all film rights, and co-wrote her own screen adaptation. Evidently that version hasn’t gotten much traction. Sigh.


When I compiled this list, all I knew for sure was that none of these novels had been released as a Hollywood film. A little research revealed that film adaptations have been extensively pursued for at least four of the five, and I’d wager a first edition of Doomsday Book that there’s an extensive film option history behind it as well. It just goes to show, Hollywood will break your heart.


Will McIntosh is a Hugo award winner and finalist for the Nebula and twelve other SF/F awards. His novels include Faller (Tor Books), Love Minus Eighty (Orbit) and Soft Apocalypse (Night Shade), and three of his novels are currently optioned for film or Television. His newest book, young adult novel The Future Will Be BS Free, releases July 24 from Penguin Random House. Will was a psychology professor before turning to writing full-time. He lives in Williamsburg with his wife and their twins. You can follow him on Twitter @willmcintoshSF, or on his website.

Children's Summer Reading Bingo

This summer we've merged our Children's Summer Reading Challenge with Reading Without Walls' Bingo!

Will you meet the challenge?

Come in to get a Bingo sheet (or print one by downloading it here) to get started. Then, get reading and start winning!

Complete as many rows as you want (diagonals included!) and win a prize for each one. Multiple Bingos are allowed. Complete the whole card to get an extra special prize! Please bring your card in by September 1st to claim prizes.

Plus, get 15% OFF any five books that you buy here at The Bookloft that let you complete a row for Bingo!

The Bedside Pile

Know whose Staff Picks you like? Now you can find out what your favorite Lofters are currently reading! Though they may not always make it to our esteemed Staff Picks, as informed booksellers, we choose what we read carefullyand devour them quickly!