A Literary (and Literal) Tag

My friend Jan (of the ever-compelling “The View From Her” blog) tagged me last week, and I am just now getting around to responding.

On the surface, the task is simple. Here are the rules:

• Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
• Open the book to page 123.
• Find the fifth sentence.
• Post the next three sentences.
• Tag five people.

I’m certain Jan tagged me with a smile on her face, knowing that choosing the “right” book would be a challenge. I take up to ten minutes at the market when faced with the “paper or plastic” dilemma.

Because I spent an inordinate amount of my time the past couple of weeks drafting a Wikipedia entry for screenwriter and novelist Frank Fenton, the books currently at my elbow reflect that. In addition to Fenton’s two novels, they include Southern California Country by Carey McWilliams, and two fine biographies: American Prophet by Peter Richardson (on McWilliams) and Full of Life by Stephen Cooper (on Fenton’s infrequent collaborator, the novelist and screenwriter, John Fante).

I’ll apply the page 123 scenario to Cooper’s book, since the selection ties a thread through all of the above:

“One of the first things Carey made happen for John was a meeting on the Culver City lot of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios with the head of the story department, Ross Wills. Wills had helped his friend Carey help other friends before, notably the literary critic Wilson Follett, who thorough Will’s good offices had gotten into MGM’s Reading Department and then risen rapidly to writig scenes for Greta Garbo. Now Wills was taking John’s breath away with talk of the princely sums commanded by adequate scenarios and the suggestion that John might have the inside track on a sophisticated drama Wills had in mind for Joan Crawford, or, failing that, a rather more trifling comedy drama.”

In the paragraph immediately preceding this selection, Cooper had described the first lunch meeting between McWilliams and Fante in 1932. Fante’s first screen credit came in collaboration with Fenton, and McWilliams was a supporter of Fenton’s work, quoting his first novel extensively in Southern California Country.

To complete my responsibilities in this affair, I tag Lisa (quite the literary type), Matt (a reflective friend who I know for a fact has recently read a book) and Adam (who reads, but is almost certainly working on his new screenplay).

– craig hodgkins

Note to Jan: Frank Fenton and your personal fave Ray Bradbury are anthologized together in New Stories of Time and Space (1951). Bradbury’s entry was “Here There Be Tygers,” and it was the first time this piece of fiction had been published. It has since appeared in other books and publications.

~ by Craig Hodgkins on February 10, 2008.

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