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Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You

Anybody watching Hemingway and Gellhorn on HBO, when writers were writers and all they had to do was drink and fuck and  fight, in addition to typing? It’s so great to see writers’ lives on the small screen.  I think Clive Owen should play Picasso instead of Papa. I’m liking Nicole as Martha, but the aged Martha is too Benjamin Buttony for my blood. Jesus, I just read on Cheat-o-pedia that she killed herself at 89. Whoa. Oh my,  Hemingway going down on Gellhorm. Kidman breast. This is just way too steamy. Plus cats.

Okay, let’s pretend I’m the president of HBO (which is my dream job) and you are pitching a tv movie about a famous writing couple. Who would you pitch and why?

The winner gets a  SIGNED copy of TFFTT and a bonus book.  The winner is determined by me and me alone since I’m the president.

78 Responses

  1. Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. Or myself, with, let’s say, Cory Doctorow, or John Irving. No…let’s go with Neil and Amanda. If we’re talking dead writers then the Shelleys I think. She was so young it’s practically YA, which is hot right now, right?

  2. Stein and Toklas, with Madonna as Toklas. She was born to play her.

    • snort! (enjoyment of your comment, not turning up nose at it)

    • There is also this sad fact to consider: (via Wiki) Although Gertrude Stein had willed much of her estate to Toklas, including their shared art collection (some of them Picassos), the couple’s relationship had no legal recognition. As the paintings appreciated in value, Stein’s relatives took action to claim them, eventually removing them from Toklas’s home while she was away on vacation and placing them in a bank vault. Toklas then relied on contributions from friends as well as writing to make a living.

  3. Anais Nin and Henry Miller come to mind, but….that’s been done now, hasn’t it? F. Scott and Zelda? Done and done. Mary Karr and David Foster Wallace, perhaps? Hmmm….all kinds of angsty TV bits there, it seems. How about Marge Piercy and Ira Wood? Maybe too low key/low profile, but Ann Arbor in the 60’s is a rich environment for some fun anti-establishment stuff, and Marge’s poetry runs the gamut. Could be fun…

  4. Coleridge and Wordsworth, because I don’t think they’ve been done yet, the costumes would be great, there’s drug addiction and wasted talent and manic depression, everybody has to learn at least a little something about the Ancient Mariner in school so they’re not total strangers to the audience, they’re British so there can be some kinky stuff, and there’s gotta be a way to toss Byron and Keats and the Shelleys into the mix, too, for a little spice and more tragedy and kinks, and Napoleon and his wars can be the bass note. Hell, I’d watch it.

  5. William Shawn and Lillian Ross. It’s got everything: New York, the New Yorker, knowing every writer at the time worth knowing, and an illicit affair. With Shawn’s son an actor, you even can have some Hollywood in there. I’d love to watch that!

  6. Okay Betsy, I take back all the nice stuff I said in the previous three cherries on a stem post.

    Your question this time points out to me, in the most vivid of ways, what a dolt I am. I cannot think of any writing couples.
    How about Liz and Dick, they must have written something or Sonny and Cher when they were Sonny and Cher, do songs count?

    Oh wait, I just thought of a couple; Mary (something) Shelley, the Frankenstein woman. Wasn’t her husband the poet, Percy Shelley? How the hell I pulled that out of my ass I’ll never know.

    Hey, any chick that can write about assembling random male body parts and have the finished dude actually walk and grunt is a writer to remember. And any man married to that kind of woman would HAVE to be a sensitive kind of guy…intelligent…worldly…talented, like Tetman.

    Sidenote: this is the first time I have ever used chick and dude in the same sentence.

    • Oh Jeez, it’s the pitch you want not just the couples. I should have read the posts first. I’m feeling even doltier. Okay I’ll think of pitch give me a few minutes.

      • Okay Ms. HBO President here’s my pitch.

        I don’t have a pitch.

        But the movie would open with Joplin’s ‘Piece of my Heart’ and the closing credits…how about Patsy Cline’s ‘I Fall to Pieces’. Throughout the movie, ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ might be nice as would ‘Back in my Arms Again’.
        I will quit now, (I get carried away with such things), with Betty Davis Eyes by that female singer with the gravelly voice. So there you have it Ms. HBO President, no pitch but great tunes.

        That covers Mary’s half of the movie, Percy, I haven’t a clue.

    • Bro-sis I think but not sure.

    • Plug in any names, you could write it. No, really! (get what I did there?)

    • Shit, I missed this. Sorry I duplicated your idea, but it wasn’t on purpose.

  7. My first choice for writing couple is Raymond Carver and Tess Gallagher. My original first choice was Joyce Carol Oates and Raymond Smith. Of course, JCO is the better known of that pairing. Raymond Smith was a writer, too, a poet of less renown than his prolific wifey. But there is something cinematic about their long lasting relationship and his founding of Ontario Review based on one JCO’s “visions.” And, there is also something cinematic about Raymond Smith’s rumored servitude to JCO, bringing her meals while she was cooped up in her room typing her skinny heart out. Then again, I may be biased because Raymond Smith and Ontario Review gave me my first publication although it was for my photography instead of for my writing.

    My first choice, which was my original second choice is Raymond Carver and Tess Gallagher. Like JCO and Raymond Smith, the talent of one far outshines the talent of the other. But, Ray C. and Tess G. may present a much better story line than Joyce C.O. and Ray S. because I sense that there was a real and unselfish love between JCO and Raymond Smith and in a fictional world that needs conflict, the JCO/ Raymond Smith story may be too calm and quiet. I’m not so convinced of the same with Raymond Carver and Tess Gallagher. I have a feeling that the relationship of Ray and Tess was a bit more tenuous than the relationship of JCO and Raymond Smith. On the surface, Ray and Tess were lovey-dovey but I think that Ray Carver was semi-happy in the relationship while Tess Gallagher was envious and possessive or her husband’s talent and also envious of his life with his first wife and the children that his first marriage produced. That’s a boatload of conflict and much more conflict than the life of JCO and Raymond Smith might provide. So my vote is for Raymond Carver and Tess Gallagher. There are so many exploitable layers to their story. There his first marriage and his kids from that first marriage. There is his alcoholism and the nicotine addiction that ultimately led to his death. There’s his leaving his first wife for Tess. Goodness Grief: Raymond Carver’s life – to use the title from one of his stories – is just “fat” with potential. So Raymond and Tess is my choice. Ray and Tess might make a great movie that would have an audience striving to see how the story would end. JCO and Raymond Smith, while interesting to me, might have the audience falling asleep.

  8. Damn it. I hate not having HBO.

    I’d love to see Philip Roth and his string of lovers, but mostly his favorite lover. Philip Roth. I’d blend his real life with his characters. I see a scene with him talking to Nathan Zuckerman across a table in a deli. A lonely walk through a cemetery where he sees a man zipping his pants. A lot of angst-riddled visits to the doctor that would have shades of Woody Allen. Both Allen and Roth would hate that part.

  9. The movie’s called ONE BLUE PUSSY, it’s the untold love story of Valerie Solanas and Andy Warhol. They’re both openly gay, at a time when one wasn’t–a declaration of courage and independence that only made them hate themselves more when they fell in love. Warhol turned his life into art to keep Solanas at bay; she put her seal on him with a bullet.

    And yeah, they count as writers, because

    Warhol: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A,_a_novel

    And Solanos, the headline after she shot Warhol read, “Actress Shoots Andy Warhol.” She asked for a correction: “I’m a writer, not an actress.”

  10. Will and Ariel Durant. It was a May-December marriage(I may not be right about that) which is a favorite topic of mine and she was smarter than he, which is a favorite topic of mine. I’d paint her appearing guiless (sp?) and adorable with subtle hints of an underlying agenda, which is a favorite topic of mine.

  11. I feel so left out by all this writery wikipedia smart ass intelligence. I’m going back to adult-ed.

    • Oh, honey. Climb on board the Wikipedia Train and fake it. There’s a prize to be won! You think I knew anything about Shelley before five minutes ago?

      • I did and I’m still stupid.

      • Nobody’s as smart as they make others think they are. I recommend to you Shanna Mahin’s latest blog post, in which she treats the literary caste system and the snobs therein. She’s got a big heart and small patience for snooty readers. If there are any lit snobs here, they are wisely keeping their disdain to themselves, unless they want one of us to tear them a new one.

  12. Love to see Hemmingway kicking the shit out of F Scott. Or zelda doing same to Papa

  13. Mary Godwin was a woman ahead of her time. Her mother, an eighteenth-century feminist, died when she was only eleven days old. Her father, a liberal political philosopher, molded her into a brilliant thinker and writer. A glittering future awaited her amidst the upper echelons of the Enlightenment.

    Then she met Percy Bysshe Shelley.

    Mary ran off to France with this political crony of her father’s, Romantic poet, and a married man to boot, when she was 17 and he was 22, only to return to England pregnant out of wedlock, in debt, and ostracized by the society that once held her in high esteem. Yet they lived to write—and love. Both muse and driving force behind Shelley’s literary success, she will be forever known as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of the one of the earliest and most memorable science fiction novels, Frankenstein.

    A love story, a morality play (Shelley and Mary married after his wife committed suicide), and a fabulous period drama, don’t miss Mary and Percy

    The costumes, the cleavage!

    Did that sound sufficiently movie-pitchy?

  14. D. H. Lawrence and Frieda – Their love affair and marriage played out like a movie. Frieda, the daughter of a German aristocrat, left her doctor husband and three children for D.H. and threw herself full on into the boheme lifestyle, refusing to keep house and insisting on the sexual freedom to take on other partners. They were best couple friends with Katherine Mansfield (who, in addition to being decades ahead of her time as a writer, had an extraordinary wit and her own great backstory from her New Zealand childhood ) and John Murry, even living communally with them in various places, swapping partners, etc. It is rumored that some of the lesbian sex in Lawrence’s novels was inspired by Frieda and Mansfield’s escapades. There’s WWI and Frieda and D.H. getting stuck in England because of his various illnesses for much of it, plus a lot of globetrotting including a considerable amount of time passed in the south of France and Taos, New Mexico, where D. H. eventually died. Shortly thereafter, Frieda married the Italian she’d had an on-again off-again love affair with for years (an affair which some claim was Lawrence’s inspiration for “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”). It’s a sexy story (on countless levels) that has every conflict known to man.

  15. Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.

    The lasting bond between them is irrefutable and often inexplicable—the Mother of Feminism believed that her greatest achievement was her relationship with a man who saw no real difference between seduction and writing and believed himself to be a nouveau Don Juan on both counts.

    Their open relationship—which spanned the better part of a century—was scandal, experiment, and legend. Not because he was ‘allowed’ to have mistresses, but that she was ‘allowed’ to have lovers as well.

    But even when the sexual dimension of their lives faltered, the writing remained. When there is no difference between seduction and writing, writing itself contains enough passion to ignite the world.

    And oh, how they wrote

  16. Parker and Campbell. Yes, yes, there was that Vicious Circle flick, but the story begs to be an HBO miniseries.

    So let’s have Kate Winslet be Dorothy. She has impeccable timing. And as for Alan Campbell, I want to see Jon Hamm. Because I just can’t get enough of him.

  17. Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris. You get two extraordinary talents, dangers/advantage of mentorship, Native Americans, accusations of sexual abuse: life as story, story as life.

  18. Since Madam President did not specifically insist on non-fictional couples, I propose a steam-punk-inspired/purely fictional tale of the secret affair between Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte. The foggy back streets of 1840s London offer the reticent Bronte and the flamboyant Dickens the perfect environment for their doomed romance and their difficult friendship with Charles Darwin and his experiments with natural selection. Together, Bronte and Dickens must prevent Darwin’s scheme to control the British Empire by destroying his cyborg army of colonists.

    Sketches for the costumes will be ready tomorrow.

  19. George Barker and Elizabeth Smart and their tempestuous affair.

    Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept versus the fallout as described by one of their offspring Christopher Barker in his account The Arms of the Infinite.

  20. The pitch: Dante meets The Uninvited. Bullfinch’s Mythology meets Game of Thrones. Two writers struggle to write–and love–in picturesque settings: Stonington CT, Key West, FL, the islands of Greece. James Merrill and David Jackson globe-trot as they endeavor to conjure great works of literature. They wind up conjuring worlds instead. Fleeing their mutual blank pages, they enliven one fateful cocktail hour with a turn at the ouija board. What begins as a lark explodes into a vast, parallel universe: The Changing Light at Sandover. Things unseen rush into view. Ghosts familiar appear. Ghosts storied too. Vivid chaos yields a chilling cosmology. Dire messages are delivered. We swing, guided by our two reluctant oracles, between the (always picturesque!) grind of wordsmithing and an ecstatic netherworld, Merrill and Jackson’s strange loop from insight-hallucination through poetry and back to the blankest of blank pages and a poem’s first word.

  21. Well, what about a work in progress? The relationship between B Lerner and J Donatich – filled with varieties of religious experience, ambivalence, food, loathing, and trees. A child and a dog. Not to be missed.

  22. Tabitha and Stephen King. He’d be the box office name but she’d be the star. It’s clear, from his alcoholism to his car accident, that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Plus, I’d love to see the inside of their home.

    • I saw the outside, actually I drove by about 20 times until my passenger (who taught his son) said to stop or the cops would be after us. It’s in a regualr neigborhood, nice homes and he had the coolist iron fence, black with webs and things on it.

  23. Ted & Sylvia….crows, ovens, bell jars

  24. Didion (Helen Mirren) and Dunne (Anthony Hopkins). They always write in the nude (she wears heels) and have high tea at 4 and a celibate relationship.

  25. Dear Madame HBO Prez,
    Your contest intrigues me. How about a sexy, dark flick about the complex relationship btwn. Susan Sontag (Susan Sarandon) & Annie Leibovitz (Meryl Streep) for your next project? Yes, Annie writes books, too, and Susan’s, well, she’s a legend. Just thinking…
    Best or worst,

  26. Jane Kenyon and Donald Hall……….sizzle is great but sometimes it’s nice to watch a true love story.

  27. Here’s the pitch:

    Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt. He’s mega successful for his inexplicably prizewinning novels, Hustvedt, though also tall and beautiful, burns for literary attention, so she pens a nasty, transparent novel about his criminal son by his first wife, short chilly genius Lydia Davis, who is awarded a Macarthur to help salve the wound. We Have to Talk About Writing About Kevin.

  28. Virginia and Leonard Woolf would make an intriguing mini-series. They have it all – genius, childhood abuse, obsessive control, mental illness, and it all gets wrapped up in a dramatic suicide.

    Virginia Woolf could be played by anyone but Nicole Kidman; she botched it the first time.

    • I like this one the best. (Even though I don’t get to vote, I’m going to act like I get to vote.)

  29. The irascible ghost of Samuel Clemens appears to a wannabe country singer, and guides her to fortune, fame, and an unrequited love that spans the ages.


  30. Abelard and Heloise anyone?

  31. Poe, Dickens, and Dickens’ pet raven, Grip.

    The three of them in a dark and lushly furnished room, drinking heavily, arguing about the recent publication of John Forster’s article on American poetry. Poe was slighted, nary a mention in the entire piece, and he *knows* Dickens traded on his close friendship with Forster to mastermind the humiliating literary slight. During tense moments between slurred accusations, when they both pause to take great quaffs of their whiskey, Grip breaks the silence. “Nevermore,” he quips, which reminds Poe of why he was pissed off in the first place, and the argument resumes.

    Second choice, but only for a brief, pre-commercial interlude: George Eliot and George Lewes, in the moment they get word that their close friend Charles Dickens refers to them as “the ugliest couple in London.”

  32. W.P. Kinsella and Evelyn Lau. Just because.

  33. i’m going contemporary style. Julian Barnes and Pat Kavanagh. okay, she was a literary agent but i’m thinking she was an agent who, effectively and rightfully, rewrote some of her client’s work. i could be wrong.

    in the eighties, Pat left Julian for Jeanette Winterson and they lived together for a number of years. how anyone could live with Jeanette is questionable: she never stops talking and strikes me as obsessive in her personal relationships. i get the feeling Jeanette’s the type of woman who wouldn’t stop having sex until she got it absolutely right.

  34. How about Anne Sexton period? Who cares who her husband was. Surely she had affairs! And if not she had shrinks she mocked famously. I don’t know. Just a thought.

  35. Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Paul Sartre, Nelson Algren, and all of the young women she seduced.
    Who wouldn’t want to watch her relationship with Algren, a midwest man’s man, no less her menage a troises with Sartre and her students? Being and Nothingness, The Mandarins, the work that came out of their eventual platonic life, and Simone a feminist to boot.
    I’m seeing Tilda Swinton as Simone.

  36. I have an almost cliched romanticised obsession with Beat writers. For my pitch I’d love to say Joan Vollmer and William S Burroughs, because THAT is an amazing story (she died after Burroughs shot her, apparently accidentally, but the story is so random it’s hard to know what really happened!). But Vollmer technically wasn’t a writer, though she was a muse and a great mind in her own right.

    So instead I’ll go for Neal (aka Dean Moriarty) and Carolyn Cassady. Ah, the poetry! The costumes! The music! The unbearable coolness! I would watch the heck out of that movie if it existed.

    • I watch the heck out of it in my head all the time—still got one foot on the bus and it’s not nearly enough.

  37. There’s also Mary and John Cheever. She wasn’t a writer but she’s very much part of his life story. The poor woman couldn’t bend over to pick up a penny without him trying to mount her from behind…and all the while he was pining away for boys. Cheever’s monster sexual and alcoholic impulses and guilt and struggles to manage those impulses are so honestly and compellingly rendered in his posthumously published journals, they’re screaming to be put to film.

    • Hey – Betsy could combine your idea here Karen and turn it into the first “clit lit” film – beating out the movie that will surely be made from FIFTY SHADES – because we know that’s coming (pun!) thereby combining her request from an earlier post last week and this one – sounds doable, no? (pun again!)

  38. A mini-series based on Joyce Johnson’s “Minor Characters: A Young Woman’s Coming of Age in the Beat Generation,” depicting her love affair with Jack Kerouac which began after they were fixed up by Allen Ginsberg when she was 21 and Jack was a burned-out 35. While they were together the NYTimes christened “On the Road” the book of its generation. But Kerouac is the flash.The series is really about Joyce (then Joyce Glassman), who had been part of the Greenwich Village scene since the age of 13, and the other young women writers and poets in that scene “attracted to decadence” with “little respect for respectability” These girls wandering through the Village in their leotards, ballet slippers, smokey eyeshadow and hemp shoulder bags. By day temporary secretaries in Manhattan publishing offices, working at novels and poems in the small hours of the morning.There is a back alley abortion. There is Joyce’s friend Hettie Jones, white wife of LeRoi Jones, who dumped her and their two daughters when he became Amiri Baraka. In a ten-episode series we would also dramatize stories of women the memoir touches upon: Joan Burroughs, Carolyn Cassady, in a three-way marriage with Neal Cassady and Kerouac.
    Chloe Sevigny as Joyce?
    Give us the green light, Chairman Betsy. We’ll leave “Girls” (and its smug overprivileged heroines) in the dust.

  39. I would pitch Truman Capote and Harper Lee…because they had “something” or maybe it’s “some thing…” starting way back when they were growing up. I would pitch it because I don’t believe anyone has ever understood or figured out what “it” was they really had – were they just best friends – or more. He wrote her into one of his books, OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS and she wrote him into TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Whatever it was they had, I found their characters fascinating when watching the biographical film, CAPOTE. I’d watch another film about those two – any day.

  40. It’ll be called THREE KINGS, and it tells the love story of one person hiding behind three pseudonyms: Jody, the saint; Anna, the whore; Joseph, the man.

  41. Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett. Noir Hollywood, Probibition-era New York, two literary Reds wreaking havoc when writers counted for something. Drinking, sublimation, success, agony, break-up, and reunitings, brilliant punchy dialogue, drama from dramatists, decline for one, survival for the other.

  42. The Bowles’, jane & Paul.

  43. I’m for Pat Conroy and Cassandra King, a couple who came late to each other and seem to share the warmest kind of life in one of the most beautiful spots in south Carolina. I for one, want to see them cook together! No mayhem, no havoc, just a taste perhaps of the best exotic marigold hotel.

  44. Edward and Jo Hopper: the master realist painter who understood alienation and his wife, also an artist, who served him. Throw a cat into the mix and you get a couple whose relationship was at once an oddity and a cliché. She painted her cat Arthur over and over, for more than thirty-five years after he disappeared, while Edward drew darkly witty cartoons showing his subordinate position to her cat. Could be a heartbreaking comedy.

  45. F. Scott and Zelda. They’re sober until they wake up. How can they look so young but feel so old? Scott goes searching for the host at a party and remembers he’s at home.

  46. Hansel & Gretel: Because they left a trail of crumbs made from their shredded manuscript, were subsequently seduced by their evil publisher who plied them full of empty promises and sweet words. But then through a plot twist the authors turned the tables in a climax that tossed the publisher into the slush pile where she was smothered by toppling tomes. Seizing the day, they self-published an Amazon ebook. Their fan fic went viral and their Fifty Shades of Gingerbread then garnered the attention of hollywood and a six figure option. Sweet.

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