Why aren’t more North Carolina books made into movies? We ask ourselves even though the film, “Where the Crawdads Sing,” based on the popular book set in North Carolina was a great success last summer.
Thanks in part to the movie, the book’s sales continue to make the best-seller list. According to a July 14, 2022, article by Carrie Wittmer and Elizabeth Logan on the glamour.com web site, “as of January 2022, the book sold 12 million copies, making it one of the best-selling books of all time.”
But we miss the days when every Nicholas Sparks book and every John Grisham book was made into a blockbuster film. Sparks lives in New Bern and Grisham has close family connections to Raleigh and Chapel Hill.
Both authors rank high on the list of “The Living Authors with the Most Film Adaptations” compiled by Lit Hub (https://lithub.com/the-living-authors-with-the-most-film-adaptations/). Sparks with 11 was topped only by Stephen King with 34. Grisham had nine and was topped only by John le Carre (10), Ian McEwan (10), and tied with J.K. Rowling (9).
Why are not more North Carolina books turned into movies? One of the reasons is explained by Jen Doll in an article republished on the Atlantic web site.
“But any way you look at it, the movie version of a widely successful book is bound to go wrong. Has any book lover ever truly been fully satisfied with the big-screen adaptation? The relationship we have with the book is personal and special; the relationship we have with the movie is more distanced from that, more passive, and certainly less demanding of us. We sit back and watch it play out, and we do so with a changed eye, having read the books. We're not going in as innocents but as experts; we know how the story goes, and we know what we expect. If we were more naive, new to the plot and characters, things might be different, but since we've read the books, and read them emphatically, possibly more than once, we can't know that for sure. We can only compare to what we do know, and already love.”
Acknowledging these difficulties, I would still like to see more North Carolina books made into movies. At the top of my list would be Wiley Cash’s recent novel, “When Ghosts Come Home,” set near Wilmington in 1985. The action begins at 3:11 a.m. when Sheriff Winston Barnes and his wife hear an airplane crash at the nearby airport. He rushes there, finding only a deserted airport, a crashed airplane, and the body of a young Black man shot in the chest. No fingerprints or other clues can be found, but almost certainly drugs were involved.
Race, small town politics, and international drug trafficking plus the common problems of ordinary people drive a mystery that captivates and leads to a completely surprising ending that would have movie goers holding on to their seats.
A book by respected North Carolina author Nancy Peacock, “The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson,” had me holding on to my seat just the way a great movie would. The story begins, “I have been to hangings before, but never my own…”
Beloved North Carolina author Lee Smith explains the power of the book, “From this riveting beginning to the last perfect word, Nancy Peacock grabs her reader by the throat and makes him hang on for dear life as the action moves from a Louisiana sugar plantation to life among the western Comanches, bringing to blazing life her themes of race and true love caught in the throes of history. ‘The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson’ is as deeply moving and exciting an American saga as has ever been penned.”
What a wonderful movie this story would make.
There are many more action-packed North Carolina books. Think of your favorites and how you would adjust them to make great movies.
The new exhibit at the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County is showcasing Black Joy in all of its forms. In this partnership with Ellington-White Contemporary Gallery, artists of African descent showcase a celebration of cultural heritage while also looking toward the future of Black popular culture.
The exhibit is called “Soul & Spirit: Celebrating Black Joy.” The exhibit will be on display through March 4.
This unique national exhibition was curated by two nationally acclaimed artists and educators, Shirley Woodson and her son Senghor Reid. Woodson is an American visual artist, educator, mentor, and art collector most known for her spectacular figurative paintings depicting African American history.
Her work spans a career of 60 years and counting and can be found in the Detroit Institute of Arts collections, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, among other institutions. Woodson was named the 2021 Kresge Eminent Artist.
Her son, Reid, develops figurative paintings and films that explore the connections between culture, art, the social sciences and the conservation of our natural environment. He attended the internationally recognized Marathon program at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture.
One of the artists featured in the exhibit, David Lee Black, told Up & Coming Weekly that showing Black pride in his piece is very important to him.
“Art is supposed to be a mirror of the world, representation matters and Black pride builds communities. Our society needs to see more color and hopefully, in my own individual way, the vibrance and mystery in my photograph,” Black said.
His photograph, “Guardian,” showcases a man and a woman looking off to the side. Black said that the shoot originally featured just the female model, who was powerful, beautiful and compassionate. But, at some point during the shoot, the bartender from the hotel pub walked by and Black asked him to pose.
“The backstory is, shortly after this shoot, he was tragically lost from us but his spirit remains,” Black said.
“We humans are rather clever animals. We've managed to teach ourselves how to express ideas, as well as emotions through art. It really is amazing to think about. Perhaps the takeaway from this exhibit (and most good art), will be to embrace the emotion felt by the exhibiting artists that worked hard to encode through color, shadow and harmony to be decoded and experienced by the observers.”
Black History Month events
The Soul & Spirit exhibit is part of the Arts Council’s Black Culture Experience series in recognition of Black History Month. The Arts Council is committing to several events that recognize the achievements and talents of local and nationally renowned Black artists from the past, present and future.
The first event will take place on Feb. 4. They will show the almost hour-long film, “Talking Black in America: Roots.” This program showcases the enduring imprint of African heritage on Black American culture, language and identity. Before the film screening, there will be a Spoken Word performance from 3rd Rail from Black on Black Rhyme Carolina. Following the screening will be a discussion and a Question and Answer segment with the producers, Tracey Weldon, Neal Hutcheson and Walt Wolfram. The event starts at 2 p.m.
El'Ja Bowens, the event's moderator, says visitors should expect to see art and history displayed in one of its most natural forms — the art of storytelling.
“I hope that people take away a few things from this. One thing is that I hope they take away the rich history of the African culture and how that culture has been brought to America and still continues to be a part, not only of African history, but American history as well. I also hope that everyone appreciates the efforts that the producers have went through producing this series as this is only one of four films that covers this topic of importance,” Bowens said.
On Feb. 11, the Money Box Workshop aims to engage and teach children about money and the concepts of money. Crystal McLean and co-host Kishanna Heyward, two local best-selling financial literacy authors and advocates, have partnered to educate, empower, and enrich their community.
While the children are creating money masterpieces in their own workshops, parents and guardians can learn about financial concepts, such as credit establishment, budget creation, debt management, and more. This event, scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m., is geared toward children seven to 14 years of age and the parents/guardians of those children. Admission is free, and Black-owned Southern Experience Catering and Meal Prep will provide food.
McLean’s goal is to “transform African American Communities one child at a time.” By investing in programs to help children, particularly those of the African American community, those children can invest in their future with the appropriate tools to be successful.
On Feb. 18 there will be a Vibe & Create Beauty & Horticultural arts workshop from 5 to 8 p.m.
For more information about Black History Month events at the Arts Council, visit www.TheArtsCouncil.com/ or call 910-323-1776. The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County is a nonprofit organization based in Fayetteville that supports individual creativity, cultural preservation, economic development, and lifelong learning through the ARTS. They are located at 301 Hay Street in downtown Fayetteville.
Cape Fear Studios will be holding their annual, non juried exhibit, Cabin Fever Jan. 26 through Feb. 21. An open reception will be held Jan. 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the studio in downtown Fayetteville.
“Cabin Fever was set up to be a show after the holidays, after the hardest part of winter is over and everyone has been locked in their house because of the cold,” said Steve Opet, Cape Fear Studios board president.
Opet has been involved with the studio for eight years, and is an artist himself. He has submitted his own work to previous Cabin Fever exhibits. Opet said the studio has been holding the exhibit every January for around ten years.
Cape Fear Studios has been a part of the Fayetteville community for 33 years. The non profit artist co-op holds a new exhibit every month, with gallery receptions coinciding with Fourth Fridays. The receptions are always open to the public, as is the studio throughout the week.
“When visitors come into the studio, they are not only welcome to view the current art show but they are welcome to walk into the actual artist studios,” Opet said. “Most days we have several artists working in their studios. People are allowed to see the artists at work and ask questions and interact.”
The gallery is entirely run by the artists, each donating their time to run the front desk and take care of administrative tasks. Grants from the Arts Council of Cumberland County help allow the gallery to have their monthly exhibits.
“The Arts Council help support us, and keep us going,” said Opet.
Opet said he is excited for this year’s Cabin Fever.
“Usually for the main gallery a big show is about 40 pieces. For Cabin Fever we get between 25 to 40 pieces. Hopefully we get 40 pieces this year,” he said.
Cabin Fever opens Jan. 26. The show can be viewed during gallery hours, Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The studio is located at 148 Maxwell Street in downtown Fayetteville, next to the Fayetteville History Museum. The exhibit is open for all local residents 18 and over to enter. Artists can submit up to two pieces.
A People’s Choice award will be given during the reception on Jan. 27. Attendees can vote for their favorite pieces, and the winner will be announced before the reception is over. Call 910-433-2986 or visit www.capefearstudios.com and click on the “call for art” tab to view the show’s prospectus for more information.