Marisha Pessl's new 600-page thriller Night Film centers on a fictional recluse named Stanislas Cordova, who made films so horrifically, soul-destroyingly evil they were effectively banned in the U.S. When his beautiful young daughter mysteriously dies, an investigative journalist becomes infected with the need to pursue the truth behind this seemingly sinister family.
Hillary Clinton turns 62 today. Julian Schnabel is turning 58. Dylan McDermott is 48. Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder is turning 32. Keith Urban is 42. Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane is turning 36. Rita Wilson is 53. Novelist Marisha Pessl is 32. Times theater critic Ben Brantley turns 55. Singer Natalie Merchant is turning 46. Jaclyn Smith of Charlie's Angels fame is 62. And game show host Pat Sajak turns 63 today.
• George Michael is back in the news and, as usual, it has nothing to do with his music. The singer was arrested on Friday for driving drunk when he crashed his car into a truck. Michael, however, is insisting he was sober at the time. So maybe he's just a bad driver? [NYDN, E!]
• Is Joe Simpson trying to push the producers of American Idol to hire Jessica Simpson to replace Paula Abdul? That's the rumor. [P6]
• Amy Winehouse's soon-to-be ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil says the singer has been "begging him to get back together." Uh oh. [DM]
• Beyoncé has been brushing up on her dance skills by "secretly" enrolling in ballet lessons at the Alvin Ailey School of Dance. [NYDN]
Fashion star Zac Posen celebrates his 28th birthday today. Actor Kevin Kline is 61. Law & Order's B.D. Wong is 48. R&B singer Monica is turning 28. Shenae Grimes of 90210 is 19. Your favorite bisexual MTV personality, Tila Tequila, is 27. And Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich celebrates his 42nd birthday today. Weekend birthdays after the jump.
Book-buying editors sound like they're feeling the heat more than ever. What at least one big-house big-wig editor is telling the cute young novelists this week is that, in the current thinking on author advances, "$125K is the new $250K." We imagine what this really means is that he's damn sick of paying a quarter of a million bucks for a novel that has a 1 in 800 chance of earning out, and he's paring back his spending, probably at the strong request of his sudoku-monetizing bosses.
More good news for publicity-shy author Marisha Pessl: she not only has a fancy new paintbox, she now has a movie deal. Variety reported today that Miramax Films and producer Scott Rudin have bought film rights to her debut novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics. A preternaturally prescient Pessl forsaw this outcome; in an interview in September's Bookslut (that we, uh, remember somehow), Pessl talked about what she'd want to happen with her book's movie rights: "I hope it goes to someone really good, like Sofia Coppola." Well, no dice on that front, but there's still a chance — albeit a slim one — that Pessl will get her way when it comes to casting: "I like the idea of hiring all unknowns!" We're happy for the Pessl, and we hope for her sake that the deal was a big fat one — the loft she shares with her hedge-fund husband looks a little cramped in this picture; and we were concerned that she wouldn't have enough room for her painting hobby.
As 2006 huffs toward its inexorable end, we decided to take a moment to recognize those personalities that made our job that much more tolerable this year. These are the people who gave us endless fodder for our douchebag mill, who were attracted to the spotlight like moths to a flame, whose stated disdain for our coverage of them was contradicted by their almost pathetic attempts to court it. The adage that there's no such thing as bad publicity has never felt more apt.
See, the thing is, we really liked Special Topics in Calamity Physics. We're suckers for anything remotely The Secret History-ish, we thought it was an impressively well-constructed mystery, and we liked the endearingly amateurish quality lent by Pessl's doodley illustrations. And we truly, honestly think that it's unfair to be prejudiced against writers because they happen to be book hot, Steve Madden ad hot, or college admissions brochure hot (unless they're Ben Kunkel). So today, when we read Meghan O'Rourke's criticism of Pessl's selection to the NYTBR top 10 books of the year, we felt almost like we needed to defend Pessl against O'Rourke.
Frankly, we find the whole debate as to the level of novelist Marisha Pessl's attractiveness to be more than a little sexist. It's as if we're saying that the only value a woman has is expressed in her looks. Well, there are plenty of other reasons to discuss Ms. Pessl. For instance: she has absolute shit taste in music. Take a look at this Onion What's On Your iPod feature: She's rocking Atlantic Starr, Linkin Park, and "Free Bird." We've snipped out the best part, though:
The Asheville Citizen-Times ("Voice of The Mountains") took a break from their usual coverage of jam band festivals and moonshine-still flareups to profile hometown girl made good Marisha Pessl, author of summertime hit Special Topics in Calamity Physics. We feel a little bit bad about continuing to mock Ms. "
book Broadway hot" Pessl — it isn't her fault that she has "brains as well as beauty," as the Citizen-Times puts it. But it is her fault that she continues to let people take ridiculous pictures of her. Thus, we have been forced to up(down)grade her condition to "Steve Madden ad hot."
We originally classified author Marisha Pessl as "book hot," then upped her to "TV hot," then tweaked the levels down to "Broadway hot" — all based on relevant photos, of course — but it appears that regardless of her photographic hotness, her physical presence underwhelms in terms of performance. An unimpressed witness to Pessl's weekend reading in Bryant Park reports: