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Wildfire
Vivid imagery and a rapid pace make this debut novel about wildland firefighters fun as hell to read
Arts Story  July 23, 2015, by Jessi Cape
"...Roaring through forests and lives, the flames leave a charred trail of destruction, but never without the promise of regrowth. Released in October 2014, Wildfire, the debut novel by Austin native Mary Pauline Lowry, is, on the surface, the story of a lone woman on a wildland firefighter crew..."

Good as Gone: A Novel of Suspense
Amy Gentry's page-turning thriller is set apart by its realistic and empathetic portrayal of abuse victims and their families
Arts Story  July 21, 2016, by Jessi Cape
"...Like Jennifer Dubois, who based her successful 2014 novel Cartwheel not so loosely on the Amanda Knox story, Gentry incorporates a few details of a famous crime case into her debut. Main character Julie Whitaker resembles Elizabeth Smart – "a girl, blonde, beautiful, and pink-cheeked..."

A Novel Approach
Playing with the narrative of In Stereo
Screens Story  July 2, 2015, by Caitlin Moore
"...Salinger. "I've always wondered why more films don't employ the structure of novels," he says..."

Do I Stay or Do I Go?
In her debut novel Migratory Animals, Austin author Mary Helen Specht explores the push and pull of place
Arts Story  January 15, 2015, by Jessi Cape
"...Edward's University, Specht uses a "kaleidoscope of viewpoints" and inspiration from her time as a Fulbright Scholar in Nigeria to tell a remarkable story that crosses the East-West hemispheric divide. Her debut novel Migratory Animals (Harper Perennial, 320pp., $14.99) explores the ideas of home and health, family and future, and the paths cut by love and pain as a young scientist doing research in Nigeria must return to Austin and help her sister cope with the same disease that killed their mother..."

Strange Magic
Andrew Porter talks about his debut novel, 'In Between Days,' and his mysterious creative process
Books Story  September 7, 2012, by Roberto Ontiveros
"...His debut novel In Between Days (Knopf) is deep, dark stuff, a striking assemblage of generational disintegration and distress. It takes its title from an uncharacteristically upbeat Cure song and deals with a midlife crisis amid the inherent entropy of the modern family unit..."

Brick Lane
Brick Lane shows us the life of a Bangladeshi woman, who moves to London to marry a man she's never met, keep house, raise a family, and eventually act on her squelched yearnings.
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Film Review  July 18, 2008, by Josh Rosenblatt
"...For a movie that just barely passes the hour-and-a-half mark, Brick Lane packs in a whole lot of information. Adapted from Monica Ali’s acclaimed debut novel, Gavron’s film is a primer on race relations in late 20th century England, a remembrance of lost time and lost places, a crash course in Bangladeshi social customs, a look inside the mind of the unhappily married woman, a celebration of sexual independence, a condemnation of romantic indifference, an anthropological study of life in modern-day London council housing, and a commentary on Muslim life after the attacks of September 11..."

Snow Angels
Filmmaker David Gordon Green guides his cast, headed by Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale, through a fumbling world of nursed grudges and blown opportunities.
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Film Review  April 4, 2008, by Josh Rosenblatt
"...Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale, Michael Angarano, Griffin Dunne, Nicky Katt, Olivia Thirlby, Amy Sedaris and Tom Noonan. Midway through writer/director Green’s adaptation of Stewart O’Nan’s debut novel, high school freshman Arthur Parkinson (Angarano) – floppy-haired and affable, trombonist in the school marching band, the type of boy beloved by girls who wear horn-rimmed glasses and study photography – takes his father (Dunne) to task for leaving his mother one minute and then begging to be allowed back into her life the next..."

The Devil's Backbone
Bill Wittliff's debut novel is a picaresque tale with a "Lucky Heart"
Arts Story  December 4, 2014, by Joe O'Connell
"...In Bill Wittliff's debut novel The Devil's Backbone, an 1880s boy known only as Papa recounts his search across the Texas Hill Country for his wayward mother and his own narrow escape from his father, mean Old Karl, who is hot on his tail. It's a wild, picaresque ride with a cast of colorful characters with whom Papa finds the sense of family otherwise missing from his life..."

Out of Peel Tree
Laura Long's debut novel chronicles the tug-of-war between moving forward and staying the same in a small town
Arts Story  May 15, 2014, by Chase Hoffberger
"...A West Virginia native who came to Austin as a Michener fellow before high-tailing it back east to assume a professorial role teaching English at Lynchburg College, Laura Long understands the eternal tug-of-war that exists between braving new land and keeping one's home in Appalachia. Her debut novel, Out of Peel Tree, captures all the confusing baggage associated with trying to move forward from a land and family still stuck in time, throwing in a good but confusing chronological narrative to cloud the scene for good measure..."

'Sleep Toward Heaven'
We're not reviewing Amanda Eyre Ward's debut novel, Sleep Toward Heaven, and we're not interviewing her as an author, either, because she has contributed to The Austin Chronicle for more than three years. It would be a conflict of interest. We are, however, excerpting an early chapter of the book, and we are proud and happy to do so.
Books Story  March 21, 2003
"...We're not reviewing Amanda Eyre Ward's debut novel, Sleep Toward Heaven (MacAdam/Cage, $24), and we're not interviewing her as an author, either, because she has contributed to The Austin Chronicle for more than three years. I am a friend of Amanda's, as is my predecessor, Clay Smith, and Screens editor Kimberley Jones, and because I would have a rough time running a negative review of her book should a critic submit it (and wouldn't write one myself), a positive review would be almost automatic, which would be a negative..."

Texas Book Festival 2017: The First Dozen
Lisa Ko, Claire Messud lead off first look at fest lineup
DAILY Arts  June 7, 2017, by Robert Faires
"...On Monday, the Texas Book Festival announced the first dozen authors for the 2017 edition, taking place Nov. 4 and 5, and the 22nd year of this Lone Star celebration of the written word promises a wealth of talent for fans of the novel, lit for kids and young adults, and cookbooks...."

No Small Feat
Scott Blackwood's novel experiments in form
Books Story  March 13, 2009, by Kimberley Jones
"...Scott Blackwood's slim debut novel, We Agreed to Meet Just Here, clocks in at 162 pages, and its original title was See How Small (which references a line in the novel: "See how small a thing it is that keeps us apart"). Blackwood smiles, remembering the reaction that original title sparked..."

The Son Rises With Philipp Meyer
Austin author on adapting his award-winning novel for AMC
Screens Story  April 6, 2017, by Joe O'Connell
"...Philipp Meyer was getting drunk on author and folklorist J. Frank Dobie's front porch when he decided to adapt his epic Texas novel The Son for the screen...."

War and Pieces
Mayor's Book Club takes on Kevin Powers' 'The Yellow Birds'
DAILY Books  April 30, 2013, by Amy Gentry
"...Kevin Powers’ debut novel, The Yellow Birds, looks like a war novel, but it is really a novel about pieces, about the massive rents in identity caused by war, and the difficult work of repairing them...."

Amy Gentry on Good as Gone
This Austin author didn't set out to make her first novel a thriller, but now that it's out, she's good with that
Arts Story  July 21, 2016, by Jessi Cape
"...While En Vogue's anti-prejudice hit harmonies from "Free Your Mind" piped through the patio speakers, I sat with former Chronicle columnist Amy Gentry to discuss her debut novel, Good as Gone. The Houston native and longtime Austin resident was excited about her first time on the other side of the interview recorder, and I couldn't help but smile at the pop-magical music selection..."

Blood Brothers
Bringing James Welch's novel of Native life, 'Winter in the Blood,' to the screen
Screens Story  October 25, 2013, by Paul Stekler
"...In 1974, a 34-year-old writer living in Missoula, Mont., published his first novel. James Welch had grown up around the Blackfeet Indian Reservation – up on the Montana Hi-Line, where his father was from – and around his mother's Gros Ventre tribe..."

All the Ladies in the House
Texas authors Sarah Bird and Diane Wilson win Dobie Paisano fellowships
DAILY Books  May 15, 2009, by Kimberley Jones
"...UT announced today the winners of the 2010 Dobie Paisano Writing Fellowships – prestigious writing awards that involves both an extended stay at the 254 acre Paisano ranch and some cold hard cash. Texas Monthly columnist and much-loved comic novelist Sarah Bird (How Perfect Is That) won the Johnston Fellowship, for writers more established in their career; runners-up include two Michener graduates, poet Bruce Snider (The Year We Studied Women) and Philipp Meyer (whose debut novel American Rust earned great reviews this spring)...."

Take Me, Instead
An interview with SWT's Arturo Mancha, whose novel in progress was a recent break-in casualty
Books Story  April 25, 2003, by Michael Erard
"...Arturo Mancha would have called the theft of his debut novel five years in the writing devastating. Titled Auroboros, it would be the diamond in his sky..."

Lit-urday: The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing
Mira Jacob's novel tracks an Indian family torn by grief
DAILY Books  August 2, 2014, by Amy Kamp
"...It's been a long week, and now you deserve to have one day when you can curl up with a good book – let's call it Lit-urday. Maybe you feel like a novel about a family's struggles that feels so true to life, you can't believe it isn't real...."

Hugo Rising
The nominees for science fiction's best novel of 2013 find a new guard challenging the old
Arts Story  August 30, 2013, by Amy Gentry
"...Sixteen categories spanning fiction, film, art, and fan work, plus the unaffiliated John W. Campbell Award for best new writer, make this something like the Academy Awards of sci-fi, with most fans listening for the announcement of Best Novel at the end of the night..."

The Wangs vs. the World
by Jade Chang
Arts Story  November 3, 2016, by Melanie Haupt
"...What happens when the American Dream, manufactured as it is, goes up in smoke, taking your fortunes with it? Such is the question posed by Jade Chang in her debut novel, which follows the fate of an immigrant businessman and his first-generation children after the collapse of his cosmetics empire...."

Texas Book Festival: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing
Eimear McBride's haunting debut novel reviewed
DAILY Books  October 24, 2014, by Danielle White
"...Eimear McBride's debut novel has won so many awards – Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, the Desmond Elliott Prize, the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year, the Goldsmiths Prize – and received so much praise in the press that you'd hardly imagine the book was turned down by scores of publishers over nine years...."

Lit-urday: All the Single Ladies
The life cycle of a female worker bee sounds strangely familiar
DAILY Books  July 26, 2014, by Jessi Cape
"...It's been a long week, and now you deserve to have one day when you can curl up with a good book – let's call it Lit-urday. Maybe you feel like a novel so full of dancing, hard work, maternal beauty, and fierce independence that Queen Bey herself might enjoy this unique novel..."

A Good Week For Michener Alums
Raves for Kevin Powers, Alix Ohlin closer to Giller Prize
DAILY Books  September 6, 2012, by Kimberley Jones
"...Two graduates of UT’s Michener Center for Writers made the news this week for their novel work...."

MCW Alum Brian Hart Reads at BookPeople
Michener Center for Writers also announces hiring of Elizabeth McCracken and a reading by Richard Ford
DAILY Books  January 20, 2010, by Kimberley Jones
"...Brian Hart is no stranger to accolades – in 2006, he become the first-ever recipient of the University of Texas’ Keene Prize for Literature, the largest student literary prize in existence. Now his debut novel is netting him some awfully nice notices..."

'Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz'
The debut novel from Chronicle staff writer Belinda Acosta: an excerpt
Books Story  July 31, 2009, by Belinda Acosta
"...When Belinda Acosta, the Chronicle's longtime "TV Eye" columnist, was contracted to write the flagship novel in Grand Central Publishing's A Quinceñera Club series, she had never actually attended a quinceañera, that all-important rite of passage into adulthood for the Latina girl. But soon enough Belinda was steeping herself in all things quinceañera: scouring books, attending trade shows, and even grilling other customers at the nail salon on their own experiences..."

Telling Stories
Bill Wittliff seeks the "yes" in his debut novel, The Devil's Backbone
Arts Story  December 4, 2014, by Joe O'Connell
"...Through Encino Press, founded with wife Sally in the Sixties, he's created important Texas books. Now he's written one, a novel called The Devil's Backbone that is both beautiful to look at (credit 25 images inside and a color cover drawn by Jack Unruh) and a joy to read (see sidebar, at right)..."

American War by Omar El Akkad
This dystopian novel of a late 21st century America split by civil war shows how vengeance survives down the generations
Arts Review  April 20, 2017, by Jay Trachtenberg
"...You're probably aware by now that since the election last November, dystopian novels have become all the rage. From George Orwell's venerable 1984 to Philip Roth's more recent The Plot Against America, tales of dark political dysfunction have seen a tremendous spike in sales..."

Specht Speaks!
More Q&A with Migratory Animals author Mary Helen Specht
DAILY Arts  January 15, 2015, by Jessi Cape
"...This week sees the release of Migratory Animals, the debut novel of local author Mary Helen Specht in which a scientist doing research in Nigeria is called home to Austin to help her sister cope with a medical crisis. In conjunction with her Jan..."

Self Service
Merritt Tierce drew on her own time waiting tables for the provocative restaurant world in her novel Love Me Back
Arts Story  October 23, 2014, by Amy Gentry
"...Cutting through the current cloud of romanticism surrounding food culture, Merritt Tierce's fearless debut novel Love Me Back is an unsentimental meditation on the transactional nature of love, desire, and food. It's also as juicy as a Wagyu steak..."

Love Me Back
Merritt's Tierce's novel isn't for the faint of heart, but it tells of a young woman's survival with boldness and power
Arts Story  October 23, 2014, by Jessi Cape
"...A gifted storyteller prevents the wholeness of a human from shrinking behind the shadows of one detail, one event, one fulcrum. In her debut novel, Dallas author Merritt Tierce writes a story that somehow retains an orchestral sound – no one note ringing too loud or too long – in the chaos of a young woman's teetering life...."

Recommended Reading: ‘The Carriage House’
BookPeople hosts former Austinite Louisa Hall
DAILY Books  March 19, 2013, by Kimberley Jones
"...In her debut novel, The Carriage House (Scribner, 288 pp., $26), Louisa Hall takes a relaxed approach to reinterpreting Persuasion...."

Virgin Fiction
First-time publication is like a cotillion for writers, Martin Wilson writes as he reviews five new first novels. And debut novelists are the gussied-up belles at the ball, with butterflies in their stomachs, dreaming of the glorious future that awaits them.
Books Story  April 27, 2001, by Martin Wilson
"...First-time novelists are undeniably sexy. What more proof do you need than a recent portfolio in Interview -- that bastion of edgy hipness and glossy glamour -- titled "The First Time," in which seven debut novelists discussed their creations as they posed in Armani and Ralph Lauren duds, mugging for the camera as if they were supermodels..."

The Virgin Suicides
Young Cecilia Lisbon, her old eyes staring vacantly from a face still puffy with baby fat, lies on a hospital bed, the gashes in her wrists newly sutured. “What are...
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Film Review  May 5, 2000, by Sarah Hepola
"...In their cozy 1970s Michigan suburb, the Lisbon girls live under what must feel like the suffocating supervision of their flighty science-teacher father (Woods) and their strict mother (Turner, who gained weight for the role), a severe woman whose dimples and occasionally bright eyes whisper of the great beauty buried under all the frump. Like the Jeffrey Eugenides novel from which Coppola faithfully adapted the film, The Virgin Suicides is narrated collectively by a group of men (given voice by Giovanni Ribisi) who remain, 25 years later, consumed by the petal-pink memories of the Lisbon sisters and haunted by the sadness that they could not penetrate..."

Savage Nights
Savage Nights (Les Nuit Fauves) would herald the debut of a promising new French writer-director, Cyril Collard, had not Collard died only three days before his film swept the Cesar...
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Film Review  April 22, 1994, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...But slowly, through the impact of the disease, Jean begins to find meaning in his life. Based on Collard's autobiographical novel of the same title, Savage Nights is a distinctive voice in the new genre of AIDS-related narratives..."

Absolutely Confabulous
Austin Public Library's New Fiction Confab focuses on buzz over brawn
Arts Story  April 18, 2014, by Amy Gentry
"...Since then, Confab authors have gone on to receive prestigious fellowships and honors from the MacArthur Foundation (Ethiopian-born Dinaw Mengestu, 2011); the Guggenheim Foundation (Ben Marcus, 2012); and the American Academy of Arts and Letters (Manuel Gon­zales, 2013). Last year's lineup featured Susan Steinberg, whose experimental short-story collection Spectacle is a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and Fiona Maazel, whose novel Woke Up Lonely is short-listed for the Believer Book Award..."

Come Out and Play
Isolated adults must fight off feral children in this effective, if familiar, horror import.
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Film Review  March 22, 2013, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...Based on a novel by Juan José Plans and the Spanish film Who Can Kill a Child?, made from the novel in 1976, Come Out and Play takes another swing at the material. I’m not familiar with those works, but if you’ve seen Village of the Damned or Children of the Corn, you’ll find yourself in recognizable territory..."

Thumbsucker
The plot realistically mimics a teenager’s adriftness and tendency toward hairpin-turn mood shifts as it bounds from the wonderfully affecting to the decidedly idiosyncratic to the occasionally absurd.
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Film Review  October 7, 2005, by Kimberley Jones
"...It’s the kind of movie that lives and dies by a viewer’s own idiosyncrasies, and Thumbsucker found my soft spots for sure. Based on Walter Kirn’s 1999 novel, Thumbsucker details roughly a year in the life of Justin Cobb, an Oregon-based 17-year-old and lifelong thumbsucker..."

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
What this film adaptation of Tom Robbins' popular Seventies novel may ultimately prove is that when the prevailing wisdom regards a particular book as “unfilmable,” adapters should heed the warning...
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Film Review  May 20, 1994, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...Starring: Uma Thurman, John Hurt, Rain Phoenix, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita, Keanu Reeves, Lorraine Bracco, Angie Dickinson and Buck Henry. What this film adaptation of Tom Robbins' popular Seventies novel may ultimately prove is that when the prevailing wisdom regards a particular book as “unfilmable,” adapters should heed the warning rather than accept the challenge..."

An Austin D.A. Turns to Detective Novels
Q&A with Mark Pryor on his Paris-set Hugo Marston mysteries
DAILY Books  October 10, 2012, by Jordan Smith
"...On Oct. 12, he'll add published mystery novelist to his list of accomplishments with the release of his debut novel, The Bookseller (Seventh Street Books)...."

Crazy in Alabama
There's something deliciously off-kilter about Melanie Griffith in Crazy in Alabama: her breathy cadence, that coy uncertainty in her voice, and her delicate beauty all perfectly embody the slightly addled...
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Film Review  October 22, 1999, by Steve Davis
"...A sane proposition, of sorts, until you consider the matter of Chester's decapitated head in the hatbox that Lucille carries around everywhere she goes …. Adapted from Mark Childress' novel of the same name, Crazy in Alabama isn't just a comedy with feminist overtones..."

Nocturnal Animals
A dark meditation on regret and revenge
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Film Review  November 18, 2016, by Marc Savlov
"...Spinning a tale within a tale that recursively loops back and forth throughout a relationship’s beginning, middle, end, and beyond, Ford, adapting from the late Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan, again uses Alfred Hitchcock as a touchstone but this time adds more than a little Douglas Sirk...."

Bridget Jones's Diary
romantic fantasy as it is social satire.
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Film Review  April 13, 2001, by Sarah Hepola
"...Helen Fielding's 1996 book chronicles a year in the life of Bridget Jones -- 32-year-old singleton, compulsive dieter, and pity party of one -- perhaps the most popular (and reviled) comic creation of the past decade. The coup of Fielding's novel was to write a character whose neuroses and self-absorption were so hopelessly, embarrassingly familiar to single women that we couldn't help but love her -- or want to slap her silly..."

In Stereo
Indie romantic comedy doesn't resonate
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Film Review  July 3, 2015, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...See “A Novel Approach,” July 3, for an interview with the filmmaker...."

Beasts of No Nation
Idris Elba co-stars in this Netflix drama about child soldiers in Africa
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Film Review  October 16, 2015, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...Writer, director, and cinematographer Cary Fukunaga hardly misses a horror in this immersive story about a child soldier in Africa. Adapted from Uzodinma Iweala’s novel, the film is set in an unnamed country beset by perpetual war between government and rebel forces..."

The Cider House Rules
Novelist John Irving wrote the screenplay for The Cider House Rules based on his own novel, and the film certainly shows signs of the novelist's recurrent narrative gambit of young...
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Film Review  December 31, 1999, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...Starring: Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Michael Caine, Delroy Lindo, Paul Rudd, Jane Alexander, Kieran Culkin, Kathy Baker, Kate Nelligan, Heavy D and Erykah Badu. Novelist John Irving wrote the screenplay for The Cider House Rules based on his own novel, and the film certainly shows signs of the novelist's recurrent narrative gambit of young individuals trying to discover their place in the world and moral codes by which to live..."

The Minus Man
You can say this for The Minus Man: It comes with a darn good pedigree. Hampton Fancher is making his directing debut after scripting such films as Blade Runner and...
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Film Review  September 24, 1999, by Marc Savlov
"...For a film that's being marketed as “one you'll be talking about for some time,” I had trouble recalling what on earth was going on even as I walked out of the theatre. Adapted from Lew McCreary's novel, The Minus Man follows the rambling path of Vann Siegert (Wilson), an amiable blond traveler with wistful eyes and a bashful grin that belies his penchant for serial killing..."

Gentlemen Don't Eat Poets
Scrupulously based on Patrick McGrath's novel The Grotesque, Gentlemen Don't Eat Poets is so thoroughly a British class farce that it may not translate well to stateside audiences. That's too...
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Film Review  May 9, 1997, by Marc Savlov
"...Starring: Alan Bates, Theresa Russell, Sting, Trudie Styler, Lena Headey, Jim Carter, Chris Barnes, Steven Mackintosh and Anna Massey. Scrupulously based on Patrick McGrath's novel The Grotesque, Gentlemen Don't Eat Poets is so thoroughly a British class farce that it may not translate well to stateside audiences..."

Mambo Kings
This film adaptation of Oscar Hijuelos' Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, tells the story of two Cuban brothers, Cesar (Assante) and Nestor (Banderas) Castillo. The...
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Film Review  March 20, 1992, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...Starring: Armand Assante, Antonio Banderas, Cathy Moriarty and Maruschka Detmers. This film adaptation of Oscar Hijuelos' Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, tells the story of two Cuban brothers, Cesar (Assante) and Nestor (Banderas) Castillo..."

Winter's Tale
Neither Colin Farrell's charms nor Will Smith as the Devil can rescue this soggy valentine.

Film Review  February 14, 2014, by Marc Savlov
"...For those who haven’t read the Mark Helprin novel on which Akiva Goldsman’s film is based, prepare to be confused, annoyed, bewildered, and yet more annoyed by the director’s inability to construct even the most basic of narrative fantasy romances. I haven’t read Helprin’s novel, but many in the audience at the screening I attended had, resulting in gales of laughter aimed at this decidedly serious film..."

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