Books In Movies

No, not books TO movies, books IN movies, used as props or set dressing. Whenever I see a character reading, I want to know what they’re reading. All too often you can’t tell, but when you can, it’s usually informative.

The AMC series “Mad Men” has had some fun book cameos. Set in the 1960s New York City advertising world, the show consciously references books and films of the time. I noticed in the first episode that the main office set appeared to be an imitation of the office in the film version of Rona Jaffe’s The Best of Everything (with lighting and camera angles borrowed from The Apartment). Somewhere around episode 4 or 5, one of the characters is shown reading Jaffe’s book–which, of course, would be true to the time period.

Another book cameo I always think of comes in Donnie Darko. We meet Donnie’s mother (played by Mary McDonnell) reading Stephen King’s IT. It’s a subtle way to establish the time period but there’s also a nice thematic resonance, as both works deal with horrors that lie beneath the surface of the ordinary.

This week’s New Yorker has an article about set dressers and decorators who are hired to stock libraries on movie sets or in newly decorated homes. I once worked on a film where I had to find books to stock an entire wall, and there wasn’t enough in the budget to rent books. I had a friend who worked at Random House, and he hooked me up with their promotions department. I told him what I was trying to do, and he said he could help me out.

A few short days later, UPS showed up with a shipment for me. 90 boxes of books–remaindered books that would’ve been sent in for pulping. It was one of the greatest moments in my bookworm life. Not that I got to keep the books–they all went to set and who knows where they went after that, but to see all those boxes with my name on them was something I’ll never forget.

Today’s work read was a new book that I’d been dying to read, and I was even more psyched to get paid for it!

9 thoughts on “Books In Movies”

  1. I don’t recall that many books.

    But I was tickled at Mike Myers in ‘So I Married An Axe Murderer ..’ – which picked the Weekly World News tabloid, the ‘eighth highest circulation paper in the world’, printed on newsprint in black and white. I subscribed for a while – it irritated my boss, that I had it delivered at work. He thought it was trash. I thought it was trash, but amusing.

    There was a cute scene, with one of the crooks waiting in the front seat of a car – reading a Weekly World News issue. That was in the Nicholas Cage movie ‘Trapped in Paradise’.

    There was another movie out about that time that also included the WWN, but I forget now which it was.

    The WWN is the one that showed the Space Alien shaking hands with Pres. Reagan, H. W. Bush, Clinton, and also Rush Limbaugh and Ross Perot. The ‘Worlds’ Biggest Baby’ is another repeating favorite story.

    Now I will need to watch for books. Hopefully Hollywood will pick up on some of my favorite authors – McCaffrey, Moon, Mcmaster Bujold, Patricia Briggs, C. J. Cherryh, Leo Frankowski, David Weber, Susan R. Matthews, Tamora Pierce, Robyn McKinley (a lovely retelling of ‘Beauty’ and the beast), Anne Bishop, Robert Frezza (really schlocky space opera with ‘McLendon’s Syndrome’ and ‘VMR Theory’), and Christopher Rowley (‘Bazil Broketail’).

  2. My problem is people reading books in public places – I always want to know what they’re reading and get some very peculiar looks as I try to find out discretely. Maybe I should take a leaf out of my mother’s book. If she saw someone reading Harry Potter (to whom she was devoted) she would immediately strike up a conversation regardless of who or where they were. Mind you, you can probably get away with that at 90!

  3. You can get away with anything at 90!

    I am always curious about other people’s books too–good thing about living in NYC is that you can totally get away with looking over people’s shoulders on the subway 🙂

  4. The set-making job sounds great, but I am not nearly as envious of it as I am of your job now, where you seem to have a book to read/review every day! I think you should convince your boss to hire me, too. 😉

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