James McBride

I must admit the days have really passed me by.  I try to update the site each Monday and before I knew it, Monday had come and gone.

Spike Lee was the recipient of the Wexner Prize for 2008 and came into town last Monday to receive the prize and participate in some events surrounding the honor.  On Tuesday evening he sat down with his friend, James McBride, for a conversation in Mershon Auditorium which I was able to attend.  McBride is in the middle of a book tour to promote Song Yet Sung which he described as about a slave who dreams of the future – of chariots with rubber tires, and inspires a revolt.  It certainly got my attention.

It was interesting to hear McBride speak about working with Lee on a screenplay.  He received a call from Lee while on the road and McBride thought a friend was playing a joke on him.  Lee wanted to make a movie from McBride’s Miracle at St. Anna which was on its way to being out of print.  This is McBride’s first screenplay.  He’d write ten pages, give them to Lee, Lee would make comments and hand them back to McBride.  McBride worked on the changes and handed those pages back with ten more new ones.  It sounded like there was some give and take.  They’re the same age and grew up only a few blocks away from each other in New York which automatically creates a rapport.  The movie is planned to be released in October or November 2008.  I think it will be a good one based on the trailer I saw.  It has an international cast and subtitles. 

The book is about the 92nd Infantry Division stationed in Italy during World War II.  Two of the soldiers presently live in Cleveland.  Several times during the evening they were given standing ovations.  Harrison Dillard is a four-time Olympic gold medalist.  William Perry is most recently noted for raising $30,000 by himself towards the building of a Colonel Charles Young statue.  I haven’t read the book so I don’t know if the characters are real people or based on real people.  For the movie, four characters are given most of the screen time and they are based on combinations of real people with the imaginations of McBride and Lee thrown into the mix.

All four men went to the reception held afterwards.  Several people bought copies of the book while walking through the Wexner Center Bookstore and had them autographed by as many of the four as possible.  I initially went to hear Spike Lee but I found a new (to me) author and have added more books in my “to be read” pile.

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