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The well of creativity.

While readers of serious black literature might fear for its future with competition from other leisure activities and the general decline in time spent reading, many signs point to a long and secure reign for its influence in the world of ideas. One of them is the increasing frequency with which literary and popular black novels are being optioned for film, stage and even opera.

The film of Leaving Cecil Street by Diane McKinney-Whetstone that our cover subject, S. Epatha Merkerson, is developing is but one example. (See "Off the Page" page 12.)

In this season alone, we've seen the musical of Alice Walker's The Color Purple making a go of it on Broadway; and Toni Morrison's Beloved has taken on a new life in a major opera, Margaret Garner (the real name of the historical figure on which the book was based), co-commissioned and staged by three city opera companies.

Other upcoming projects include the film of Martha Southgate's new novel Third Girl From the Left. (See BETWEEN THE LINES, page 8.) Edward P. Jones's The Known World is being developed by John Wells Productions with Anna Deavere Smith writing. Even the nonfiction book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell ("In the Twinkling of an Eye" BIBR, July-August 2005) has been optioned to Universal Studios for a film.

All this follows in a rich tradition in which movie producers have looked to African American legends like Richard Wright (Native Son), Gordon Parks (The Learning Tree), Ernest ]. Gaines (A Lesson Before Dying), Chester Himes (Cotton Comes to Harlem), Walter Mosley (Devil in a Blue Dress), Terry McMillan (Waiting to Exhale) and Dorothy West (The Wedding) for outstanding dramatic material.

What is new today, as Merkerson underscores, is that black actors, producers and directors are often the dealmakers who are buying rights to literature they want to see on screen. White producers are not blind either to the crossover commercial and artistic potential in these novels that make them worth billions in spin-off products.

For those of us who love books of all kinds, it is an interesting exercise to think about what black books we would like to see on film but haven't yet. Gloria Naylor's Linden Hills comes to mind. So does Morrison's Song of Solomon or Love, along with newer novels like Kalisha Buckhanon's Upstate and Helen Oyeyemi's The Icarus Girl. No matter which ones you would pick, let's celebrate together the reach and longevity of black literature.

Angela P. Dodson BIBR Executive Editor
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Title Annotation:executive editor's view
Author:Dodson, Angela P.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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