Peter Cameron's novel is a beautifully constructed story about a grad student who heads to South America to write the biography of a major writer, who, though deceased, lives on through his family. His brother, his wife, and his mistress all live together, and through them must unravel the real story of the author--and get permission to write the book, because his grant is only for an authorized biography. Hot on his pursuit is his Kansas girlfriend, a rather offputting type who is trying to get him to return home.
It's an academic comedy, a village comedy transplanted to Uruguay, a cross-cultural story that defies sterotype and is in fact about being a foreigner (the grad student is Omar Razaghi, the Urugayans are German), and a tale about writing stories, and specifically creating lives when you don't know the life you're writing about. There's this great reversal at the end, where the story changes course, and characters effectively change their role in the story. It's a twist that has stayed with me since I read the book in 2002.
The movie is now released, the first production of James Ivory after the passing of Ismail Merchant, and so far, I'm a little nervous to see the production. I talked to my local contact at the Oriental and he doesn't know of it being scheduled in Milwaukee.
More than that, the book's availability is in limbo. The Plume paperback is out of print and the Picador movie tie in, though scheduled for May 11th, doesn't seem to be on order from Ingram. We haven't seen copies from Macmillan yet either, but it's scheduled for May 11th. I suspect that the quick sell-in is due to rights issues. The Picador is a effectively a reversion, as FSG (Macmillan owned) published the hardcover and sold paperback rights to Plume (Penguin owned). There is so little selling of paperback rights from one corporation to another of late that the parties involved had probably lost practice working out the deal.
However the movie is received and how well it does, to me, the most important thing is to get the word out on just how wonderful this book is. What excuse would I normally have to write about an eight-year-old book on my blog? I need none, actually. Have I mentioned how much I like The Tortoise and the Hare? We're chugging along, up to 16 sold.