Barry Jenkins Is Following Up ‘Moonlight’ with a James Baldwin Adaptation

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Plus Milo Yiannopoulos sues Simon & Schuster for $10 million and Denis Johnson is awarded a posthumous prize

In today’s literary news, one of Barry Jenkins’ post-Moonlight projects is an adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk, Pearson sells a hefty stake of Penguin Random House to Bertelsmann, Denis Johnson wins an award posthumously, and Milo Yiannopoulos is suing Simon & Schuster.

Moonlight director Barry Jenkins will adapt a James Baldwin novel

Barry Jenkins isn’t letting a tiny golden statue on his nightstand discourage him from getting back to work. Just five months after Moonlight received an Academy Award for best picture, the director has been lining up a number of projects. He has been working on a TV adaptation of the award-winning Colson Whitehead novel, The Underground Railroad, and now he has another undertaking in the works: an adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk. Apparently, Jenkins has been holding onto this story for quite some time now, having written the script for it back in 2013 when he was also working on the Moonlight screenplay. Even though he didn’t own the rights to If Beale Street Could Talk back then, he decided to go ahead with the writing anyway. (We admire the confidence, Barry.) Baldwin’s 1974 novel tells the story of Tish and Fonny in Harlem, as Fonny is wrongly incarcerated and Tish discovers that she is pregnant with his child. In a statement Jenkins wrote, “To translate the power of Tish and Fonny’s love to the screen in Baldwin’s image is a dream I’ve long held dear. Working alongside the Baldwin Estate, I’m excited to finally make that dream come true.” We are confident that the director will do this powerful work justice.

[Variety/Justin Kroll]

Kurt Vonnegut Walks Into a Bar

Pearson sells 22% stake of Penguin Random House

In an effort to escape more looming financial problems, British learning company Pearson has agreed to sell a 22% stake in book publisher Penguin Random House. The sale was made to its joint venture partner, the German copmany, Bertelsmann, and is expected to raise $1 billion. After this deal, Pearson will still have a 25% share in the publishing company. The sale is part of an effort to make Pearson more of a digital educational publisher. While this news has aroused some unease in the book world, Bertlesmann has assured authors and staff that its increased stake will not have any effect on the publisher’s independence. “We can and will continue to focus on our authors’ creative works, and with that, on publishing the finest books and stories for our readers,” said Markus Dohle, chief executive of PRH.

[The Guardian/Danuta Kean]

Posthumous prize awarded to Denis Johnson

Nearly two months after the death of Denis Johnson, a novelist and poet who wrote about tragic and overlooked people and places, another prize is being added to his long list of accolades. The Library of Congress announced that Johnson has been named the winner of the Prize for American Fiction. The award will be accepted by his widow, Cindy Johnson, at the National Book Festival in Washington on September 2nd — the first time the LOC is granting the award posthumously. The author was offered the prize in March and his reaction expressed his excitement and honor: “The list of past awardees is daunting, and I’m honored to be in such company. My head’s spinning from such great news!” Previous winners of this esteemed prize include Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, and John Grisham.

[The Washington Post/Ron Charles]

Milo Yiannopoulos files $10 million lawsuit against Simon & Schuster

The war between Simon & Schuster and Milo Yiannopoulos rages on. The former Breitbart editor and right-wing media personality announced his $10 million lawsuit against S&S outside the company’s New York office on Friday. In the lawsuit, which was filed in New York state court, Yiannopoulos alleges breach of contract and argues that his book Dangerous would have sold better if it had been published under the book giant. In a wave of controversy back in February, S&S canceled its book deal with the alt-right provocateur despite supposedly paying a $250,000 advance. Instead, Yiannopoulos self-published the book, which was number one in Amazon charts upon its release on July 4th, but has since disappeared into the ether outside of the Top 10. The publishing house wasn’t having any of Milo’s drama, calling his lawsuit “publicity-driven and entirely without merit.”

[The Guardian/Danuta Kean]

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