My book club has some seriously good timing

I don’t often use this space to write about the books I read IRL.

When I do, it’s typically because of some fun coincidence. Once, my experiences in Nepal helped me appreciate a passage about an erotic Indian temple (How much Sutra is too much? — this is a Hebrew pun). Twice, two passages in a single book reminded me of a memorable phrase in one of my favorite TV shows (This obscenely tasteless post goes out to all you Arrested Development fans ).

But those ones were easy. To truly appreciate the coincidence described in the present post, you’ll have to take yourself back a month and a half or so. I had been inexplicably granted a week off school leading up to Thanksgiving, and was resolved to use that time really productively.

That didn’t happen.

I spent the week with my brother in Queens, and aside from one brief excursion (Book of Mormon!), kept mostly to the inside of his house. At one point while he was out the door on his way to class, I asked if he had any recommendations for something to do nearby. He suggested the cheap, local movie theater that was showing Argo, which had been in theaters for about a month, and which he strongly recommended.

All I knew about Argo was that Ben Affleck had recently visited Jon Stewart to promote it (an event that seemed to me quite recent because — as recently noted — I fall chronically behind on my TV-watching while school is in session), and I confused the movie with Cloud Atlas, because Tom Hanks had visited Stephen Colbert to push that at around the same time.

I never made it to the theater, but I did manage to do my brother’s suggestion one better. At exactly that time, I was in the middle of a novel by Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light, which won the Hugo in 1968. As I read, it occurred to me that the book would make a great movie, so when I finally finished it, I checked out the Wikipedia page to see if that had ever happened. It turned out I was not the first person to get that idea:

In 1979 it was announced that Lord of Light would be made into a 50 million dollar film. It was planned that the sets for the movie would be made permanent and become the core of a science fiction theme park to be built in Aurora, Colorado. Famed comic-book artist Jack Kirby was even contracted to produce artwork for set design. However, due to legal problems the project was never completed.

[Editor’s note: You can see Kirby’s design for Science Fiction Land by scrolling back up.]

But as I read on, things started to get a little weird:

Parts of the unmade film project—the script and Kirby’s set designs—were subsequently acquired by the CIA as cover for the “Canadian Caper”: the exfiltration of six US diplomatic staff trapped by the Iranian hostage crisis (in Tehran but outside the embassy compound). The rescue team pretended to be scouting a location in Iran for shooting a Hollywood film from the script, which they had renamed Argo. The story of the rescue effort was later made into a movie, itself named Argo.

The book’s been out for 45 years, I’ve been alive for 25 of them (and into science fiction for most of those), and I only happened to read Lord of Light at exactly the same time the movie that was sort of based on it was in theaters? As I said, I only write about my books when there’s a fun coincidence. This qualifies, as far as I’m concerned. My life is very exciting.

I suppose, given how may people there are in the world, Hari Seldon would have had no difficulty predicting that someone would be reading Lord of Light at about this very time. Indeed, I’m not even the only person I know who was reading it in November — I was reading it as the second book in my first-ever book club.

And before it occurs to you that the book club chose Lord of Light because Argo was in theaters, the person who selected the three possibilities was just looking for classic literature, and insists he had no idea the book he chose was in any way timely. And I believe him, because the other two books he came up with were The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966), which is not — to my knowledge — in imminent danger of being made into a movie, and The Hobbit, which — unlike Lord of Light — he went out of his way to describe as a “good warmup for the upcoming movie.”

So now I have to go see Argo, but I think I’ll wait until it makes its way out of theaters. Getting myself to the Hobbit is hard enough when you’re lazy and busy and home.

And next up for the book club? Cloud Atlas — but this time on purpose.


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