Liz Smith: Earthquake Rattles Cable News…Linda Yellen’s “A Royal Romance” Charms NYC Glitterati

Earthquake shudders, and a "royal" director, Linda Yellen

And more from our Liz: Will Kindle save books?…and Marie Antoinette rediscovered, again

“SO, I assume this means you won’t be seeing that little tramp anymore!”

This was Ava Gardner battling it out with Charlton Heston in 1974’s “Earthquake.” Not one of Ava’s better efforts, but the film was a smash, and it is considered the granddaddy of disaster movies, a genre still thriving today.

* * *

AVA and “Earthquake” came to mind on Tuesday, with the significant 5.8 tumbler that shook up most of the East Coast. I bet the movie will start running soon on Cinemax or Encore or TCM.

But what shook me up more than the earth moving, was the fact that this was clearly not a devastating quake, at all. And yet at the very moment all the cable news stations were covering the Libyan rebels seizing Gaddafi’s compound, the quake hit and it was “earthquake” 24/7 for hours after. Within ten minutes it was clear the quake was essentially a non-story, but we had to be treated to all the MSNBC, Fox News and CNN journalists reliving their harrowing experiences as…desks shook and some stuff fell down. Over and over and over again.

Memo to cable news—multi-tasking. Cover several stories at the same time. Try it.

* * *

DIRECTOR-Producer Linda Yellen bought herself a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes (the ones with the distinctive red soles) for the glitzy screening of her new movie for Hallmark, “William & Catherine: A Royal Romance.” Linda kicked up her heels—literally—and said, “I thought, it’s now or never for these shoes. And after all, they are related to royalty, although it’s French royalty.” (Louis XIV, to be precise. It was Louis who began the red-sole craze, while building Versailles.)

Linda, tall and blonde and girlish, was thrilled that so many of the audience—including New York Times fashion editor Ruth LaFerla, “Dreamgirls” composer Henry Krieger and the best damn gossip reporter in New York, Roger Friedman—stayed and mingled at the Crosby Hotel, way downtown, until midnight. The general consensus was that Yellen’s movie marks a new high-quality point for Hallmark productions. “William & Catherine” is lush, romantic, quite humorous and realistic in portraying Will and Kate. Dan Amboyer and Alice St. Claire, who play the lovers, are fresh and charismatic, onscreen and in the flesh, at the party.

Jean Smart who has a juicy role as Camilla Parker Bowles said, “I’ve seen feature films that cost $60 million dollars that didn’t look as good as this!” (Jane Alexander, who plays Queen Elizabeth, also has some rich moments in the movie.) The good looks of the film are a miracle, as it was shot in Romania, on a not-huge budget.

Paul Morrissey put the cherry on the sundae when he marched up to Yellen and said, “Look, I just have to tell you, I liked this better than ‘The King’s Speech!”

“William & Catherine” airs on Saturday. I know you think you’re worn out on Will and Kate, but this one is worth taking a look at.

* * *

SPEAKING OF royalty, one of my favorite doomed heroines of history, Marie Antoinette, is having yet another literary resurgence.

A new book has arrived, Juliet Grey’s Becoming Marie Antoinette, a novel based on the facts of Antoinette’s early years as the dauphine of France, married to a lump of a man who could not consummate their marriage for six years. Publicity about the book touts busting the myths about Marie—her promiscuity, selfishness, and of course the infamous “Let them eat cake.” She never said it.

Well, being something of an amateur expert on this subject, I knew poor Marie had been slandered, but it’s never too late to reclaim a tarnished reputation. After all, she lost her head over those lies.

* * *

WRITER Graham Swift, has weighed in on the rise of e-readers which he says “threaten the future of English literature.”

Mr. Swift won the Man Booker Prize in 1996 for his novel, Last Orders and he says electronic reading may just cause aspiring authors to “give up and leave potentially great stories unwritten.” Mr. Swift says writers are threatened because the way they are repaid for their work producing e-books “is very much up in the air.”

The author describes e-books as having the atmosphere that “everything belongs to everybody. There is a tendency to see an e-book as just in the air to be taken and to lose the sense that somebody once made it.”

But Amazon said that sales for its Kindle e-reader overtook paperbacks this year. E-readers also claim that they feel encouraged to read more often. And a few authors feel the e-book allows them to sell their work without an agent or a publishing deal.

For instance, John Locke, became the first person to sell a million e-books without a publishing deal, putting his sales on a par with best-selling writers like Stieg Larsson and James Patterson. He sold his book for 99 cents a copy and broke a million sales in just five months.

Thanks to science writer Nick Collins for this story.

34 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    I may work during the day, but late at night you can find me buried in a book..  Constantly.  I review books and it keeps me very very busy.  I refuse to give up real books – snuggling on the sofa to actually turn paper pages and find myself in another world.  I equate e-books to my childhood Etch-a-Sketch to be perfectly honest.  I’m addicted to paper and I am not going to change.

    However, I practically own a library elsewhere — and I know that “when the world turns”, we are not talking about a soap opera any more.  We are talking about the future in e-books.  For most of you, did you know that in the next 6 months at just about any library you can order all your favorite e-books (as long as you have that plastic reader – and if you don’t, your library will let you borrow one). 

    On the Internet, just get on to your library’s web site and click e-books soon.  You download some free software (and for klutzes they help you do this) and you are set.  You look at an endless list of e-books and order what you want FREE.  You may have to wait a few days, bugt VOILA — an e-mail will come in that your book is ready.  In some secret magic way, it will appear on your e-reader — a way you will never ever in a million lifetimes understand.  But do we care?
    Of course not.

    You will have exactly 3 weeks — 21 whole days to sit with that etch-a-sketch thing and read the book.  Finish it — as your goose is cooked if you miss the deadline.  It disappears from that cute plastic thing like magic.  And then it is I who get an e-mail saying that I can have your book anytime I want for my own 21 days.  Sorry — you are out of luck but you learn to read fast – and that isn’t such a bad thing.  Well, isn’t it???  

    My suggestion is to not pay a red cent for a book — as most of us are getting poor pretty fast these days — and you are paying taxes for this library service whether you know it or not, so 
    if you have sworn off paper — using the excuse that it isn’t good envoronmentally to cut down trees anyhow — you still will be able to drop the names of best sellers like a pro in the slow times at those luncheons.  You know, you are guaranteed to WOW your dining companions with Jane Fonda’s e-books suggestions on how to make your sex life better when you thought it was a thing of the past.  

    I personally like that stack of books on the coffee table tempting me — but to each her own.

    • avatar lakers says:

      Hi Joan, I agree with most of what you say however I live and work overseas now and I just could not do this without my Kindle.  I can travel with 60 books where ever I go.  That many books just don’t fit in the airplane’s overhead bin!  I do miss real books.  I used to love slam a book shut when I finish a really good one!  I guess I could put my Kindle to sleep real fast but thats just not the same…

    • avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

      I too, agree with you Joan on the wonderful feeling of turning the page and the the heft of the volume.  I love the look of a stack of books on my coffee table, end table and shelves.  
      What I love, love about my Kindle is what many others love.  When I travel and that is often, I have as many books I want and can add as many more as I like into a weightless, slim, goes into my carryon bag and I’m off.  It is a treasure to my for this reason.  

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      The best way to support a library is to use it.  I can see the advantage of Kindle for those who travel. For everyone else, well, you’re not supposed to be reading a book at work. Off with your head! And on that note, whatever Marie Antoinette did or didn’t say, she was carted off to the guillotine. Seems to happen from time to time. Particularly during revolutions. People don’t revolt if they’re happy. Something our modern Marie Antoinettes might think about. 

      The one thing a Kindle doesn’t do is scent the air with the memories of the previous times you read the book. Nothing like old paper to stir up memories. Sounds silly I’m sure except to those who have bookshelves with books they’ve kept and still read from time to time. 

      • avatar Count Snarkula says:

        Oh Baby you are so right. A smear of chocolate across a page, that reminds you of where you were the last time you visited the book. Perhaps yellowed pages, that meant that there was a lot of smoking and drinking at the time. Cookbooks with marinara or minced garlic accidentally added….

  2. avatar amw says:

    I had the identical thought about the earthquake coverage. The media defines “ad nauseam”. Then again, I had quite a few people disagree with me saying I was a news “snob” and only interested in the things that directly affected me. Well…yes…as well as the important things that affect Americans and the entire world.

    I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Swift. I certainly prefer a real book over the electronic kind, however I can’t deny how great these e-books have been for several people I know. In fact, the pros seem to outweigh the cons…the zoom feature for those whose sight isn’t what it used to be, the backlight that won’t disturb anyone that may be sleeping in the near vicinity, the space saving…and those are just a few. Do I think we rely on technology too much? Sure…but in this case, I think we have a winner.

  3. avatar Lila says:

    Funny thing about the quake: have been through several on three different continents, but always in earthquake zones so it was not unexpected.   Yet it took me practically the full length of this quake to figure out (or maybe accept?) what it really was.  My brain kept running through other vibration-generating scenarios – we are near train tracks and Dulles Airport – but as the strength of the shaking kept escalating, it soon became obvious that it wasn’t any of those.  I knew East Coast quakes do occur, but they are so rare – interesting to have witnessed one in my lifetime.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      The “news” of the earthquake was in it never having happened before. The previous earthquake in I believe 1897 was barely felt in Washington. This one was. And it did damage. The Washington Monument, the National Cathedral, the Capitol.  And the real “news” is that this quake may be a precursor of others to follow. A dormant fault line now reactivated. Possibly by the increased use of “fracturing” in the drilling for natural gas in the area. So much for “Drill, baby, drill.” There has also been increased activity in “oil and gas” states tied to the use of “fracturing” and no doubt there will be continued drilling and continued earthquakes until a major city is leveled by a major, as opposed to signiificant, earthquake. Even then some will continue the cry to “drill, baby, drill.” Simply because it makes them very rich.

      • avatar Lila says:

        Snooks, yeah… I am opposed to “Drill, Baby, Drill” and REALLY opposed to fracking.  Even the people who do the fracking have little idea of what they are dealing with.  I just don’t understand the obsession with squeezing every last drop of oil out at any cost in effort and damages, when developing renewable energy is so OBVIOUSLY the only way to go in the future.

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          There are landowners who negotiate the leases who are finding that 1,000 acres of land can easily translate into $1-2 million upfront, sometimes more if they’re savvy, and as much as $50-100 million down the road who LOVE it. And so it goes. And will continue to. And of course all drilling involves “cracking the rock” and so of course there is always the possibility of little “boo-boos” including offshore. News today that once again there is oil being spotted in the Gulf of Mexico. And once again BP is denying it is from the Macondo well. And once again the Coast Guard is denying it is from the Macondo well. Not the first time they have denied it. Of course the first time if became harder and harder to deny.  I suspect they have just gotten better at spreading the dispersant while no one is looking which isn’t hard to do since the Coast Guard of course runs everyone off to make sure no other photos are taken.  That alone is one reason why I will not vote for Obama again.  He was in BP’s pocket long before he ran for president.  It is also the reason why I no longer eat anything from the Gulf of Mexico.  Once a liar, always a liar as they say. 

  4. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    I will not go to the dark side…I will not go to the Kindle. 

    • avatar LandofLove says:

      Mr. wOw, with the hurricane on its way to NYC, make sure your books are safe!  🙂

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        My books…my VHS tapes…my DVDs…my insane paper memorabilia on MM and Liz….

        And B.

        I have to protect him from the hurricane. Most of all. 

        I am sure it won’t hit here, despite the hysterical headlines on the NYC papers. 

        But I am wearing my rubbers, just in case.

        • avatar LandofLove says:

          Keep us updated and stay safe. Sending good karma your way!

          • avatar Mr. Wow says:

            Thank you…you are your avatar.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            They have gotten very good with predicting the paths so the question is how much wind and rain you will get. So batten down the hatches!

            One thing that impressed me was the apparently “preparedness” by NYC despite the fact it is not an annual “possible” event. They have a map showing which areas are most likely to flood. So the whole city doesn’t evacuate needlessly which is what happened in Texas during Rita which could have proved quite disastrous given the thousands of people stuck out in the middle of nowhere on highways in bumper-to-bumper traffic when it hit.

            And if the lights go out, well, there is something romantic about candlelight, you know?

  5. avatar sueb1997 says:

    I’m an avid reader (and an employee at a library that does NOT deal in e-books) and I want nothing to do with a Kindle either.

    However, my current favorite author has just released a short story/novella that is a part of her series that I’m entirely infatuated with, and this novella is, for now at least, available ONLY in e-form.  What to do?  I compromised — I downloaded “Kindle for PC” (free software) and will use it to read this novella on my computer.  No actual Kindle gadget, but I sure didn’t want to miss the story, especially as it’s a part of a series (and I take reading series’ in order VERY seriously).

    And maybe I’ll let the author know how I feel, that some of us really want to continue reading the old fashioned way…

  6. avatar Daniel Sugar says:

    Novels have a rhythm, a pace. Except for the obvious answer (page numbers), how can you tell where you are in the story when you’re holding a piece of plastic? 

    • avatar Joan Larsen says:

      Daniel .  .  . I love the thoughts you have expressed.  It made me stop, thinking of how I read a novel.  And yes, subconsciously I am aware or glance how far I have yet to go.  But when a book is extraordinary, the author rather new, I cannot tell you how many times I will stop, go right to the inside back cover and stare at the author’s photo.  “How could this person move me that much?” I might say . . . or other thoughts along those lines.  I also may flip to the inside front to see what other books this person may have written, actually stopping to order another on my library’s website at that moment. 

      I have to admit that every once in a while I cannot put the book down, fingers idly measuring how many pages there still may be to go, deciding I just may stay up half the night.  And do.

      I do understand that e-books are convenient for travel — though I used to remember that I left a trail of paperbacks for others to pick up when I travelled, not dragging extra weight home. 

      In my home, being surrounded by my friends — those books I cannot relinquish — gives me a sense of peace and warmth.  I guess we would say it is that indescribable feeling that makes my house a home filled with love.

  7. avatar Mee Hu says:

    Actually, it’s simple. The Kindle has a horizontal bar on the bottom of each page. It blackens as you progress. So it’s quite easy to see how far you are in the journey.

    Count me as a Kindle fan.

  8. avatar Daniel Sugar says:

    Thanks, Joan

    Ultimately, anything that gets people to read, whether it’s a thin piece of plastic, a tiny sliver of steel or an almost weightless wafer of wax is a good thing. Reading is reading no matter how it’s done. (The writing is what matters – the delivery system almost doesn’t matter.)


  9. avatar Daniel Sugar says:

    P.S. Can’t wait ’til rare books dealers start selling first edition Kindles.

    • avatar Joan Larsen says:

      Funny.  That same thought had crossed my mind.

      Kindles or books though, I believe the largest challenge that we – as a generation have now – is immersing our children in books and reading.  Our world has changed so rapidly.  Most often, both parents are working.  The homey atmosphere of mother and child sitting close as mother reads the bedtime stories to the little one is almost a thing of the past.  The children – from an early age – are inundated with other passtimes, often meant to keep them quiet and out of the way. 

      We were “hooked on books” at an early age, often becoming readers who couldn’t get enough.  . hooked for life.  Childhood itself was a more prolonged state, often more idyllic.
      And that is another whole topic!!!!!

  10. avatar Daniel Sugar says:


    I’m not sure there’s much you can do to force someone to read. In my experience, there are “readers” and “I never read” people. (It might be genetic.) However, J.K. Rowling certainly captured the imaginations of millions of children (and adults). Perhaps the kids who loved reading “Harry Potter” will continue to read. I’m guessing some will and some won’t but that’s just the way it goes.  


    • avatar Lila says:

      Daniel, alas, the shiny, noisy object requiring little effort will generally win out over the mysterious layered sheets that require decoding… UNLESS that’s the best entertainment around.

      When parents read to kids, teach them the alphabet and phonics, and provide them with books rather than mindless gewgaws, it will happen. Our mother did this for us and we were reading by age 3 (well, she had “help” in that this was the 1960s and the TV only had one or two Venezuelan channels which were not exactly kid entertainment). We were motivated to have the books available to us any time, so we worked at cracking the code.

      You mentioned Harry Potter – perfect example. Great story, but the only way to access it – at least for a while – was to READ IT. We need more stories like that!

  11. avatar LuckyLady n/a says:

    For some reason over a very long life I have re-read certain books (and seen certain movies) over again-sometimes three or four times.  I have found that each time I re-read I find things that I completely missed on the first foray, things that I thought were important and were not–etc.  I will assume that others do this and find that reading and keeping books is very rewarding.  In our home we started out with an actual library and now there are beautiful books everywhere.  Every time I think that it is time that I donate the books I get caught in the memories and I am right back where I started.

    Regarding the earthquake:  Now that you have felt one may I suggest that I was shocked to see so many of you running outside when the room started to rock and roll.  Living in California forever we constantly wait for the “big one” and have had big ones–however we are warned never to run outside (though that is the first thing that comes to mind) as brick, mortar, glass all fall outward.  Also, all pieces of heavy furniture are attached to our walls and heavy artwork is never hung over a bed or a couch.  It was big news for the networks but I didn’t hear one person mention safety measures which should be taken. 

    • avatar Lila says:

      Lucky Lady, in DC one of the radio stations has run several segments talking about what to do and not to do in a quake, although most will probably soon forget.

      Most East Coast homeowners’ policies also don’t include coverage for quakes. Since we move a lot, we had a renter’s policy (and later, a homeowner policy) and told them to just keep us covered for everything wherever we went, since we were often unfamiliar with just what the risks might be. But on arrival in DC, I asked for the same, and they told me not to bother with the quake coverage. I asked about possible damage from any other kinds of vibrations, but all those things were covered under other parts of the policy. Now here we are with a 5.8 quake and no quake coverage… fortunately we did not have damage, but some others around here did.

  12. avatar mary burdt says:

    I, like most of you, are an avid reader who loves to curl up with a good read but I must confess that I love my Kindle that I received from my daughter last Christmas. It isn’t paper, but it fits into my hand perfectly, and I can see a review of a new book in a magazine and order it online pronto. Within minutes I am pouring over a new book I just ordered.
    Fabulous. I read much more now, if that’s possible, and sometimes continuing long into the night.

    I still love a REAL book and have many lining my bookshelves. This is how I will proceed in the future; If I am purchasing a book I know will be an important addition to my library, I will buy the paper copy and proudly display it. If I am buying something that I am pretty sure I will never read twice, then I will download it to my e-reader. Sounds like a plan.

    Happy reading everybody.

    • avatar Joan Larsen says:

      Mary — do YOU notice that there are not so many “very good books” out there any more.  I find myself not raving about too many I am reading any more — the quality of the writing is definitely down as well as the content unless you are in to the best sellers — all detective stories who you don’t remember a week after you have read them.

      I tend to try to pick the best of the lot out there — but I actually don’t finish some for the first time ever.  Just not that good.  Fewer to put in the bookshelves though – which I must stop anyhow.

      • avatar Lila says:

        Joan, you should start a wowOwow book review column!!

        Have you read Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns or Kite Runner? Not new, but great.

  13. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    Lila, I would love to but we saw in the past that only a select few for a site like this really love books and actually read all the time.  The books you listed are the exceptions to the rule I find — excellent.  Unbroken — which has been #1 on NYT best seller non-fiction list for over a year is one I cannot get out of my head.  Better than just about anything — so do look that one up.  I have others that are almost comparable — but there are too many that are a waste of time in my way of thinking.  . and I am not sure why.  Joan

    • avatar Lila says:

      Joan, I will have to check that out. My Great-Uncle’s bomber was hit by flak and he and his crew had to ditch in the Pacific, but fortunately they were picked up by a US sub. Had circumstances been different…

      Amazingly, the ditching of the plane and the rescue of the crew was filmed and is posted on the Internet so I was able to get a copy for my “family tree” collection. 🙂

      • avatar Joan Larsen says:

        WOW — to even HAVE a family tree collection is fabulous . . . but to have the movie of your great uncle’s story is so unusual and wonderful!!

        • avatar Lila says:

          It’s that grainy, choppy 1940s quality and shot from the deck of the sub that picked them up – the USS PINTADO – but we can clearly pick him out as he comes aboard. The silent film is narrated by one of the surviving crew members. If you are curious you can read the details at the 39th Bomb Group (VH) page. It will come up if you search for “crew 13 60th squadron 39th bomb group.” You’re looking for the story of Crew 13, or the Peacemaker II named “City of Galveston.” One of the tabs near the top of the page is labeled “Nagoya Mission Rescue Footage,” and the movie is there, in 3 segments.

          Isn’t the Internet the best invention EVER? Other than, maybe, hot running water?