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Die-Hard Indie John Sayles Takes McSweeney's Novel A Moment in the Sun On Tour

by Cari Beauchamp
May 9, 2011 5:05 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood


John Sayles and producer Maggie Renzi tell Cari Beauchamp about their book tour for Sayles' A Moment in the Sun:

Since Return of the Secaucus Seven in 1979, John Sayles, along side his long-time producer and partner Maggie Renzi, have been making independent films, telling the stories they want to tell (Lone Star, Matewan, Eight Men Out and more than a dozen others). In between, Sayles has supplemented his income with often uncredited studio writing jobs as well writing short stories and novels. It is exemplary of Sayles, who writes, directs and edits his own films, that he never uses the possessory credit and when speaking of his movies, always uses the word "we"...
While he reveres the collaboration necessary for filmmaking (one of the reasons the likes of long-time friends Chris Cooper, David Straithairn and Haskell Wexler work with him time and again), he found time, in part during the writers strike, to pen a new novel, A Moment in the Sun. Already being compared favorably with Doctorow's Ragtime and Dos Passos' USA, it is a sprawling epic of turn-of-the-century America and its ignoble entry into the Spanish American War.

Sayles and Renzi serve as inspiration to their sizable network of friends not just by what they do, but how they do it. They always manage to make whatever they are doing fun, inclusive and with a passion for their values. Died-hard indies, the pair wasn't about to do an ordinary book tour, so Renzi worked with Sayles' publisher, McSweeney's, to design a nationwide promotion tied to readings at independent bookstores, another industry under the deluge of transition and in need of support. And instead of going by air, they packed up a rented Prius (with so many set dates, they didn't want to risk something happening to their Suburu with over 100,000 miles on it) and left their Duchess County, New York home a week ago for a month and half on the road.

This weekend they are in Kentucky, heading down to Oxford, MS, and then New Orleans on Wed, May 11 with a stop in Austin, TX, on Friday. You get the idea. The map of their trip is hardly a direct route across the country and when they finish their southern loop in Los Angeles en route north to Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle before heading east again via Denver and Chicago and stops in between, they will have logged over 10,000 miles. In typical Sayles-Renzi style, they will be spending about half of the 40 nights of the trip with friends. "We both have new iPads and several audio books, including the complete works of William Faulkner and Keith Richard's Life," says Renzi, who as always is the one clearing the path with a smile.

They will be home again in mid-June, in time to do laundry and repack, for they are off again to the Philippines for the premiere of their latest movie, Amigo, filmed there over the last year and a half and then back to the states in time for the US opening in late August. And then...well, whatever it is, its never going to be less than engaging.

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