Lily King’s ‘Euphoria’ heading to the screen

(Courtesy of Grove/Atlantic)
(Courtesy of Grove/Atlantic)

Lily King has every reason to feel euphoric this month.

Her just released novel, “Euphoria” — inspired by the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead — is heading to the silver screen. Michael Apted, whose prolific career has included “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and Showtime’s current series “Masters of Sex,” is set to direct the adaptation. Paige Simpson will be the producer.

This week King is traveling in California on her book tour and plans to meet with the director and producer. She says, “I feel really lucky to be working with the immensely talented Michael Apted and Paige Simpson.” She describes them both as “very committed and passionate already.”

King will not be writing the script but says, “I hope to be able to put in my two cents. . . . I hope it will make viewers feel the way I felt while watching ‘The English Patient,’ ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘Out of Africa,’ films in which place is a lush and fascinating main character, yet the human characters are so vivid and particular they do not get outperformed by it.”

“Euphoria,” her fourth novel and her first historical novel, has received very positive reviews. The story reimagines a collaboration in New Guinea in the early 1930s involving Mead; her husband, Reo Fortune; and her future husband, Gregory Bateson.

If the movie plans proceed as hoped, “Euphoria” will be the first of King’s novels to make it to the screen. She optioned “The English Teacher” (2005), but the film version was never produced.

On Sunday, she wrote about a very different kind of disappointment in the New York Times. Her “Modern Love” column describes getting her heart broken by a poet at an artists’ colony in New England. King says that it “feels really strange to have written nonfiction about something so personal. Took me 19 years to write about that moment. It was exceptionally painful.”

She doesn’t name the heartbreaker, but poetry readers shouldn’t have much trouble identifying him.

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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