LIFE IS ABSURD, and daily proof comes in through my mailbox. Today's absurdity arrived in the form of a copy of William Hjortsberg's new novel Falling Angel [see Book World , page 5], around which was wrapped a form letter on Robert Evans' stationery. Evans, you might remember, was born into the pants business, then went to Hollywood as an actor, and wound up heading Paramount production. He's especially famous for having bought Eric Segal's screeplay, Love Story as a starring vehicle for his love, Ali MacGraw, and boosting Segal's novelization of it into a best seller. Now he is touting his latest acquisition, Falling Angel.
So far, so good, and no absurdity. But. But what is absurd is that they've gone to the trouble of autographing the book. Some person (probably female and underpaid) sat down to inscribe "To Leonore" in my copy and "To John" and "To Christopher" and "To Brigitte" and "To Eliot," no doubt, in other copies) and then the book passed into the hands of producer Evans for his signature, co-producer Dick Sylbert for his, and last to director John Frankenheimer for his .
I have carefully examined the flyleaf and nowhere do I see the autograph of the man who actually wrote the book. Possibly "Gatz" Hjortsberg is too busy counting money to sign, but somehow I doubt it. I have in this space written often and shall certainly write again of the increasing and rather uneasy melding of show biz with book biz. Now on myshelf I have the tangible and silly evidence of how a book ceases to be a book and becomes "a property." Evans' letter ends, "Let's work together to make Falling Angel the surprise novel of the year . . . Here's an autographed copy from your partners . . . who are making the film." Thanks, partners, I love presents, especially those which make me laugh.