Wednesday, March 12, 2014


The Academy Awards are over, gowns and tuxedos discussed, and winners and losers examined in detail (and then forgotten). The nominations for Best Adapted Screenplays, which are movies based on books, should be remembered. The Library has three of the books, all of them true stories, from which the nominees were adapted.
Twelve Years a Slave is the memoir written by Solomon Northrup and published in 1853. Northrup tells the story of how he was born a free man in New York and was kidnapped into slavery when he went for a job. Taken to New Orleans and subjected to brutality by both the system of enslavement and the cruelty of the people who bought him, Solomon is finally freed by New York abolitionists who traveled to Louisiana to rescue him. The movie, which won Best Picture and Best Screenplay, and the book make for difficult viewing and reading, but the history they impart is invaluable.

A rescue of a different kind is highlighted in the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy Seals and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Philips. The movie version is Captain Philips. It tells the 2009 story of an American cargo ship highjacked by Somali pirates. The pirates are surprised by a Captain who offers himself, instead of his crew, as a hostage. A decent and diplomatic man, the Captain fears for his own life, but shows respect for his captors.  The ordeal comes to an end when the Navy enters the scene. No spoiler alerts beyond this point.

Jordan Belfort remembers the high-flying 1980s, the vast sums he made on Wall Street and the hard living and risky behavior that came from too much money and not enough common sense. His memoir is The Wolf of Wall Street, a wild ride of a read with some doubt about what is truth and what is fiction. It is also a cautionary tale.

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