Rising from the ashes of the 1929 stock-market crash, Twentieth Century-Fox was forged in a master stroke by ruthless producer Darryl F. Zanuck, who merged Twentieth Century Pictures with William Fox’s ailing studio—and booted out Fox in the process—to create a formidable Hollywood player. It was the studio that turned Marilyn Monroe into a star, awarded Elizabeth Taylor her first $1 million payday (for the costly Cleopatra, which at $44 million nearly capsized the company), and helped solidify the modern-day blockbuster with George Lucas’s space fantasy, Star Wars. Along the way, Fox experienced all the highs and lows of the burgeoning Hollywood system, from breaking box- office records with the 1965 hit The Sound of Music to earning 14 Oscar nominations for All About Eve, to Zanuck’s 1970 installation of his son, Richard, as the president of production, only to fire him in a move that would lead to his own ousting by a seething board of directors. And this was all before Rupert Murdoch bought the studio in 1985, launched the Fox Broadcasting Network along with Barry Diller, and doubled down on the Jim Cameron business, green-lighting and supporting the mercurial director through all his production-budget overages on the way to a $2.2 billion worldwide gross for 1997’s Titanic and $2.8 billion for 2009’s Avatar.
Unfortunately, Cameron can’t save everybody. The business climate in Hollywood has shifted in recent years, and studios are competing not just with each other but with a handful of ruthless Silicon Valley interlopers. New alliances have been forged out of desperation, none of them bigger than the $71.3 billion acquisition, which was set to close last month, that saw the Walt Disney Company absorb the once indomitable Fox. The deal could eventually result in the loss of anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 jobs, depending on whom you ask.
Doubtless other people think I’m wrong all the time. Indeed, they tell me so. In 1999, if I heard from readers it was in the form of a letter, which rarely felt like it demanded a reply. Now it’s a digital conversation, which cannot be ignored. My inbox fills constantly with restaurant recommendations, gratefully received. And then there is the rancid abuse, complete with references to my “so-called” job. These are harder to take because, deep down, I am as suspicious of what I do for a living as those who appear to resent me for it. What would the young reporter, determined to hunt down the truth, think of the man I had become? The problem is the man I have become is having so much fun. I have long said that I do the eating for free; it’s the writing I get paid for. This is certainly the case, but I still get to do the eating. And I do still love restaurants. I still push open the door, with hope in my heart, a credit card in my wallet and a gap in my belly that needs filling. And if I find a few stinkers, well, so be it.
As I approached the 10th anniversary in the job, I told my wife I was considering handing in my knife and fork. She rolled her eyes and said I wouldn’t quit. She was right. And I’m not quitting now either. I get my dinner paid for and then get paid to write smartarse things about it. Who wouldn’t want to do that? You’ll have to prise my cold dead fingers from this gig. Now then, where’s my table?
I don’t know if you’re the type of person who can’t wait to get out of your clothes as soon as you get in the door from work, but I am.
I love to peel off too-tight trousers and wriggle free of restrictive blouses and, best of all, escape the double clutch of a bra. Feeling free and looking insane, I wander half-dressed through my apartment on my phone, hunting for snacks. This is the least self-conscious moment of the day, a private ritual that would look funny to anyone watching. Usually, nobody is. Once, though, somebody was. An entire film crew, actually.
I was at work when I received a very strange text message. “Hi Sarah, my name is Will and I work for a company that sorts through donated and discarded books and came across a stack of your lovely notebooks. I am not sure if you would be interested in having them returned, but I at least would like to inquire about the pecan pie.”
The Bird King is ostensibly the story of a journey, of the limits to escape — but it is also a journey into story, and faith, and refuge, the family we choose and the friends we find. It's deeply beautiful and wondrously sad, and I can't tell if it ended too quickly or if I just needed it not to — if I just wanted to dwell in a home built out of story for a little longer yet.
Most impressive of all is how vividly the artists show Anna's progression from eager recruit to cynical veteran. She remains recognizable even as experience scars her beyond belief. In this regard, she illuminates the nature of warfare, no matter who's fighting. Anna may be just a character, but she still represents an important contribution to women's history. In this field, fiction can tell vital truths — as even Jane Austen would probably agree.
While much of this book is concerned with historical events, her personal experience burns at its core. Gilliam’s own story, her interiority, lights up the page. Her descriptions of growing up – as a preacher’s daughter and the eighth child of 10, suffering through her father’s illness and death, developing an eating disorder and living without indoor plumbing – are all riveting. She also writes about her own internalized racism, reflected in her first editorial for her college newspaper, where she advocated for “a ‘go-slow’ approach to implementing integration.”