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Susan ShapiroYou might think a book about a movie made twelve years ago would be dated and superfluous. Think again. Alice Walker's behind-the-scenes expose of the making of the movie "The Color Purple," from her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, is funny, perceptive and completely engaging. The author of fifteen books, including The Temple of My Familiar, hooks her readers in the first chapter, Fish and Bird Come to My House. Here she recalls her first meeting, in February of 1984, with Stephen Spielberg and Quincy Jones. Spielberg, who arrived dressed so casually he seemed to be in someone else's clothes, reminded her of a parrot. The well-dressed Jones, who showed up in a huge limousine and sent roses, was "born under the sign of Pisces, the fish. Deep, mysterious, cool. Intuitive. Shimmering through life."
Along with anecdotes about working with actors Danny Glover, Whoopie Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, Walker throws in photos, journal entries, correspondence, her original film synopsis and the screenplay she wrote, which graphically depicted the love affair between her characters Shug and Celie, and was rejected. Walker chronicles her affliction with Lyme Disease, which went misdiagnosed for three years, her bisexuality, the end of her long-term relationship with Robert (who tells her, "I am alcoholic, you are bisexual, we cancel each other out"), as well as the controversies stirred up by "The Color Purple." Critics accused her of hating black men, degrading her characters by using black folk speech, and racism for letting a Jewish boy direct a movie about black people. She finds irony in the fact that the Academy Awards that year went to the "racist" "Out of Africa." She brings up the O.J. Simpson trial and its tragedy, that a man so graceful and beautiful could be so ugly and so wrong. It's the theme of her novel, and the comparison renders The Same River Twice even more timely and compelling. --Salon