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The book "A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That" by Lisa Glatt The buyer Andrew Wagner

December 06, 2007|Josh Getlin | Times Staff Writer

Andrew Wagner options Lisa Glatt's "A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That," a novel about a Long Beach woman who moves in with her dying mother and plunges into affairs with one man after another, desperately battling the uncertainties in her life.

Glatt, whose novel was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times fiction award, is represented by Andrew Blauner on literary rights and by CAA for film rights; Wagner, who directed and co-wrote "Starting Out in the Evening," negotiates his own option deal. The novel is published by Simon & Schuster.

Hollywood does not smile kindly on novelists who demand control over the adaptations of their books. That's why most deals call for authors to bow out gracefully and quickly. But don't tell that to Wagner and Glatt, whose relationship as filmmaker and novelist has only broadened and deepened since they began discussing an option deal for her novel this year.

The deal

The players

The back story

Glatt, a professor of creative writing at Cal State Long Beach, won plaudits for her heartbreakingly beautiful story about modern women wrestling with intimacy and the physical chaos afflicting their bodies. She doubted that "A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That" would ever become a film, however, because it was so richly textured and complex. But then Wagner came calling, fresh on the heels of "Starting Out in the Evening," a highly praised new film starring Frank Langella and Lauren Ambrose. He was smitten with Glatt's book and insisted on meeting her.

Asked to recall their encounter in Glatt's home -- a six-hour session including the author's husband, writer David Hernandez -- Wagner sounded more like a therapist than a screenwriter: "I wanted to know more about the mother and daughter in her book. I talked to Lisa about pain and loneliness, about the life unlived and the life that must be lived. I might turn to her again, and ask her about secrets she doesn't even know she has," he said. "If out of all this just one scene comes forth for the movie, it'll all be worth it."

For Glatt, the discussions were memorable and encouraging. "We got in pretty deep," she said. "And I trust Andrew, because his work is so truthful, so compelling. He wants to meet again, and even though he'll eventually sail off on his own, without me, I'm curious now: How is he going to start the movie? How is he going to end it?"

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