Book Hunters in Brief #72: Happy Birthday, Orson!

The mass market wine ads and way too many appearances on the Tonight Show aside (not to mention the famously prodigious appetites and the girth to go with them), Orson Welles was not the peaked-by-thirty, riding-on-his-younger self's-coattails punch line that many seem to remember him as these days.

Or maybe he was...

The what ifs do seem to pile up when you look at his life as a whole. The unfinished productions (Heart of Darkness! Don Quixote!) and the rumored projects that never got off the ground are maddeningly perfect for his particular genius. Thirty years after his death, they still induce fits of audible sighing in serious film fans.

For me, and this is probably far from an original thought, he was a victim of his own genius. I mean, you try producing a worthy follow up to what is regarded as one of--if not the greatest films--of all time  that you, by the way, made when you were all of twenty-five years old. You try matching the shocking success of War of the Worlds (which will forever be the most famous radio show ever broadcast). Go ahead. Try.

Or you could join Harris County Public Library's Book Hunters in celebrating the gems he did leave us, and revel in the might-have-beens that one hundred years after his birth make him one of the most fascinating people we're likely to have the good fortune to see.

Orson Welles: the Road to Xanadu by Simon Callow

Rosebud: the Story of Orson Welles by David Thomson

My Lunches with Orson by Henry Jaglom

The Magic World of Orson Welles by James Naremore

Me and Orson Welles: a Novel by Robert Kaplow

Radio Girl by Carol Brendler

You say you prefer the lives of your heroes to have more compelling second acts? No problem. Visit the Book Hunters, tell us what you like and we'll create a list of reading suggestions that just might reawaken your own particular genius.