Swayze's reaction was completely different about another future smash, "Ghost." He immediately wanted to be in it and persuaded producer Jeff Zucker to cast him despite Zucker's skepticism that Swayze could play a sensitive leading man.
Details from the highly anticipated memoir are slipping out all over the Web. Here's a round-up of the juiciest tidbits:
Swayze did, of course, wind up taking the part in "Dirty Dancing," but some days his work with co-star Jennifer Grey made him wish he hadn't: "We did have a few moments of friction when we were tired or after a long day of shooting. [Grey] seemed particularly emotional, sometimes bursting into tears if someone criticized her. Other times, she slipped into silly moods, forcing us to do scenes over and over again when she'd start laughing. ... I was on overdrive for the whole shoot -- staying up all night to do rewrites, squeezing in dance rehearsals, shooting various scenes -- and was exhausted a lot of the time. I didn't have a whole lot of patience for doing multiple retakes."
Swayze also remembered working with a then-little known Tom Cruise in Francis Coppola's adaptation of the young adult classic "The Outsiders." Cruise, Swayze writes, was so "self-conscious about his teeth" that he resisted magazine photo shoots.
The memoir is co-written with his wife Lisa Niemi. When the couple married, they wrote their own vows. Here's what Swayze said to her: "Together, we've created journeys that were beyond anything we could imagine. We have ridden into the sunset on a white stallion, countless times. We've tasted the dust in the birthplaces of religions. Yet you still take my breath away. I'm still not complete until I look in your eyes. You are my woman, my lover, my mate and my lady. I've loved you forever, I love you now and I will love you forevermore."
Swayze speaks of a life well lived, but he says his one regret was not becoming a father. He and Niemi tried, but after she miscarried the devastated couple didn't conceive again. "I couldn't wait to become a dad, to have a child with this woman I loved so dearly. And I wanted to be the best father I could be -- the kind of father my dad had been to me. I felt completely crushed with grief. We wanted to try again, but the loss had been so devastating that we just couldn't do it right away. We figured we had plenty more years ahead of us. Eventually, we did start trying again hoping Lisa would get pregnant. But she never did."
The couple's bond, however, remained strong. He reflects: "The one thing I realized as Lisa and I retraced the arc of our lives is that no matter what happened, we never, ever gave up -- on each other, or on our dreams. I'm far from perfect, and I've made a lot of mistakes in my life. But that's one thing we both got right, and it's the one thing that's keeping me going today."
Swayze writes about how he first got the news about his cancer late in 2007: "I had been having some digestive trouble, mostly acid reflux and a kind of bloated feeling, for a few weeks. I've had a sensitive stomach my whole life, so I hadn't thought much of it, but lately I just couldn't shake the constant discomfort." He knew right away what he was facing. "My doctor told me my chances of surviving for more than a few months weren't high, and I had no reason to doubt him."
Swayze filmed his last TV series, "The Beast," in Chicago -- while he was undergoing treatment. "I continued with chemotherapy all the way through the shoot," he writes. "But I never took any painkillers since they dull not only your pain but also your sharpness."
In the end, he sums up his life this way: "I began thinking to myself, I've had more lifetimes than any 10 people put together, and it's been an amazing ride. So this is okay."
A rep for the actor confirms that, before he died last week, Swayze recorded a reading of his autobiography. That audio-book CD will be available on Tuesday, as well.
Among the finalists for the 2009 Great Lakes Book Awards are several Chicago area authors. To be eligible for the Great Lakes Book Awards, books must have a Great Lakes theme or setting or be written by an author living in the region and have been published between June 2008 and the end of May 2009. The winners will be announced in late August and awards presented in October in Cleveland. Following is a list of all finalists. (Local authors' books marked with *)
FICTION *Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Random House) *The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno (W.W. Norton) A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) *Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley (Simon & Schuster) The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (Harper Collins)
GENERAL Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting by Michael Perry (Harper Collins) * The Foie Gras Wars by Mark Caro (Simon & Schuster) Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton (Simon & Schuster) *Ripped by Greg Kot (Simon & Schuster) A Splintered History of Wood by Spike Carlsen (Harper Collins)
CHILDREN'S CHAPTER BOOKS After the Trains by Gloria Whelan (Harper Collins) *The Blind Faith Hotel by Pamela Todd (Simon & Schuster) *I Put a Spell on You by Adam Selzer (Random House) Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka (Penguin Group) *The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming (Random House) My Brother Abe: Sally Lincoln's Story by Harry Mazer (Simon & Schuster)
CHILDREN'S PICTURE BOOKS Baby Dragon by Amy Ehrlich and Will Hillenbrand (Illus.) (Candlewick Press) Birds by Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek (Illus.), (Harper Collins) Old Bear by Kevin Henkes (Harper Collins) That Book Woman by Heather Henson and David Small (Illus.) (Simon & Schuster) The Underwear Salesman by J. Patrick Lewis and Serge Bloch (Illus.) (Simon & Schuster)
We're coming to the end of National Poetry Month, but the Poetry Foundation has come up with a way to celebrate Chicago's poetic history year round with an impressive multimedia tour.
The online tour includes maps and landmarks and readings of poetry written by Chicago poets past and present, including Carl Sandburg, Gwendolyn Brooks, Li-Young Lee, Ana Castillo, Stuart Dybek and many more.
You can also download the tour on your mp3 player and take a guided walking tour through downtown and/or visit any of the other stops on the tour, such as the Green Mill, Newberry Library, Graceland Cemetery, Maxwell Street and more.
As expected, Barack Obama's memoirs, The Audacity of Hope (2006) and Dreams From My Father (1995), were given a sales boost immediately following the Illinois senator's historic victory in this presidential campaign. As of noon today, the two books ranked 3 and 8, respectively, on Amazon.com's best seller list.
A paperback that outlines the president elect's vision for America -- Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama's Plan to Renew America's Promise (Three Rivers Press, $13.95), which includes a foreword by Obama -- is at No. 23.
Here's a whole other pile of Obama-related books that have come through the Book Room in the last couple months:
Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Paradigm, 228 pages, $23.95) by Paul Street. Street, a journalist, policy adviser and historian was formerly vice president for research and planning at the Chicago Urban League.
The Rise of Barack Obama (Triumph Books, 160 pages, $27.95), photographs and text by Pete Souza. Photojournalist Souza worked as an official White House photographer for President Ronald Reagan.
Yes We Can: A Biography of Barack Obama (Feiwel & Friends, 224 pages, $6.99) by Garen Thomas. This book for young readers (10-16) covers Obama's childhood up through his historic speech on March 18 of this year.
Say It Like Obama: The Power of Speaking With Purpose and Vision (McGraw Hill, 212 pages, $21.95) by Shel Leanne. One thing we've learned during this campaign is that presentation counts. This book examines the lessons to be learned from Obama's oratory skills.
The Faith of Barack Obama (Thomas Nelson, 158 pages, $19.99) by Stephen Mansfield. New York Times best-selling author Mansfield takes readers inside the church that is Obama's spiritual home and how it has shaped his politics.
Michelle (Simon & Schuster, 200 pages, $25) by Liz Mundy. Washington Post staffer Mundy talked to Michelle Obama herself, plus about 100 others before writing this biography of the future first lady of the United States of America.
Chicago is well represented in this year's National Book Awards, with three of city's authors making the list of finalists: Aleksandar Hemon in the fiction category and Reginald Gibbons and Patricia Smith in the poetry category.
Hemon, who adopted Chicago as his home in 1992, when the fighting in his homeland of Bosnia stranded him here, is nominated for his novel The Lazarus Project (Riverhead, $24.95). (Read review)
Hemon's competition includes: Rachel Kushner for Telex From Cuba (Scribner); Peter Matthiessen for Shadow Country (Modern Library); Marilynne Robinson for Home (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), and Salvatore Scibona for The End (Graywolf)
Gibbons, a professor of English and classics at Northwestern in Evanston, is nominated for his latest poetry collection, Creatures of a Day (Louisiana State University Press, $16.95). And Smith, a Chicago native and four-time National Poetry Slam champion who now makes her home in New York, is nominated for Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press, $16). (Read review of Blood Dazzler)
The rest of the competition in the poetry category includes: Frank Bidart for Watching the Spring Festival (Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Mark Doty for Fire to Fire (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), and Richard Howard for Without Saying (Turtle Point).
Drew Gilpin Faust for This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Knopf)
Annette Gordon-Reed for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (Norton)
Jane Mayer for The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Doubleday)
Jim Sheeler for Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives (Penguin)
Joan Wickersham for The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order (Harcourt)
Young People's Literature nominees:
Laurie Halse Anderson for Chains (Simon & Schuster)
Kathi Appelt for The Underneath (Atheneum)
Rudy Blundell for What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic)
E. Lockhart for The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion)
Tim Tharp for The Spectacular Now (Knopf)
The winners will be announced Nov. 19 in New York.
Buffalo Grove native Larry Doyle, who was featured on this blog a couple of months ago when he became a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor, has won the prize for his 2007 novel I Love You, Beth Cooper.
"Had Larry been cool, he could have never written I Love You, Beth Cooper, a hilarious yet painfully accurate account of high school in all its pimply glory," said Firoozeh Dumas, one of the judges for this year's prize.
Doyle lives in Baltimore with his wife and three children but it was his experiences at Buffalo Grove High School that inspired the novel that won him the prize.
The two runners-up this year were Patricia Marx (Him Her Him Again The End of Him) and Simon Rich (Ant Farm). Past winners include David Sedaris, Christopher Buckley, Jon Stewart and Alan Zweibel.
Oprah had high praise on her talk show today for her latest book club selection, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (Ecco, 566 pages, $26.95), saying, "It's everything you want a book to be. I think this book is right up there with the greatest American novels ever written."
It took author David Wroblewski more than a decade to finish the book, which was a best seller over the summer and received much advance buzz and rave reviews. On the surface it's the story of a boy and his dog in rural Wisconsin; on a deeper level it weaves coming-of-age, family intrigue, mysticism and more.
David Wroblewski took his time (more than 10 years)
writing The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. (Michael Buckner~Getty Images)
Wroblewski will participate in a live, interactive Webcast with Oprah Book Club members. Details will be announced at a later date on Oprah.com. To join the book club (membership is free): www.oprah.com/bookclub.
Here is the Sun-Times' review of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle ...
Amy Leach of Evanston is one of six women awarded this year's Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award, which is given annually to women writers who demonstrate excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers.
Leach and the other recipients -- Jennifer Culkin, Joanne Dominique Dwyer, Jolie Lewis, Hasanthika Sirisena and Therese Stanton -- will be honored in a ceremony tomorrow in New York City, where they each will receive $25,000.
Leach is working on her first book, a collection of essays described as addressing "the spiritual and the everyday with a comc's sense of timing to create something entirely original that falls on the boundary between prose and poetry." Her work has appeared in The Iowa Review, A Public Space and Identitytheory.com.
The awards program was created by novelist Rona Jaffe, who died in 2005.