Saturday, February 1, 2014

Endless Love by Scott Spencer Goes to the Big Screen (Again)! The Book-to-Movie Now Available on Blu-ray and DVD!

Endless Love by Scott Spencer. This
is one of the books numerous book
cover images. There are several
versions of the book cover, see below.
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     Endless Love. The book has been read and reviewed and the movie spawned by the book has been watched and reviewed. Many book bloggers have made postings of the story, and, of course, everyone has listened to and discussed the Lionel Richie and Diana Ross musical hit, Endless Love duet. So, why have I decided to do a post about the book that first appeared in 1979 (almost 35 years ago)?

     Well, like many of you, I have seen the 1981 movie version of Endless Love. I think I agree with movie critic, Leonard Maltin's, negative assessment of the movie [read on for his comments, below]. I had not planned on watching the movie again--but I did watch it again this past week. What prompted me to do
Endless Love book
cover alternate view.
so is the fact that a remake of the film will be coming to the big screen on Valentine's Day (02-14-14).

     And, I have a confession to make. Here it is: although I had seen the movie, I had never previously read the book, Endless Love, by Scott Spencer. I felt so badly about it that I decided that I would begin at once to read the story. 

     Determined not look at the reviews until I had finished reading the book, I put on my blinders. I picked up my Kindle and began reading, in earnest. As I got further into the story, I realized that I wanted to do a post about this book in spite of all the hype and bad movie reviews and criticisms. I wanted to try a fresh approach and push all those past book and movie reviews aside and try to look at it with fresh eyes--not so hard, since I had not read the book before this past week. The following blog post is the result of my attempt to approach the story with fresh eyes and untrammeled opinions. 
Endless Love book cover.
     The basic plot synopsis is easy to relate. The story is one in which a seventeen-year-old young man, David Axelrod, falls head over heels in love for Jade Butterfield. Sexual urges prompt them to begin a sexual relationship that soon puts Jade's father into a concerned apprehension for his daughter. Trying to cool things off between them, Jade's father, Hugh Butterfield, gives the two a 30 day no contact order. 

Endless Love
alternate book cover.
     After a couple of weeks, David can't take it any more and wants to break the stalemate. He goes to the Butterfield home and starts a house fire, wanting to be seen a hero as he rescues the family. But David is not seen as a hero; he confesses to starting the fire and is sentenced to a mental hospital. Years pass, and when he gets out, he begins searching for Jade--in spite of a stay away order. Eventually, he finds out that she is in New York. He goes there, breaking parole, to search for Jade. Complications occur and Jade's father is killed when he's hit by a car while chasing David. David is arrested and sent to prison.

     As I began to read, I was almost immediately put in mind of the differences between the actual reader of a story and the "implied" reader. It seemed to me that Scott Spencer set up the novel to have the reader accept a position that the reader ordinarily would be unwilling or unable to accept. 

     David, for example, at first, appears as a normal teenage boy. He does normal-sounding things--things most teenagers do. He falls in love, dates a lovely teenage girl, has sexual relations, he even does the normal or expected amount of sneaking around. So, we accept David, empathize with him, and feel he is just misunderstood and that he's had bad luck or bad timing. We have been let into his world, and we adopt his viewpoint...for a while. Things would be quite different, however, if we we were to see through the eyes of a parent, minister, psychologist, or someone from law enforcement looking in on David's world.

     The implied, or "ideal" reader is someone who has the very particular set of attitudes (moral, cultural, etc) appropriate to the text in order for the text to achieve its full effect (See the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms). Spencer sets us up to become this ideal reader. But, as the story moves on, more and more we have difficulty accepting David's version of things. The story becomes jarring and unsettling--just as Scott Spencer wishes it to become. We experience, at least in a small way, the decomposition of David's world. There comes a point, in fact, where we flat out reject it and fully realize that David belongs in a mental institution. 

David appears to have bipolar disorder.
     We find out that David breaks societal laws, lies, starts fights, lacks guilt, and is irritable and impulsive. David disregards the rights of others to the point that we consider him to have an antisocial personality disorder--especially when we consider the fire and destruction of the Butterfield home, and later in the book, the death of Hugh Butterfield (and myriad other things).

     We also find out near the end of the book, that David is probably being treated for bipolar disorder, since he is taking Lithium. We have seen David, from the beginning of the book, move from an infatuation with Jade rapidly into obsession for her. David confuses being in control and obsession with being in perpetual, "endless love." For a while Jade joins him in his intense love/obsession relationship, but even she reaches a point where she has had enough.

     I love that Scott Spencer's writing mirrors David's disintegration, or rather, our perception of the disintegration of David's world. Well, OK, it's both. Spencer crafts his book with beautiful text, so technically perfect that when we begin the book we at first think the story is a typical coming-of-age story about an angst-driven teenage boy. Very skillfully done, Mr. Spencer.

Brooke Shields in 1981 Endless Love.
     Scott Spencer's book, Endless Love, was originally brought to the big screen in 1981. The movie was directed by Franco Zeffirelli, and starred Brooke Shields (as Jade), Martin Hewitt (as David), James Spader (as Keith--Jade's brother; this was Spader's film debut role), and Tom Cruise (as Billy--this was also Cruise's very first on-screen movie role). The screenplay writer was Judith Rascoe. The musical score composer was Jonathan Tunick.

Listen to the Endless Love recording
by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross
on YouTube (click the link).
     Perhaps the very best thing about the movie was the movie's theme song by Lionel Richie, Endless Love. Lionel Richie and Diana Ross's recorded song was the number one hit on Billboard's Hot 100 list, becoming the largest-selling song of Diana Ross's career. In 2011 Billboard Magazine selected the song as "The Best Duet of All Time." It won the 1981 ASCAP Award (to Lionel Richie) for composer, and the 1982 American Movie Award, Marquee Award (to Lionel Richie for his song Endless Love). 

     I have two versions of the song. They're both beautiful, but I prefer the Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey version (check it out by clicking the link: Endless Love). Watching these two sing together makes me smile! I am listening now as I am working, here--boy can they sing!
     Unfortunately, the movie also received a plethora of nominations for the Golden Raspberry Awards (Also known as the "Razzie Awards"): Worst Actress: Brooke Shields; Worst Director: Franco Zeffirelli; Worst New Star: Martin Hewitt; Worst Picture: Dyson Lovell; Worst Screenplay: Judith Rascoe; and Worst Supporting Actress: Shirley Knight. In fact, Leonard Maltin of Google Books: Leonard Maltin's 2010 Movie Guide, panned the film (along with other numerous critics); Leonard Maltin called it "a textbook example of how to do everything wrong in a literary adaptation." Maltin decries the film as "one of the worst films of its time."

     So you can get an idea of this movie's '80s approach to Scott Spencer's novel, please feel free to view this short (25 second) trailer for the 1981 movie, Endless Love from YouTube.

     If you are interested, you can view the 1981 movie, Endless Love, on Amazon Prime's Instant Videos for free with, of course, your Amazon Prime membership (Just click on the above link, here). I watched the movie (again) earlier this week as part of my preparations to draft this blog post. I hope that seeing it will refresh my memory (of the '81 movie) and give me (and you) a more well-rounded view and appreciation for the upcoming movie by the same name. If you don't have Amazon Prime, you can rent the movie for $3.96. Runtime is 1 hour 51 minutes.

     The book-to-movie arrives in theaters this Valentine's Day, 02-14-14. Take a look at the trailer and enjoy. Here is the YouTube trailer of Endless Love.

     Alex Pettyfer portrays David Axelrod; Gabriella Wilde as Jade Butterfield, and Bruce Greenwood portrays Hugh Butterfield (Jade's Father); the writers are Shana Feste, and Joshua Safran, the Director is Shana Feste. Movie promoters describe the essential plot as a story about a "privileged girl" and a "charismatic boy." Their intense desires seem to set fire to a love affair that is "made only more reckless by parents trying to keep them apart." The movie is to be rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief nudity and off-color language. (

Movie Poster for Endless Love.
 All of us know that the adaptation of a book into a movie is, at best, difficult. Franco Zeferelli can probably attest to the difficulties in his attempt to do so. Having created a movie with the reputation of being "one of the worst films of its time" must be difficult to live down. And now, we have a new director (Shana Feste) attempting to resurrect Scott Spencer's novel and bring it, yet again, to the big screen. Shana Feste also wrote the screenplay for this new version of Spencer's book. That seems like an awful lot of responsibility on the shoulders of one person. We can only wait for the release to discover if the reputation of the story will be resurrected. I sincerely hope the new adaptation will be successful--I will be at the movies on Valentine's Day to find out.

     I recommend this book, first of all, to all readers who love Scott Spencer's work. Also, to anyone who loves romance, whether or not love is requited or whether or not there is no happy ending. To anyone who is male and enjoys stories about youth and the eternal struggle to grow into a man. To those who love intense psychological drama, ambiguity, unreliable narrators, and, of course to those who love to read about graphic sex. This book is NOT for young or sensitive readers.


     While I admire the technical proficiency Scott Spencer uses in composing his book, it just wasn't the book for me. I understand why Spencer uses sex and obsession to draw a picture of the troubled David Axelrod. However, the sex scene in which David and Jade have sex during her monthly period is over the top (with blood on their mouths and all over their bodies and on the sheets). Yes. I understand it is part of David's pathology and that it was included to help show just how over the top David is. 

My rating: 3.75 Stars out of 5.
     And although I enjoyed the read, on the whole, I couldn't quite bring myself to give the book 4.0 stars. I equivocated, back and forth between 3.5 and 4.0, eventually, splitting the difference and picking 3.75 stars out of 5. 

  For your interest, after I rated the book, I looked up the ratings that others have given Scott Spencer's book. Those ratings are as follows:

Amazon Rating 4.1 Stars (65 Reviewers)
Endless Love movie promo poster.

goodreads Rating 3.65 (1,299 Ratings/199 Reviews)
Google Books Rating: 3.5 (?) Stars (53 Reviewers)
Barnes&Noble Rating: 4.13 Stars (23 Reviewers)

Pages: 436
ISBN: 0880016280
Publisher: Open Road Media;
Reprint edition (November 23, 2010)
Sold by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

Kindle e-book Info.:
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
X-Ray: Enabled
Lending: Enabled
File Size: 951 KB

Thank you for joining me this week to consider this very interesting book. Join me again, next week as we peruse the pages of yet another book. 

Until next time...
White Rose.
...many happy pages of reading!


_________________________________________________________ - Endless Love (e-book cover image); - Endless Love alternate book cover images; - Endless Love alternate cover 3; - Bipolar disorder; - Endless Love 1981 film information; - Leonard Maltin's 2010 Movie Guide quote; - Photo still of Brooke Shields in 1981 movie, Endless Love; - Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, "implied reader;" - Endless Love album cover with Lionel Richie and Diana Ross; - The Razzies Awards; - YouTube trailer for 1981 Endless Love, the movie; - Link to Amazon Prime Instant Videos for movie, Endless Love; - YouTube trailer of upcoming (2014) movie, Endless Love; - IMDb (Endless Love); - Movie poster for Endless Love; - Amazon Ratings; - goodreads Ratings; - Google Books Ratings; - Barnes&Noble Ratings; - 3.75 Stars out of 5; - White Rose.