Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Rosen-Corvelay Exchange

The key passage in Nowhere Man that explains the meaning of “Chapter 27.”

A few weeks ago I appeared on the Louie Free Radio Show to discuss the connection between Chapter 27, the movie, and “Chapter 27” in my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man. On the show, which was broadcast locally in Ohio and over the Internet, I said that Chapter 27 is a mistitled, dispiriting film lacking in context; that writer/director Jarrett Schaefer stole the title from “Chapter 27” in Nowhere Man but didn’t explain what the title meant; that the film does feature three good performances (Jared Leto as Chapman, Lindsay Lohan as Jude, and Judah Friedlander as Paul Goresh); and that Chapter 27 is not, as Premiere magazine suggested, “the most godawful, irredeemable film to yet emerge in the 21st century.”

I also spoke about how the producers’ cynical attempt to capitalize on the controversy surrounding the film succeeded mostly in infuriating people who loved John Lennon, and sparked a counterproductive boycott that generated even more headlines.

My radio interview, which I advertised on IMDB, as well as on numerous blogs and websites, prompted a listener who calls himself “Mr. Art Corvelay” (a name he lifted from a Seinfeld episode) to post a comment on IMDB. Below are an edited version of his comment and my response.

The interview will be available in the Louie Free archives until May 7. To listen, click here, then click on April 16, part 1. The interview begins a little before the halfway point.


Dear Mr. Rosen,

I listened to the interview on the Louie Free Show and I just have one simple question: Have you even read the book Let Me Take You Down: Inside the mind of Mark David Chapman, the Man Who Shot John Lennon by Jack Jones? Because if you had, then you would realize that J.P Schaefer’s film isn’t mistitled and that he didn’t “steal” the title Chapter 27 from your book; he took it from Jones’s book and he correctly credited him.

He probably read your book, and I know he didn’t mention the numerological implications of Chapter 27 and the number 9, but it’s obvious if you read Let Me Take You Down that he basically adapted the first part of that book into a screenplay.

Here’s a quote from Let Me Take You Down that I think you might find quite interesting: “He inserted the cartridges into the five empty slots in the cylinder of the gun. Still watching himself in the mirror, Chapman held the loaded pistol aloft in his right hand and snapped the chamber shut with a flick of his wrist. ‘The Catcher in the Rye of my generation,’ he announced to his looking glass image. ‘Chapter Twenty-Seven.’”

You will find this passage in chapter 3: “The Catcher Gone Awry,” page 21.

I hope this information clears things up a bit.


Mr. Art Corvelay

Dear Mr. Corvelay,

Of course I read the Jack Jones book Let Me Take You Down. I said so in
my blog posting of February 26, 2006, “Astute Readers, Aspiring Censors, and IMDB: The Chapter 27 Page.” Allow me to quote:

“As one astute reader of this blog pointed out, Nowhere Man, my John Lennon biography, is not the first book to mention chapter 27. That honor, if I may use such a word, belongs to Jack Jones’s Mark David Chapman bio, Let Me Take You Down, which I used for my own Chapman research and credited accordingly.”

The problem with Let Me Take You Down, as I’ve said before, is that the passage you quote is the only mention of Chapter 27 in the book. Jones never shows how the number 27 numerologically connects Chapman to Lennon. In fact, as it says in Wikipedia:

Let Me Take You Down provides no information on the numerological meaning of Chapter 27, and fails to show how Chapter 27 played into the heart of Lennon’s obsession with numerology, Cheiro, the number 9, and all its multiples.”

It was this omission that inspired the entire Chapman section in Nowhere Man, which includes “Chapter 27.”

For two years I’ve been asking: If Chapter 27 is based on the Jones book, why isn’t the film called Let Me Take You Down? How is a passing mention of Chapter 27 on page 21 of a 281-page book—a phrase that’s never explained, and that most readers have forgotten by the time they reach the end of the book—the basis for their title?

Obviously, Jones didn’t think Chapter 27 was the correct title. That’s why he called his book Let Me Take You Down. It’s a good title that everybody understands, even if they don’t get the double meaning. (It’s the first line of the Lennon song “Strawberry Fields Forever.”)

Let Me Take You Down
should have been the title of this movie. And I’d suggest that Jack Jones is as pissed off about the title as I’d be if some production company had bought for a pittance the rights to Nowhere Man and called their film Let Me Take You Down.

I’d also suggest that it was only after Jarrett Schaefer read Nowhere Man, and understood the full metaphorical and numerological meaning of Chapter 27, that he considered using it as a title—perhaps believing that enough people were familiar with Nowhere Man that it required no further explanation.

That’s why I believe I should have gotten credit for the title, and that’s why I believe that by calling the film Chapter 27, the producers—who seem to lead the league in generating bad karma, if nothing else—cheated two writers out of appropriate recognition for their work.

Incidentally, the scene you quote from the Jones book isn’t even in the movie. If it were, then the title, Chapter 27, would at least make sense on some level.

I might also add that the British music magazine Mojo and the Spanish-language newsweekly Proceso have both said that the title Chapter 27 comes from “Chapter 27” in Nowhere Man, which goes into great detail about numerology and 27, the “triple 9,” a number of profound importance to Lennon. And anybody who’s read Nowhere Man agrees—because it’s self-evident. Chapter 27 is at the forefront of my Chapman story.

And finally, I should point out that the Spanish-language version of the film is called The Lost Chapter (El Cap
ítulo Perdido) and the Czech version is called The Assassination of John Lennon (Zavraždění Johna Lennona)—because the movie never explains what “Chapter 27” means.

So, I’d invite you, Mr. Art Corvelay, to read Nowhere Man as well as this blog. I think you’ll find them edifying.

Yours truly,

Robert Rosen

PS: I never said they based the screenplay on Nowhere Man. I only said they stole the title from Nowhere Man and grafted it onto a film that has little to do with “Chapter 27.”

PPS: Thanks for listening to the interview. I hope you enjoyed Mary Lyn Maiscott’s cover of the old Lennon-McCartney tune “You Can’t Do That.”


James said...


Because you are a historian of John Lennon I always wanted to know if you thought Lennon was a communist? People accuse him of being Marxist because of his signature song "Imagine". Also, songs like working class hero. Right-Wingers believe he was spazing dialetical materialism in Imagine. Do you believe in that logic? Or are they just loons?

Robert Rosen said...

John Lennon was not a Communist. He loved money, possessions, and luxury too much. The first chapter of “Nowhere Man” begins with a quote from Lennon: “If I hadn’t made money honestly, I’d have been a criminal. I was just born to be rich.” He did not get this from the Communist Manifesto.

I’ve said before that “Imagine,” a nice fantasy about world peace, and “Working Class Hero,” a gritty autobiographical song, have nothing to do with Marx, only Lennon.

Jaden @ Screenwriting for Hollywood said...

Hi Robert!

Just saying hello.

Have a good day!

Theodore Valley said...

This is my initial take on it, as my view may change with time and knowledge. Keep in mind that I may very well be incorrect on some of the facts themselves.

A book about Mark David Chapman, that is, a nonfiction book about a murderer, cannot afford to be ambiguous. The content has to make sense so that people reading it get an idea of the true story; the title has to make sense so it will sell. Therefore, "Let Me Take You Down" and "Nowhere Man," however cliched they may be, make for suitable book titles. They will aid a shopper who is perusing through a bookstore to find a Beatles-related book.

A movie is different. If it is constrained to maintaining context or being so literal as to not allow the viewer to interpret for themselves what is shown on screen, it crosses a very fine line and becomes a made-for-TV puff-piece.

"Chapter 27" is a somewhat fictionalized version of events based on Jack Jones' interviews with Mark David Chapman as published in his book, "Let Me Take You Down". Both the book and the movie contain Chapman watching himself in a mirror shooting his gun, one main difference being the movie omits the mention of "Chapter 27" from that scene. Why should that be? Simple: it’s a movie. The scene works better without the mention.

The movie is so thoroughly saturated with references to "The Catcher in the Rye" that it does help to have some knowledge of that book to appreciate (a bad word choice, but the only one that comes to mind) a movie about a murderer obsessed with it. It was apparent to me, having read "Catcher" and knowing the connection between Chapman and that book, that the movie title was a reference to there only being 26 chapters in it.

So to make a long story short, I will do a rundown. "Let Me Take You Down" was published in 1992; "Nowhere Man" was published in 2000; both books mention "Chapter 27". The winner of who wrote it first, between the two: "Let Me Take You Down", which inspired the movie. "Let Me Take You Down" does not deal with John Lennon’s interest in numerology; "Nowhere Man" does. The winner: "Let Me Take You Down", as the movie is not about Lennon, per se, nor does it deal with numerology. Combine the two and it is easy to see why "Let Me Take You Down" was credited.

Perhaps I should research this further, as I am interested in the story behind the history and it’s implications. I hope this has made sense. Thanks for reading.

Robert Rosen said...

Thanks for writing. I’ve addressed in this blog (and other writers have addressed elsewhere) virtually every point you raise in your comment and I see no reason to rehash it all again. But if you think that all I do in “Nowhere Man” is “mention” Chapter 27, then I suggest you read the book. Perhaps then you’ll understand why most people take it as a given that the producers ripped off the title.

Theodore Valley said...

Thanks for your response, and I understand your not wanting to rehash. I have not yet read either "Let Me Take You Down" nor your book, so I was going by what I have read.

From what I have read, "Let Me Take You Down" (published in 1992) mentions "Chapter 27". And that's it. Your book, however, goes into detail on the meaning of Chapter 27 and also discusses numerology.

My thought was this: "Chapter 27" (the movie) doesn't a. go into the significance of Chapter 27 and b. deal with numerology. Therefore, and this was just a thought, it was more in line with Jack Jones' book than yours.

True, there is a lot of implied importance in a title. But titles aren't really all that controllable, in some ways at least. Examples: the movie "Corrina, Corrina" took its title from a song; the song "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden" took its title from a book; your book, "Nowhere Man," took its title from a song. I'm sure there is a difference, but not one beyond feelings of annoyance and lack of limelight. (Don't take me too seriously on that last point, as I do understand that's it's never that simple.)

Again, thanks for responding. I'll have to pick up your book ASAP.

Theodore Valley said...

By the way, I am planning to research the subject of Chapman for a college assignment, so that is why I saw the film and why I am interested in reading your book and Jack Jones' book. Thanks again.