First Look: Wally Lamb’s ‘I’ll Take You There’ to Debut as a Digitally Enhanced Novel (Exclusive)

I'll Take You There Cover - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Metabook

I'll Take You There Cover - Publicity - H 2016

Wally Lamb’s sixth novel arrives Nov. 20 with a twist — and not just a plot twist. I’ll Take You There will publish first as an enhanced Metabook (available exclusively in the Apple app store) with exclusive content, including a soundtrack, short films, audio dramatization and pictures.

The Hollywood Reporter has an exclusive first look below, including an audio sample and rare turn-of-the-century production photos.

I’ll Take You There centers on film scholar Felix Funicello (introduced in Lamb’s earlier novel Wishin’ and Hopin’) who runs a movie club in a old vaudeville theater. One night he’s visited by the ghost of Lois Weber, a pioneering female film director from the early days of the movie business. Lois (later joined by silent film star Billie Dove and Ingrid Bergman) gets Felix to revisit key scenes from his life as they are projected on the theater’s screen. Felix re-evaluates his relationship with important women in his life — his daughter Aliza, his sister Frances, and one-time 1951 Ms. Rheingold beer contender Verna. 

"Against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic convergence of politics and pop culture, family secrets, and Hollywood iconography,” the book’s description notes, “Felix gains an enlightened understanding of the pressures and trials of the women closest to him, and of the feminine ideals and feminist realities that all women, of every era, must face.”

Lamb told THR the genesis for the book came when the Lifetime movie version of his novel Wishin’ and Hopin premiered at the Garde, the old Vaudeville theater in New London, Connecticut, featured in I'll Take You There. He happened to learn that the first film shown there was Weber’s The Marriage Counselor. He was intrigued and started learning more about her. At the same time, employees at the Garde told him they thought the theater was haunted by old vaudevillians. The two things came together to inspire I’ll Take You There.

Lamb decided to “get out of my comfort zone” by teaming up for the enhanced book. (He jokes he’s “a day and a half drive from cutting edge” on everything not just tech). Co-founded by Publisher Ken Siman, Metabook creator Benjamin Alfonsi, CEO Christian Alfonsi and advisor Mark Andersen. I’ll Take You There is Metabook’s first original fiction and others are scheduled to follow. (Metabook’s first enhanced app book was a reprint of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil).  

Lamb says in the enhanced book he particularly loved the audio dramatization and the virtual gallery that allows a user a 360-degree look around. In keeping with the high-tech nature of the metabook, Lamb will be making appearances at Apple Stores to promote I'll Take You There.

The audio dramatization features an all-star cast, including Kathleen Turner (as the ghost of Lois Weber), Dana Delany, Jonathan Davis, Laura Benanti and Jeremy Sisto. "We wanted someone larger than life to portray Lois Weber, who herself was a larger than life figure," said Alfonsi. "And luckily for us, Kathleen was so intrigued by this project and the character that she said yes to the role. We were totally blown away by her performance." (Below: Turner on the right with Benjamin Alfonsi, Metabook creator, and an audio sample). 

Turner told THR she was "intrigued" by the new technology but the real draw was the chance to play Weber, whose "contributions were so great" but have been "wiped off the slate" and forgotten. Turner added that she loved the process of doing the audio dramatization, liking it making an old-fashioned radio drama. 

Alfonsi and Siman’s research also turned up these rare 1916 production stills from The Dumb Girl of Portici. (Below, Weber, on the left, holds the script; below that, she holds the cloth in the center-left of the photo).

Photos courtesy of Library of Congress

I’ll Take You There arrives Nov. 20 exclusively on the Apple app store as a stand-alone app.