'Product Placement' With Lois Lowry

May 10, 2013
Originally published on March 4, 2015 1:17 pm

Popular soft drinks, sports cars and other brands appear surreptitiously placed in the worlds of our favorite TV shows and films all the time. Soon enough, we may see them name-dropped in our books, too.

To help imagine some egregious-yet-hilarious examples of this, we invited a prolific writer to Ask Me Another: award-winning young adult author Lois Lowry. Lowry joins forces with a fellow book-loving contestant to play "Product Placement," a game in which they must combine the titles of famous literary works with the names of household products and companies.

Host Ophira Eisenberg also asks Lowry about her motivation to write three sequels to her wildly popular novel The Giver. The most recent of these, Son, was published in 2012, almost 20 years after The Giver first came out. "In those 20 years, there have probably been 10,000 letters asking for another," she says. But, Lowry says, Son is the fourth and last in the series, adding, "Already the letters are coming asking for a fifth."

About Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry nurtured an early interest in writing, which gradually turned into a professional career. Her many books for children and young adults include The Giver, Number the Stars and Autumn Street. She has won two Newbery Medals and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. Lowry currently lives in Cambridge, Mass., but also spends a good deal of time at her farmhouse in Maine.

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Let's welcome our next special guest. She's an award-winning young adult author. Many of you have probably read, "Number the Stars" and "The Giver." She calls Boston her home and was courageous enough to join us on the ASK ME ANOTHER stage. Let's welcome Lois Lowry to the show.


EISENBERG: Hello, Lois.

LOIS LOWRY: Hi there.

EISENBERG: Nice to meet you.

LOWRY: Thank you.

EISENBERG: When you were writing "The Giver," I know no writer knows when they are writing an actual piece, how it will be received, but did you have a feeling right after the first wave of response that you had really struck a chord with readers?

LOWRY: I wanted you to ask me what my favorite movie was.

EISENBERG: We'll get to that.


EISENBERG: We'll get to that.

LOWRY: Sorry, but that's such a hard question you asked me.


LOWRY: No, the answer is no.

EISENBERG: You just didn't know.

LOWRY: I didn't know.

EISENBERG: You were just surprised.

LOWRY: Indeed.

EISENBERG: And "The Giver" is part of a quartet, followed by "Gathering Blue," "Messenger," and "Son." So I'm wondering, why did you decide to continue this story? What were you hoping to achieve by writing additional sequels?

LOWRY: It was really at the request of readers. I hadn't thought myself about doing it until those letters began to come. It's been 20 years from the first book to the last. And in those 20 years, there have probably been 10,000 letters asking for another. And so I wrote the fourth one quite recently, and it's the final one, and I've said that, but already the letters are coming, asking for a fifth.


EISENBERG: What is your favorite movie?


LOWRY: My favorite movie of all time is "Fargo."

EISENBERG: That is a great movie.


LOWRY: And it occurs to me that now that I've said that publicly, I have to go home and change my security question.



EISENBERG: Oh, wow. Lois, we have found an excellent contestant to play with you. This is David Finnerty.


EISENBERG: David, you're a huge film buff and a reader. What is your favorite genre of books to read? Do you have a favorite?

DAVID FINNERTY: My favorite genre? I guess I'm kind of like an old fashioned fuddy duddy, or at least my friends tell me I am, so I gravitate more towards like 19th century literature, like old dead white men.



FINNERTY: Or old women, if you're talking about the Bronte sisters or, you know, Jane Austen.

EISENBERG: Yeah, that's your favorite stuff. Perfect. Okay, yes, you guys are going to be an excellent team. So this is one of our favorite games. It's called Product Placement and here's how it works: I'm going to give you a short synopsis of a famous literary work with a reference to a product or company snuck in it. And you have to combine the title of the work with the product or company that we've subtly put in there.

For example, if I said known for its famous allegory of the cave, this classic work of Greek philosophy discusses justice, government and where to buy slim fit khaki pants, you would say Plato's the banana republic.


EISENBERG: And if you get enough of the questions right, David will win a special ASK ME ANOTHER prize, Lois.


LOWRY: Wait a minute; David will win the prize?




JONATHAN COULTON: We have some lovely parting gifts for you Lois.

LOWRY: Where is the justice in this?

EISENBERG: It's okay. You get a prize too, but I mean the prize that you provided, we will give to David.

LOWRY: Okay. Okay.

FINNERTY: You get to spend the night with me, Lois.


EISENBERG: David, David, let's see if you get something right. Relax. In a pivotal scene in the satirical allegory, Napoleon the pig offers this revision of one of the seven commandments: like animals, all snack foods are equal, but some, like Mint Milanos and Goldfish are more equal than others.

FINNERTY: Mind if I take a stab?

LOWRY: Oh, please.

FINNERTY: Pepperidge animal farm.

EISENBERG: Animal Pepperidge Farm. Okay, that's good. That's good.



EISENBERG: In this Cormac McCarthy novel about a drug deal gone wrong along the U.S./Mexico border, a Texas sheriff hunts a coin-flipping hitman named Anton Sugar, who kills his victims with an unusual device, a mobile phone from Finland.

LOWRY: I'm counting on you, David, for this one.

FINNERTY: Well, I know "No Country For Old Men" is in there somewhere.

LOWRY: The Nokia, what's the Finnish phone?

EISENBERG: Oh, there you go. You got to have all the pieces.

FINNERTY: Nokia country for old men.

LOWRY: Nokia for...

EISENBERG: There you go.


EISENBERG: Nokia country for old men, yes. Set during the 100 years war, this play features a battle scene with one of Shakespeare's most famous lines: once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. But first, try this refreshing blend of eight hearty vegetables, mmm, tomatoes.


LOWRY: So the brand is V8 but what's the novel?

FINNERTY: Well, there's Henry V. Henry V.

EISENBERG: Interesting.


EISENBERG: It's interesting.

FINNERTY: He said once more into the...

EISENBERG: Yeah, sure.

LOWRY: Henry the V8.

FINNERTY: Henry the V8.

EISENBERG: Oh, there you go.


EISENBERG: This 1934 novel centers on a beloved teacher at Brookfield, a British boarding school for boys, who was fondly remembered for his inspiration, his leadership and his blue bags of chocolate studded cookies.

LOWRY: Goodbye mister...

FINNERTY: Mister chips ahoy.

EISENBERG: There you go.


EISENBERG: Now you're finishing each other's sentences. This is amazing.


EISENBERG: Vladimir and Estragon talk and argue endlessly while anticipating the arrival of someone bringing fresh baked crescent rolls. If he ever arrives, they plan to poke his belly.


LOWRY: Waiting for...

FINNERTY: Waiting for Godot...

LOWRY: A play, a play...

FINNERTY: The Pillsbury Godot boy.

LOWRY: Pillsbury dough boy, waiting for the doughboy.

EISENBERG: Waiting for the Pillsbury...

FINNERTY: Waiting for the Pillsbury Godot boy.

EISENBERG: That's right, waiting for the Pillsbury Godot boy.


EISENBERG: So clever. So I think you kind of got them all right.

FINNERTY: Did we kind of?



EISENBERG: David, congratulations, you get a special prize. You get Lois Lowry's quartet of "The Giver." A beautiful...

FINNERTY: Awesome.

EISENBERG: ...four-book volume hardcover. They are gorgeous.


EISENBERG: And you both get an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube.

FINNERTY: Very cool.

EISENBERG: What you've always wanted.

LOWRY: Thank you.

EISENBERG: Lois Lowry, thank you so much.

LOWRY: Thank you.

EISENBERG: A big hand for Lois Lowry everybody.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.