What books should a critic own? "Each week, the National Book Critics Circle will post a list of five books a critic believes reviewers should have in their libraries." Here are all the lists, from 2007-2011. [more inside]
Frank Norris and the Invention of Film Editing: "At the heart of American author Frank Norris’ gritty turn-of-the-century fiction lies an essential engagement with the everyday shock and violence of modernity. Henry Giardina explores how this focus, combined with his unique approach to storytelling, helped to pave the way for a truly filmic style."
Why Frogs Have Taken Over Passover: a comprehensive and captivating survey of frogs in legend and literature, just in time for everybody's plague-ridden holiday remembrance. [via mefi projects]
Halloween is almost here which to me means one thing: overanalyzing horror flicks for any feminist undertones! ... [N]o season has better metaphors for misogynistic fears and powerful female sexuality than the scary movies that permeate almost every channel and film festival throughout October.At Autostraddle, Nina suggests nine horror films she likes in the "Blossoming-Teenage-Girl-Becoming-A-Woman" sub-genre. She is far from alone in her search for interesting feminist themes in horror cinema and literature. [more inside]
Things That Don't Suck, Some Notes on The Stand
[Spoiler alert: assume everything, from the link above to those below, contains SPOILERS.] [more inside]
I recently reread The Stand for no particular reason other than I felt like it. I'm honestly not sure how many time[s] I've read it at this point, more than three, less than a half dozen (though I can clearly remember my first visit to that horrifyingly stripped bare world as I can remember the first reading of all the truly great King stories). It's not my favorite of King's work, but it is arguably his most richly and completely imagined. It truly is the American Lord of The Rings, with the concerns of England (Pastorialism vs. Industrialism, Germany's tendency to try and blow it up every thirty years or so) replaced by those of America (Religion, the omnipresent struggle between our liberal and libertarian ideals, our fear of and dependence on the military, racial and gender tension) and given harrowing size.
I'm happy to say that The Stand holds up well past the bounds of nostalgia and revisiting the world and these characters was as pleasurable as ever. But you can't step in the same river twice, even when you're revisiting a favorite book. Even if the river hasn't changed you have. This isn't meant as any kind of comprehensive essay on The Stand. Just a couple of things I noticed upon dipping my toes in the river this time.
[Spoiler alert: assume everything, from the link above to those below, contains SPOILERS.] [more inside]
A Piece of Monologue is a treasure trove of modern, contemporary, and avant-garde expression in literature, philosophy, art, design, painting, music, theater, and more. A smattering of insides: Flannery O'Connor on Ayn Rand. An online guide to the life and work of Samuel Beckett. Twin Peaks Behind the Scenes Photographs. Rare photographs of John Coltrane. And wow.
But what was it, precisely, that Pasolini did? In 1970, five years before he was murdered on a beach near Rome, and about a decade after his first movie, Accattone, had made him notorious as a filmmaker, Pier Paolo Pasolini sat down to write a preface to a new book of his selected poems.He called this little essay “To the New Reader,” and in it he wanted to explain to this new reader—who perhaps only knew him as a filmmaker, or novelist, or polemical essayist—why he was always, in fact, a poet. His first poem, he observed, was written when he was seven. His first collection had come out when he was twenty. The volume of selected poems was taken from three books: Gramsci’s Ashes, which appeared in 1957, when he was thirty-five; The Religion of My Time, from 1961; and Poem in the Shape of a Rose, which was published in 1964, the same year that his movie The Gospel According to St. Matthew came out. And so he had really made his films, he argued, “as a poet.” Not that a film and a poem were exactly equivalent, but still: “I think one can’t deny that a certain way of feeling something occurs in the same identical way when one is faced with some of my lines and some of my shots.” [more inside]
Julianne Ross asks: Must Every YA Action Heroine Be Petite? Amy McCarthy asks a similar question: Why do all our young adult heroines look the same? Mandy Stewart also offers up her own advice: Be Divergent and Other Lessons for My Daughter. Interview with Veronica Roth on her book 'Insurgent' and feminism. [more inside]
If the sheer number of Leonard adaptations is remarkable, what is more remarkable still is how few of them are any good. No one was more aware of, or blunt about, this disappointing onscreen record than Leonard himself. His first crime novel, The Big Bounce, was twice adapted for film, in 1969 and 2004. Leonard memorably described the earlier effort as the “second-worst movie ever made”; it was not until he saw the 2004 version, he later said, that he knew what movie was the worst.
Dark Dreamers was a series of interviews with horror writers and directors and other icons. Several of them are on youtube: Clive Barker; Wes Craven Harlan Ellison (1, 2, 3); Richard Laymon; Richard Matheson; Julie Strain (MLYT)
This is my window. Or my windows—the view from my living room, where I sit and write. Might not seem very inspiring. I wish I could offer green mossy lava, roaring waves, a glacier mountain top. I do have other spaces—in an abandoned powerstation, a favorite fisherman’s cafe by the harbor, a summer house on the arctic circle—but this is my honest view, what I really see most of the days. This house was built in the 1960s when people were fed up with lava and mountains; they were migrating to the growing suburbs to create a new view for themselves. The young couple who dug the foundation with their own hands dreamed of a proper garden on this barren, rocky strip of land. They dreamed of trees, flowers, shelter from the cold northern breeze. What is special depends on where you are, and here, the trees are actually special. They were planted fifty years ago like summer flowers, not expected to live or grow more than a meter. The rhododendron was considered a miracle, not something that could survive a winter. It looks tropical, with Hawaiian-looking pink flowers; Skúli, the man who built the house and sold it to me half a century later, took special pride in it. I am not a great gardener. We are thinking of buying an apple tree, though they don’t really thrive in this climate. I would plant it like a flower, not really expect it to grow, and hope for a miracle. —Andri Snær Magnason [more inside]
Christopher Pound combines and weights lists and ratings from Project Gutenberg, Goodreads, and elsewhere to produce novel sortings of familiar data—Shakespeare's plays by popularity, for example. The most successful fiction writers at Gutenberg, and the top thousand most popular works of fiction found there. The most highly rated films of 2012 and 2011. The most popular Sci-fi and fantasy sub-genres at Goodreads. [more inside]
Happy Thomas Pynchon rumor day! [LAtimes.com] "What's that, you say? America's most reclusive author, Thomas Pynchon, appeared in the news Friday -- not once but twice? Why, yes, yes, he has, surfacing in two unconnected rumours. Conspiracy? Pynchonian? Maybe we should henceforth designate Jan. 4 as Thomas Pynchon Rumor Day." [more inside]
Lily, the caretaker's daughter, was literally run off her feet...Today is the feast of Epiphany, the last day of the traditional Christmas season; the day also when the Misses Morkan held that grand affair, their annual dance, in James Joyce's "The Dead." [more inside]
Six Dialogues with Leuco by Cesare Pavese. The Flood, The Beast & The Witches, three dialogues by Cesare Pavese. Poems. Poems. Poems. Poems.
Leonard Michaels' "The Zipper": Rita Hayworth is never seen disrobed in the movie, though it is threatened more than once. The atmosphere of dark repression and mysterious forces – the mood or feeling of the movie – might be destroyed by the revelation of her body. It scared me as she began her striptease dance in the nightclub. I didn’t want everybody to see her body, or even to see that Rita Hayworth had a body. [more inside]
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear. And the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."
Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown - A 90 minute documentary on HP Lovecraft with contributions by Neil Gaiman, John Carpenter and Guillermo Del Toro.
Richard Matheson—Storyteller - To mark the publication of a book of tribute stories writer and editor Richard Bradley has been blogging about the author's 60 year writing career- covering I Am Legend, Duel, and The Incredible Shrinking Man, not to mention Somewhere in Time (full index here). Of course Matheson is probably most famous for his contributions to the Twilight Zone, being one of it's three major writers and scripting Nightmare at 20,000 feet. Twice.
Early Female Authors of Hard-Boiled Fiction. Chester Himes and Early African-American Detective Novelists. The Detective's Code. The Femme Fatale. Just a few of the many fascinating offerings at detnovel.com.
It was a dark and stormy campaign... A film theorist's thoughts on the narratives of Barack Obama and John McCain. [more inside]
Waggish would be one of the choicest blogs around if he updated more, but I suppose I can settle for what there is. If you've never read it, you'll know how good it is when I tell you about a few of the coolest posts: an inquest on "left-brained" literature, a short review of John Williams' Stoner, an appreciation of the great Shohei Imamura and three part coverage of the ultimate film, Béla Tarr's Sátántangó.
The Guardian has compiled a list of their top fifty arts videos, the majority being from either rare or obscure sources and uploaded onto YouTube.
Dystopian storytelling is pillar of Western narrative tradition, but this decade has seen a significant shift in the way our apocalypse is told. Orthodox tales of government tyranny are giving way to visions of humans running helpless in the wake of environmental meltdown. From the plausible to the fantastic, most of this fiction remains hauntingly real while the non-fiction can get downright scary. In 2008, the 20th anniversary of climatologist James Hansen's landmark speech before Congress, popular art is beginning to reflect an increasingly bleak public sentiment on the future, playing out some of our worst nightmares. It may be that these writers and directors are wishing for the end of the world, but even so, they are certainly giving voice to the creeping feeling that indeed, we might not make it.
I first read "Ask the Dust" in 1971 when I was doing research for "Chinatown". I was concerned about the way people really sounded when they talked, and I was dissatisfied with everything else I had read that was written during the '30s. I wanted the real thing, as Henry James would say. When I picked up Fante's "Ask the Dust," I just knew that was the way those kids talked to each other—the rhythms, cadences, racism. Robert Towne on adapting John Fante's novel for the big screen. More inside.
The Mathematical Fiction Homepage is a collaborative attempt to "collect information about all significant references to mathematics in fiction." Feel free to add classic or recent works in any medium to the collection, or rate existing entries on their mathematical content and literary quality.
Did The Wizard of Oz inspire Lord of the Rings? "The first film version of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz was released in the summer of 1939, less than a month before World War II officially began. Though started as early as 1937, The Lord of the Rings was largely composed during the war years, but not published until somewhat later. Therefore, it is by no means impossible that J.R.R. Tolkien saw the magnificent MGM movie before he wrote most of his magnum opus. Could Oz have influenced his tale somehow, consciously or unconsciously?"
Everyone is talking about Clint Eastwood's new movie, Million Dollar Baby (trailer). What you may not know however is that the movie was based on a short story in a book by the name of Rope Burns: Stories From The Corner by the late F.X. Toole (aka Jerry Boyd). The book by the way was called, "...the best boxing short fiction ever written," by James Ellroy of L.A. Confidential fame. Back in 2000 Toole gave an amazing interview on Fresh Air about spending the last 20 years of his life as a cut man and the last 40 years of writing while trying to overcome his fear of rejection before getting his first book published at age 70.
The biology of B-movie monsters ; ancient Greek curse and love magic; the correspondence of Elizabeth I and James VI; Egil Skallagrimsson, poet and killer; the mythology of Harry Potter; Pinocchio's cultural heirs; Tiananmen's legacy; experimental art in China; the question of Hatshepshut's character. Articles courtesy of the Fathom Archive, 2000-2003.
"Stone Reader makes you want to pick up a great novel and consume it in one long gulp. It’s a love letter to literature and literacy, a bibliophile’s dream film, dedicated to the joys of fiction and the passions of those who need books like they need food, water and air." (The Dallas Morning News)
"First, look up the most popular and critically-acclaimed books, movies, and music on Amazon. Click on 'Customer Reviews,' and sort them by 'Lowest Rating First'..." The Amazon.com Knee-Jerk Contrarian Game.
These people make for some "Interesting Motherfuckers."
The Dance of Death. Die Totentanz: A German-language site spotlighting, for example, the dance of death in literature, graphic art, music and film. For those, like me, whose German is not so good, this page offers an English-language history of the phenomenon, and the Catholic Encyclopedia has an article too. See also Holbein's Dance-of-Death; Lübeck's Dance-of-Death; and umm, this.
Alexandre Dumas on film This AP/CNN article says Dumas’ books make good movies, but aren’t being read as much as they used to be. Do the changes the movies make improve the books, or would more faithful adaptations be better?
Police Boycott "Harry Potter" Police in Penryn, PA (near Harrisburg) have refused to direct traffic at a YMCA event. The police claim that because the YMCA reads "Harry Potter" to local children that they are promoting witchcraft. Fire Police Capt. Robert Fichthorn says "I don't feel right taking our children's minds and teaching them (witchcraft). As long as we don't stand up, it won't stop. It's unfortunate that this is the way it has to be."
Don't make Hunter mad. Hunter S. Thompson doesn't think the production company that optioned The Rum Diaries is doing a very good job. And he tells them. Man, does he tell them.