Saturday, April 9, 2011

Books of Note

1. The O. Henry Awards Prize Stories, 2000.

Yeah, I'm pretty much not punctual when it comes to everything (year 2000 and all). There were twenty short stories in this volume; I liked them all. My two favorites were "He's At The Office" by Allan Gurganus and "Whileaway" by Jeannette Bertles. The first was about Alzheimers disease, the second about the aftermath of a divorce; both were brilliant and involved little bits of trickery by their characters. I'm kind of big on trickery, of course and furthermore, I think everyone should read short stories. Creating a contained world for a short piece and its events from start to finish is actually a lot harder than most people realize, but when done right? Amazing. The very last story was one by Raymond Carver ("Kindling"), whose style I really, really like a lot. Here's a bit:

"Then he put the pen down and held his head in his hands for a moment. Pretty soon he got up and undressed and turned off the light. After he'd gotten into bed he realized he'd left the window open. But he didn't get up. It was okay like that."

2. Roger Ebert's Book of Film, 1996.

This is a really respectable collection of writings on film, not film reviews, and is basically really valuable knowledge on the craft. Parts of it felt a little heavy to me, not because the essays or interviews weren't interesting (they all were) but because many of the subjects were film people (stars, directors, writers) from a completely different era and it kind of felt like reading a history novel after a while. Yeah, it's a generational thing, I suppose, but let's just say I put my time in with all that years ago, so I gave myself license to skip any parts that weren't blowing my skirt up. I'm sure Ebert won't mind. As a whole, though, I really liked this book, it made me giggle a lot, and many of the essays were really well done.

Libby Gelman-Waxner writes (on noir and David Lynch):

"I saw Wild at Heart at a brand-new multiplex in SoHo, where there is a cafe that serves French pastries and at least ten different bottled waters, and where at least one of the theaters is always showing a blasphemous foreign film that portrays Jesus as either a cabdriver or a teenage girl. Everyone in the audience had asymmetrical haircuts, glasses with thick black frames, and clunky, rubber-soled shoes. They looked like French opium addicts, but if you ask me, they were all probably assistants at public-relations firms uptown. All of these people loved Wild at Heart, and they all felt that David Lynch is a quirky visionary who deals in subconscious dream imagery, and after a while, I wished I was home watching a Golden Girls rerun. I have never been able to sit through a whole episode of Twin Peaks; it's a postmodern soap opera, which means that every time someone onscreen eats a piece of apple pie, you can hear a thousand grad students start typing their doctoral dissertations on "Twin Peaks: David Lynch and the Semiotics of Cobbler."
(SNORT! I mean, granted, I love Wild at Heart AND Twin Peaks, but I was in school together with an ocean of French Opium Addict-looking dudes, and trust me, that last statement is more valid that you'd think. . .  !)

And Bukowski (from Hollywood)

There was a small group with cassette recorders. Some flashbulbs went off. I didn't know who they were. They began asking questions.
"Do you think drinking should be glorified?"
"No more than anything else . . ."
"Isn't drinking a disease?"
"Breathing is a disease."
"Don't you find drunks obnoxious?"
"Yes, most of them are. So are most teetotalers."
"But who would be interested in the life of a drunk?"
"Another drunk."
"Do you consider heavy drinking to be socially acceptable?"
"In Beverly Hills, yes. On skid row, no."
"Have you 'gone Hollywood'?"
"I don't think so."
"Why did you write this movie?"
"When I write something I never think about why."

I think I'm going to have to get Barfly pretty soon.