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Archive for the ‘literature’ Category

The news over the weekend of Walter Cronkite’s death hit me pretty hard. I didn’t grow up with him on my TV news- I was born in the late 70s and Ilive in Canada. But the history geek in me led me to him and his com padrein truth, Edward R. Murrow. I, like many others of my generation, saw him in flashback almost, in his bigger, grander moments. I saw him nearly lose all composure announcing JFK’s death, felt the wonder seeping out of the tubes as he observed the moon landing, felt his irritation about the futility in Vietnam. His were first person accounts on videotape, the most trusted man in America, able to influence an entire nations feelings on a war by simply observing it. It has been said time and again over the last couple of days that there will never be another Walter Cronkite. Certainly this will be true- not only because he was one of a kind, but because no one seems to aspire to be that type of journalist any more. The era where journalism was a true profession, capable of providing checks and balances to the government, is really over.

Frank McCourt also dies this weekend after a battle with cancer and meningitis. His was a fascinating  story. Not famous outside of being an eccentric NYC teacher, he published one of the most elegant, tragic, beautiful memoirs in history. I’ve read Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis numerous times. He found humor in the hypocrisy and poverty of his life and inspired me to find the truth in my own voice as a writer, even while writing snarky recaps for TV shows.

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  • At least Bikini Girl left AI, but still- sucks is an understatement.
  • Apatow to make short film for Oscar show. Male frontal nudity on ABC, y’all.
  • James Franco wins Harvard’s prestigious Hasty Pudding Award. He’ll make a pretty drag queen, I must say.
  • Speaking of pretty girls, Jude Law to play transsexual model in Sally Potter’s upcoming film. Leaked pic has him looking like a more tragic early 90s Winona Ryder.
  • Big Love for Big Love at HBO, picked up for fourth season.
  • M.I.A., Goddess, has announced she will attempt to perform Sunday at the Grammys- her due date. Oscars- still up in the air.
  • Punk fans around the world mourn the loss of Lux Interior, the leader of The Cramps, who were the ultimate psychobilly purveyors of the 70s through the millennium. He was 62 ( or 60, depending on the source), and had died of a long time heart affliction. He will be missed.
  • This could get me in huge trouble with Twilight fans, but- I’m sorry, Stephen King is right, Stephanie Meyer’s is not a great writer. Where he’s wrong is that she is a perfectly adequate writer with an inability to build a story successfully, which plagues many writers of popular fiction ( as opposed to the heady lit elite types like a Cheever or an Irving or an Updike- although they can fall prey on occasion as well). I know this because it’s my own issue when I write, I just haven’t been lucky enough to catch an agent or a publisher willing to look the other way ( plus I don’t write about vampires or wizards). The fact is, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is much better written as it was meticulously planned out , every plot point, over years before she committed a word to paper, leaving a clear channel for her to tell a very complex story about good and evil. While I found Twilight an amusing diversion, each preceding novel of the Meyer’s series seemed to lose the plot a bit until Breaking Dawn, which was so bizarre and out of character as to make the whole series seem ridiculous. Her prose is clunky, her dialog cliched, her story fantastical even in the realm of fantasy fiction ( believe and stick to your own mythology- never waiver). So please keep the blood spatter to a minimum, Twilight fans. It’s innocuous enough as a series that I don’t hate it, but I really can’t call it great literature. Stephen King is fundamentally right ( all though, I admit, tact is not his strong suit).

I’ll await my death over by the water cooler. Have a wonderful day.

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Paul Newman, 83, actor and philanthropist. 09/26

David Foster Wallace, 46, author ( Infinite Jest). 09/12

Isaac Hayes, 65, singer, songwriter, actor. 08/10

Jerry Wexler, 91, music producer. 08/15

Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, 89, author and Soviet dissident. 08/04

George Carlin, 71, comedian and actor. 06/22

Cyd Charisse, 86,  dancer and actress. 06/17

Tim Russert, 58, anchor of ” Meet the Press”. 06/13

Bo Diddley, 79, guitarist, one of the godfathers of Rock and Roll. 06/02

Yves Saint Laurent, 71, famed fashion designer. 06/01

Dick Martin, 86, comedian and host of ” Laugh-In” with partner Dan Rowan. 05/24

Sydney Pollack, 73, Oscar winning director and actor. 05/26

Robert Rauschenberg, 82, artist. 05/12

Eddy Arnold, 89, musician. 05/08

Charlton Heston, 84, actor and Conservative activist, President of the National Rifle Association. 04/05

Richard Widmark, 93, actor. 03/24

Paul Scofield, 86, Oscar Winning actor. 03/19

Arthur C. Clarke, 90, author ( 2001: A Space Odyessy). 03/19

William F. Buckley, 82, famed Conservative pundit. 02/27

Roy Scheider, 75, actor. 02/10

Heath Ledger, 28, Oscar nominated actor. 01/22

Suzanne Pleshette, 70, actress. 01/19

Van Johnson, 92, actor. 12/12

Bobby Fischer, 64, chess prodigy turned eccentric. 1/17

Steve Fossett, 64, billionaire adventurer. Declared dead on 2/15, though missing since September 2, 2007, and his remains were found September 2008.

Will Elder, 87, artist and satirical cartoonist ( MAD, Playboy). 5/17

Mildred Loving, 68.

This fascinating woman was a pregnant eighteen year old when she married Richard Loving in Washington D.C. The year was 1958, and they would have been like any other normal Virginia couple if the police hadn’t arrested them under arcane miscegenation laws. This black woman married to a white man would in 1963 ask the ACLU to take her and her husband’s case to the Supreme Court, where the Warren Bench overturned their convictions. The woman at the heart of Loving v. Virginia would toward the end of her life never give interviews, but would later release a statement supporting gay marriage, as she, better than most, understood that marriage is not always about children and religion, but always, always about human rights and love. 5/2

Levi Stubbs, 72, singer ( The Four Tops). 10/17

Harold Pinter, 78, playwright. 12/25

Eartha Kitt, 81, singer and actress and Catwoman. 12/25

Mark Felt, 95, Deep Throat in the Watergate scandal. 12/18

Bettie Page, 85, legendary pin up girl. 12/12

Odetta, 77, folk singer. 12/2

Miriam Makeba, 76, singer and anti-apartheid activist. 11/9

Michael Crichton, 66, author and co-creator of the TV series ER. 11/4

Studs Terkel, 96, journalist, author, and radio host. 10/31

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Five fiction, five non-fiction, ten great. These are not in order, because I simply cannot choose.

Beautiful Children ( Charles Bock)- an astonishing debut novel, set in Las Vegas, about a missing child, the seedy underbelly of America’s city of sin is a character in it’s own right. Stunning, searing prose makes a slightly leaden premise shine, and the mixed up teens that populate the novel are colorful and believable.

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination ( Elizabeth McCracken)- the loss of a baby prenatally at any stage is painful, but to lose on in stillbirth has got to be beyond anguishing. McCracken’s personal tale is alternately heartbreaking and touchingly funny, as she tries to put together her life after the loss of her baby. Devastating.

The Lazarus Project ( Aleksander Hemon)- the fears of immigrants and anarchists in early 20th century America meet with the search of self, as the steeped in the Balkans culture author creates a world in which everyone is suspicious and everything is crucial to being at peace with oneself.

Lush Life ( Richard Price)- Price is one of my Favorite authors, as he is a master of dialogue, and i appreciate dialogue above all else. This novel, set in post- 9/11 Lower East Side New York City, is astonishingly detailed and richly written. He does lose some of the plot as he feeds his bigger themes, but damn it, when has being a big idea guy been a bad thing?

My Revolutions ( Hari Kunzru)- a former 60s radical lives a quiet suburban life with his wife before memory and blackmail turns his world upside down. A marvelously written tale about idealism gone awry, and the life long consequences of action.

Netherland ( Joseph O’Neill)- Another New York City in a post 9/11 world novel, certainly, but this novel about class, displacement, transplants, and rootless lives makes for a great companion to Price’s novel.  But it’s more than that. It may be one of the great love stories of the decade.

Outliers: : The Story Of Success ( Malcolm Gladwell)-  I admit to finishing this book approximately fourteen hours ago. The famed writer of people and social structure has created a book that makes you go ” Huh. ” As he observes the habits of highly successful people, Gladwell reminds us that the obvious sometimes is the only thing that leads us to fulfill our dreams.

Pictures At A Revolution: Five Movies And the Birth of New Hollywood ( Mark Harris): 1939 may have been the pinnacle, but the year everything changed forever remains up to debate. The 70s has been used extensively, as has 1969, but Harris’ ruminations on 1967 may be the most compelling argument of them all, that the best picture nominees of 1967 ( The Graduate, In the Heat Of The Night, Bonnie And Clyde, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, and Dr. Doolittle) are the snapshot of the upcoming cinematic revolt.

The Post-American World ( Fareed Zakaria)- the famed pundit gives his views on a world in which the U.S. role will shrink, but as opposed to being a pessimist, he seems encouraged by the decentralization of power- as long as it goes right.

The Ten Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare And How It Changed America ( David Hajdu)- a painstaking history of how pop culture is apparently to blame for society’s ills ( some things never change…), this book is possibly my favorite of the year. The history of William
Gaines, who was the center of the controversy, leads us to the ultimate prize. After losing his comic book empire, he went counter culture and gave us MAD. Brilliantly told.

Would be on the list if not written by a friend: The Real McCain ( Cliff Schecter).

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Do you like movies? Do you love them with a passion  known as geektastically so? Do you want to listen to amazing music, and read amazing text? Then travel on to Internet Archive. I was perusing one day earlier this year and came across a lot of Keaton and Chaplin. No surprise they were there, as these movies, now nearing the century old mark, would seem to have lapsed into the public domain. The archive specializes in public domain ( and therefore, completely legal) media. I found there Salt of the Earth, the classic movie made by the Hollywood Ten ( specifically, Biberman), and while the quality sucks ass, it remains a vibrant and vital film.

How freakin’ amazing is that? Also there- Night Of the Living Dead, Reefer Madness, The 39 Steps, Shadow Of A Doubt… apparently, Patricia Hitchcock allowed the copyright to lapse on a few of her dad’s films… But go, and see if you can find a lost gem. I sure did.

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