Even though William Faulkner once described Hollywood as the "plastic asshole of the world," he spent two decades writing screenplays there. At Garden & Gun, John Meroney examines Faulkner's film career, including writing for Howard Hawks and having an affair with his secretary. Pair with: Our essay on Cormac McCarthy's attempt at screenwriting.
The good people over at The Rumpus have added another fantastic essay to their Albums of Our Lives series. This week, it’s Jonathan Kime who gives The Cure’s crushing, overwhelmingly melancholic 1989 album Disintegration the track-by-track treatment. Earlier iterations included Sufjan Stevens and Jason Isbell.
We are only a few days away from our annual 2010 Year in Reading series! Over the past couple of months, we've asked dozens of readers, writers, and thinkers to tell us about the best book they read all year. On December 1st, we’ll begin posting pieces from some of the biggest names in literature and publishing. Look for more announcements on the site and twitter over the next few weeks. While you wait, check out last year's Year in Reading series to get in the spirit!
South Floridian bandits, fishermen, drunks, madmen, and college students are mourning the imminent demise of beloved Miami institution, Jimbo's. The site of the "Who Lets The Dogs Out" video, the Flipper movie starring Elijah Wood, and a couple iterations of the now-defunct Swampstomp music festival, Jimbo's defied summation. Put simply, you had to see it yourself. The way I always explained it to my friends up North was by telling them it was like The Rum Diary met CBGB's and Will Smith's "Miami" video. Still, even that's insufficient, so I recommend reading the Miami New Times' epic chronicle of the place's history.
As I watch a crowd build for readings at the public library, it is always with some anxiety that I survey my strange companions - chess geeks there for Gary Kasparov, decomposing leftists to hear Lawrence Wright on Iraq - and worry about my place among them.Last Thursday, when Michael Ondaatje came to the Philadelphia public library to read from Divisadero, there was no such trepidation however. It may set me on edge to share politics with a room of people, but it is intimate to share a story. While we waited for Ondaatje to appear, a library staffer poured water into a glass beside the lectern and I chatted with the woman sitting next to me. Neither of us had read Divisadero, but we had The English Patient between us. She had finished it well after midnight, in bed on a Tuesday. I was on a train headed for Albany, pulling along the Hudson, when I put my copy down.Ondaatje took the stage in standard touring author attire, a loosely cut gray suit over a white dress shirt, open at the collar. He had a puff of thinning white hair and a beard to match and a round of middle age paunch drooping over his waist. Never having met the man, I could have picked him out of a room of strangers.Ondaatje explained that he began his writing career as a poet and that tonight, before he began Divisadero, he wanted to read a few stanzas. I could not tell if this was routine, or if he'd been grabbed by an impulse on the way over. Either way, the room was rapt as he read "The Cinnamon Peelers Wife" which contained the question, "what good is it to be the lime burner's daughter/ left with no trace/ as if not spoken to in the act of love/ as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar." There was ample nodding as he went along, and some affirmational sighing at the end. It was reassuring to feel that out of this monotonous book tour, there might be some live pleasure in tonight's performance. That, I think, was at least half the enjoyment of the poems, both our own, and what we hoped he gained by reading them.Book readings, particularly of literary fiction, often have an awkward quality. Athletes and actresses practice their craft in public and we consume it in the company of other people, but books are private affairs from start to finish. Ondaatje read a considerable amount from Divisadero, which is written in three parts and plays with time and memory much like The English Patient does. His prose has the same impressionistic, scattered quality as his poetry and subsequently Ondaatje talked about learning to write as if creating a collage. He was affable and warm and seemed genuinely happy to be in a basement auditorium with a room of people who had filled the interstices of their lives with his work.When it came time for questions, a man of approximately Ondaatje's same age alluded to Henry James and Evelyn Waugh and asked Ondaatje to comment on the miscegenating effects of his work. Ondaatje answered he was glad if his writing had that effect, but that it was not really on his mind when he wrote. I raised my hand next. I wanted to know why he thought it was that it takes time before tragedies and wars yield themselves to art, such that the first efforts are rarely as good as later ones. He answered that he was not really interested in writing about political themes, and preferred to take the perspective of small characters with peripheral relationship to big events. I don't think he meant to elide the question. It was more that from the perspective of his own creative experience, my question did not make any sense. As more questions followed, Ondaatje seemed a little befuddled by the inquiries and connections people drew from his work. They were clearly not the same provocations which had spurred him. It is possible for two people to love the same thing for different reasons and that was the space which developed between Ondaatje and the crowd as the event neared its finish. He had the pleasure of writing his stories, and we had the pleasure of reading them, and the limit of that relationship was like the pleasure of a scar.