March 30, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
To love classic children’s books is to love heroines with literary ambitions. Harriet the Spy, Betsy Ray, Anne Shirley, Jo March—so many beloved characters wanted to be writers at a time when their sex and circumstances made that hope seem remote and exciting. Not incidentally, many of these characters were based on their authors.
In her 1977 Art of Fiction interview, Jessamyn West—who would go on to write Cress Delahanty, featuring a young woman who dreams of writing—recalls that her parents did not support her career choice: Read More »
March 27, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
It made headlines last year when word got out that Terry Gilliam would finally resume work on his windmill-tilting Don Quixote—and cineastes speak with awe of Orson Welles’s unfinished 1955 Quixote. But there’s one Quixote adaptation that no one talks about much, that few people seem even to know about: the Spanish pornographic cartoon from the seventies.
I’m not going to link to it. If you want to track it down, you can. The caption on one Web site reads, “Just too cool … Must see … ” I’m not a professional film critic, but I respectfully disagree—the erotic Don Quijote cartoon is tedious in the extreme. Read More »
March 26, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
First, a general note: At what point do we stop celebrating the birthdays of the deceased? Yes, Robert Frost was born on this day in 1874, and yes, that would make him 141 today—had not death intervened in 1963, when, at eighty-eight, Frost had already been around for a good while. At a certain point, can’t we just say that today is “the anniversary of his birth”? The word birthday no longer seems to apply—in the normal range of things, it starts to feel a bit macabre. One begins to imagine cakes and party hats on gravestones. Read More »
March 25, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
Let’s say you’ve had a long day, have a rare evening to yourself, and decide to treat yourself to dinner out. You sit at a restaurant bar with a good book, a glass of wine, your own company. You choose your meal, start to disappear into a story, and then—bam—it’s spoiled by the intrusion of a chatty neighbor. You give your book a regretful, longing look and resign yourself to the opposite of pleasure.
There are few moments more purely happy than those dedicated to uninterrupted reading, and few more galling than those in which that peace is shattered, abruptly, by a stranger. Read More »
March 24, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
The other day, I was riding down a Tucson highway with my mother. We had been to the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store and now it was rush hour. Suddenly, a man in a white pickup accelerated, passed us on the right, and screamed, “GET OUT OF THE FAST LANE, DUMBASS!”
After a moment of stunned silence, we both started to snicker. Read More »
March 23, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
“If there’s a heaven,” my mom said recently, “I imagine it’s filled with brand-new Barbara Pym novels I’ve never read.”
There’s a particular desolation to finding you’ve reached the end of a beloved author’s body of work. Just as discovering a writer can give you a where-have-you-been-all-my-life thrill, it’s easy to feel bereft when you’ve exhausted the trove—especially if the author in question has been dead for some forty years.
In an era of easily accessible books, this poses certain questions. Once, you might have had to put yourself on a list at the library, wait for a call, or line up at a bookstore at midnight—now the next title can appear on your phone the moment it’s available. Do you take the glutton’s approach—binging, immersing yourself—or do you mete out the treasures carefully? Read More »