Arts & Culture
June 10, 2013 | by Dave Tompkins
Skeletons seem to be preternaturally deft swordsmen. This one is giving Sinbad all he can handle, at one point throwing its shield like a Frisbee. It’s a roadhouse move, executed with zing and grimace. Sinbad ducks and the shield crashes into the evil sorcerer’s lab, causing a model dinosaur to take a header off the top shelf.
This scene from 1958’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was created by Ray Harryhausen, a special-effects pioneer who recently died, at the age of ninety-two. Only in this lost world could a model Sauropoda look faker than a skeleton wielding a scimitar. The realness was in the time and dedication that went into letting that shield fly, its rotation not unlike the UFO that Harryhausen drunkenly crashed into the Capitol two years earlier in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. While destroying national landmarks makes for a good time, stop-motion animation also demands archeological patience. A mere shoofly of a skeleton’s wrist can equal a full day’s work. For Harryhausen, a little boy’s “dinosaur phase” evolved into a lifetime of endless adjustments and clicks, a shot for every move and turn. One of his biggest challenges and triumphs was activating Medusa’s snake perm in Clash of the Titans (1981), not to mention the instant ossification induced by her stink-eye. Harryhausen would also embellish the legend: Medusa as a graceful archer with snake arrows was as myth-busting to me as a Kraken showing up in a movie without tentacles. Read More »
June 7, 2013 | by Lorin Stein
Our friend Toby Barlow has written a novel, set in Paris in the 1950s, in which an expat literary magazine gets embroiled in a CIA plot. Naturally the whole thing is fiction … or is it? Here Barlow describes the genesis of Babayaga and his valiant attempts to erect a statue to our founding editor, George Plimpton.
June 5, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
Hay-on-Wye, Wales, has a population of 1,500 and thirty secondhand bookstores. Since the 1960s, the town has taken in discarded tomes from across the anglophone world, and is known as “the town of books.” Appropriately enough, it’s also home to the annual Hay Festival, described by USA Today as “a geographically remote, bohemian version of the World Economic Forum’s Davos event.” Kindles, needless to say, are frowned upon.
June 3, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
In April, Philip Roth published a eulogy for his beloved high-school teacher Bob Lowenstein in the New York Times. A couple of weeks ago, Roth visited Audible.com’s Newark, New Jersey, headquarters to record an audio version of the eulogy, which is now available as a free audio download at Audible. Listen to an exclusive clip below.
For every download of “In Memory of a Friend, Teacher and Mentor,” Audible will donate $1 to the Newark Public Library. “We are delighted to be able to offer Philip Roth’s legions of fans this special audio recording of Philip reading his moving eulogy for his high school teacher,” said Audible founder and CEO Donald Katz. “Here at Audible, we celebrate our connection to the great city of Newark every day, and as a literary company we take special pride in the fact that Newark is Philip’s hometown. Hearing a legendary author reading his own words can be an incredibly intimate and moving experience, and we hope many people will download this wonderful audio piece and in doing so help us support the Newark Public Library, which sustained Philip as a young reader and writer.”
Mr. Roth was kind enough to talk a bit about the audio recording, the important role of the library during his childhood and young adulthood, and the inspiration teachers can provide.
I understand that all of the conference rooms at Audible are named for people or places significant to Newark and its history, and that it has a Philip Roth room. Did you record there?
No, that’s a conference room. It’s right next to the Stephen Crane conference room. I recorded in a little studio named for Duke Ellington.
Are you someone who can listen to his own voice?
I haven’t done much of it.
As a rule, you don’t do audio recordings?
No, I don’t.
Have you listened to other recordings of your work?
As a matter of principle, or lack of interest?
I listened once. That took care of it. Read More »
May 31, 2013 | by Ben Downing
There was an incident dating from this vagabond period—from 1956, to be exact—that I was keen to ask Paddy about. Some weeks earlier I had come across, in a sort of anthology of classic put-downs, an anecdote about a contretemps between Paddy and Somerset Maugham. When I asked Paddy about it, he ferreted out a photcopy of a letter he had written at the time to a friend of everyone concerned, Deborah Devonshire, in which he describes what happened. It begins by telling how, after a week in the Alps with director Michael Powell’s team shooting Ill Met by Moonlight (Moss’s account of the Kreipe abduction), Paddy—who is, incidentally, played by Dirk Bogarde in the movie—had settled down to write in a friendly curé’s garden. The letter proceeds as follows:
Before I’d set out, Annie [Fleming, wife of novelist Ian] told me that “Willy” had asked her to stay and to bring anyone she liked (so why not me) and when she got to the Villa Mauresque she rang up, announced the O.K., and collected me in a borrowed car.
Lunch went swimmingly: Annie, Mr Maugham, his friend Alan Searle, and me. So well that, when we got up, Maugham—looking rather like a friendly Gladstone bag—said that he hoped I would stay and go on with my writing, and showed me a charming room. So all prospects glowed when we assembled on the terrace before dinner. The only other guests were a Mr and Mrs Frere; he was Mr Maugham’s publisher at Heinemann and she was Edgar Wallace’s daughter. Making conversation over marvellously strong drinks, I asked her if her husband was anything to do with someone I knew with the same name. She said she wasn’t sure: what did he do? I said, “He’s a herald.”
“What sort of a herald?”
“Oh, you know, works in the College of Arms—he’s Rougedragon Pursuivant, or something like that.”
“Well, he’s an exception to Diana Cooper’s generalization.”
“Oh, what is that?”
“She says it’s generally believed that all heralds stutter.” Read More »
May 30, 2013 | by Kelly McMasters
Nothing is ever over in a place
like this, which is one
Of the reasons why people come
to look at it. As an
Exhibit the waterfall is naturally
unsurpassed: part of
Its fascination must be in the way
it demonstrates how
an event can still be permanent when it depends for its
Definition on continually going over the edge
—Douglas Crase, The Revisionist
One of my favorite parts of working in Moody Road Studios is figuring out someone’s next favorite book. I enjoy sussing people out, reading their personalities, their quirks, feeling around for clues as to what they might like. Do they want romance or darkness? Are they in it for the sentences or the story? Do they want their world to disappear or to learn something or both? Do they (*gasp*) read the last page first?
Years ago, I bartended in a little dive at the end of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and, especially during slow Sunday afternoon shifts, I liked to guess in my head what drink each new customer would order. I was reminded of these days recently when reading the lovely new memoir, Drinking With Men, by Rosie Schaap, who will read at the next Moody Road Reading Series on June 29. The martini men were easy to spot. So were the bridge-and-tunnel kids coming in for a Long Island Iced Tea (mostly because they reminded me of myself at that age). The whiskey neats were the musicians or artists or writers. Ginger ale and bitters meant you’d spent some time behind the bar or waiting tables. Read More »