Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood’
March 18, 2016 | by The Paris Review
In its first chapter alone, Jean Stein’s West of Eden: An American Place sees a fortune made and squandered, a dubious murder-suicide, a media blackout, hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribe money, and a death by battery acid. And this isn’t fiction—it’s an oral history of Los Angeles, full of myth and rancor and especially desolation. Focusing on just five addresses, including the Dohenys’ fabled Greystone Mansion and Jack Warner’s Beverly Hills monstrosity, Stein excavates an LA counternarrative that’s been buried for decades in the city’s foundations, obscured by those who insist on marketing the place as paradise. The Los Angeles that emerges here is anything but a dream factory—its denizens are so felled by corruption and hubris that their lives take on the dimensions of Greek tragedy. West of Eden is a stunning accomplishment. Strange that it comes at roughly the same moment as the Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar!, which tells, beneath its frothy surface, another sad story of old Hollywood’s bitter power-brokers. —Dan Piepenbring
“We are getting / rid of ownership, substituting use. / Beginning with ideas. Which ones can we / take? Which ones can we give?” I read these sentences a half dozen times, stopping after each read to consider a new meaning that appeared before me, like an ever-expanding horizon. In fact, most sentences in John Cage’s Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) took several readings to get through. But these fragments of opinions and problems, worries and joys are meant to be meditative, and working through them recalibrates the reader’s perspective. Shifts between typefaces, indentations, and colors make a collage of the text, and there is little sense of where one entry ends and the next begins, which produces wonderfully unexpected juxtapositions and startles to attention odd anecdotes like this one: “In the lobby after La / Monte Young’s music stopped, / Geldzahler said: It’s like being in a / womb; now that I’m out, I want to get / back in. I felt differently and so did / Jasper Johns: We were relieved to be / released.” And to think that it’s really all just words arranged on a page. But, as Cage points out, “If we could change our language, / that’s to say the way we think, / we’d probably be able to swing the / revolution.” —Nicole Rudick Read More »
March 8, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Today in dripping-wet Regency heartthrobs: this is not a drill, people. Mr. Darcy’s soaked white shirt is bound for these shores. You know the one: it doesn’t exist in the pages of Pride and Prejudice, but Colin Firth made it famous in the 1995 BBC adaptation. And now: “The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington confirmed that it has secured a loan of the billowing white shirt worn by Mr. Firth in an indelible scene in the 1995 BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice … In the scene, Mr. Firth, playing the aloof Mr. Darcy, dives into a pond and emerges with the garment molded to his strapping physique … A half-serious proposal to keep the shirt wet and molded to its display dummy by using misters like those in the produce sections of grocery stores was deemed ‘curatorially unsound’ … But outside the protective glass case, the library is bracing for a humid reaction.”
- Has the rise of the M.F.A. left a mark on American literature? Not really, according to two professors who have, as is their professorial wont, crunched the numbers, using “computational text analysis” to compare novels by writers within and without M.F.A. programs. They found “no real distinctions at the level of language, themes, or even syntax. When we went further to test whether the way writers constructed their characters was any different, once again nothing significant showed up. It was extremely difficult to separate the M.F.A. and non-M.F.A. writing groups in any meaningful way … The M.F.A. promises to make the distinction of race come alive, take on literary heft, through learning how to write and the work of writing. But we have no evidence that M.F.A. authors are any better at this than their less educated non-M.F.A. peers. If there’s a quality that distinguishes a writer as Asian American or black, we could not find it.”
- The French writer Serge Brussolo has published more than 150 books—sometimes as many as three a year—zero of which are available in English. That will change with The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome, a 1992 novel about “a gang of metaphysical burglars who enter a dreaming mind and pull daring heists to retrieve its treasures.” (Christopher Nolan’s Inception borrows liberally from the concept.) As Tim Martin writes, “The anarchic surrealism at work in Brussolo’s novel is such that it can never quite be reduced to a parable about the artist and society. Like Burroughs in his cut-up fictions, or Ballard in the mad Californian dreamscapes of his Vermilion Sands stories, he is coolly at home in the deranged landscape he creates, in which hypnotists whisper cryptically to security cameras, dead dreams lie frozen in special vaults lest they explode when they thaw and flowers sprout wildly in cityscapes of the mind as the dreamers’ bodies decay.”
- Christine Smallwood on The Paris Review’s anthology of new writing, The Unprofessionals: “There are more relationship problems here, treated in isolation; more people alone, talking to themselves, remembering. This is not an accident, but an aesthetic … We continue reading not to see what will happen, but to find out how the narrator will think about whatever happens to happen. Though characters wake up in beds, walk around city streets, or drive in trucks, they do not really live anywhere except their own minds. They sense place as one might sense a phantom limb … Dislocation is not synonymous with disembodiment. A strong attention to bodily experience runs through The Unprofessionals.”
- Today in facades: Jean Stein’s West of Eden: An American Place is an oral history of Hollywood and Los Angeles that deploys, as Andrew O’Hagan writes, “a wonderful grace in uncovering a monstrous reality.” He summarizes a story in the book about Jennifer Jones: “In later life Jones went to bed in full make-up and hair—it took four hours every day—just in case she was taken ill in the night and had to go to hospital. Stephen Sondheim remembers seeing her in Ravello during the shooting of John Huston’s madcap movie Beat the Devil. ‘I recall her sitting at an umbrella table in the square,’ Sondheim says, ‘rehearsing a scene with Edward Underdown, who played her husband. Above the surface of the table she was bantering blithely with him, but below it she was tearing her napkin into shreds. This was not in the script.’ ”
February 17, 2016 | by Rob Sharp
February 4, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- So you published one of the most lauded, beloved, fiercely debated novels of 2015—what now? A new thrill can be hard to come by. Hanya Yanagihara has elected to follow her success by swimming across Martha’s Vineyard. Just because. “Swimming,” she writes, “is the writer’s sport, because it is the sport most like writing. To swim, as to write, is to choose an intense state of socially acceptable aloneness. You can be a serious runner or bicyclist and still have to occasionally nod at a passerby or negotiate traffic. Swimming, however, precludes interaction with the world. When Anne Sexton won a fellowship from Radcliffe in 1961, she used the money to build herself a pool, which has always seemed to me a sensible artistic decision, if those two adjectives can ever be paired … There is no better place to unkink a complicated piece of invented logic than in the water—there is little else to do, in fact, but confront your problems.”
- The Coen brothers are back with Hail, Caesar!, which, as you’ve probably heard, is about a brutish studio fixer in the golden age of Hollywood. Richard Brody sees it as a meditation on faith: “The Coen brothers are into belief systems—big and seemingly backward ideas that overcome contradictions with a leap of faith—and Hail, Caesar! is full of them … The Coens see the absurdity and the narrowness in the grandeur of the Hollywood mythology on which they were raised. Movies are different now because the people who make them don’t—and can’t—exercise the same sort of plenipotentiary power; because studio heads are no longer godlike; because studios as such, with their closed complexes of soundstages and paternalistic control over actors’ lives, no longer exist. Yet the Coens look back upon those movies with a specific nostalgia for a lost faith. The religion that the Coens grew up with wasn’t Christianity, but it was the American religion—Hollywood.”
- Hey, they made a new movie of Arabian Nights! Imagine the pageant of exotic images to come as Scheherazade tells his stories! And then stop imagining it, because Miguel Gomes’s Arabian Nights, as Adam Thirlwell writes, has another set of references in mind: “There are no sherbets, no hunting parties, no silks: this movie employs a different vocabulary of cigarettes, drizzle, plastic signs, and metal fences … The movie lasts more than six hours, and is divided into three parts—‘The Restless One,’ ‘The Desolate One,’ and ‘The Enchanted One’—each of which is in turn divided into three or four named stories, which vary in length but which each last roughly thirty to forty-five minutes. It’s a long film that is also a series of shorts. To make the movie, Gomes set up a troupe: a mini office of investigative journalists, whose job was to come to him with raw material from Portugal’s recession.”
- How did Joan Didion make the leap from litterateur to legend? That’s the kind of rhetorical question only Vanity Fair could answer. In the process, Lili Anolik probes the recesses of Didion’s marriage to John Gregory Dunne: “Dunne wasn’t Didion’s match artistically. Not so much a slight as it might sound. Dunne was a fine writer; Didion just happens to be more than that. And he seemed to have accepted his second-best status … ‘John told Brian [Moore, the Irish novelist] he was walking on the beach one night and he ran into Jesus and Jesus said, “I love your wife’s work!” ’ … That Didion could wipe the floor with Dunne anytime she chose must’ve been disturbing for him. And confusing. The girl he’d married, a slip of a thing, bookish and wallflowerish, turned out to be this spooky genius, a poet of paranoia or possibly a clairvoyant of paranoia fulfilled.”
- As e-books sales begin to slump, one digital publisher is doubling down by putting out “unprintable books”: “People like to talk about how physical books have qualities that don’t transfer well to digital … We want to show that digital books can have narrative and visual qualities that champion writing but can’t be transferred to print. You wouldn’t really sit and read a novel while at your desktop would you? You’re more likely to curl up on your sofa or armchair and read a book—and you can do that on your phone just as easily as you can with a paperback.”
February 1, 2016 | by S. J. Perelman
From a letter sent by S. J. Perelman to Betsy Drake, dated May 12, 1952. Perelman, one of the most popular humorists of his time, was born on this day in 1904; he died in 1979. Donald Barthelme called him “the first true American surrealist.” “I classify myself as a writer of what the French call feuilletons—that is, a writer of little leaves. They’re comic essays of a particular type,” Perelman told The Paris Review in 1963. Here he advises Drake on the miseries of screenwriting. “The mere mention of Hollywood induces a condition in me like breakbone fever. It was a hideous and untenable place when I dwelt there, populated with few exceptions by Yahoos, and now that it has become the chief citadel of television, it’s unspeakable,” he told the Review. Read More »
December 21, 2015 | by Isabel Ortiz
We’re away until January 4, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2015. Please enjoy, and have a happy New Year!
Who is Nancy Drew, really? The instability of the girl detective.
The writer Bobbie Ann Mason once described the Nancy Drew novels as sonnets, or “endless variations on an inflexible form.” The same could be said of Nancy herself: though outfitted with a few baseline characteristics—her freedom, her wile, her supreme politesse—she’s perpetually shape-shifting throughout the series. Alternately sixteen and eighteen, Nancy Drew is a scholar of ancient languages and an amateur archaeologist; a flawless cook, an expressive painter, and a dynamite prom date. She can dance in a corps de ballet and scuba dive fathomless depths. On separate occasions, her friends have walked in on her tap dancing, learning Morse code, and tap dancing in Morse code. Even her hair color is famously inconstant—from book to book, it flickers from blonde to strawberry blonde to her most distinctive shade, Titian, so named for the rosy apricot color used in many of the sixteenth-century Italian’s paintings.
And yet, there are some things Nancy Drew simply does not do. In her decades-long original run of more than fifty books, she never once goes to the movies or mentions an actor by name. Her only brush with Hollywood comes in 1931’s The Mystery at Lilac Inn, where she meets the diabolical Gay Moreau, a washed-up actress who’s also a Nancy Drew impersonator, committing petty crimes to defame the detective. Nancy approaches the case with some amusement at her resemblance to a “blonde actress,” but things take a turn for the weird when the starlet kidnaps Nancy, binds and gags her, and, to Nancy’s horror, begins to act: Read More >>