Posts Tagged ‘July 4th’
July 8, 2010 | by John Williams
This is the second installment of Williams' culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
DAY FIVE9:30 A.M. I read a profile of novelist David Mitchell by Wyatt Mason in The New York Times Magazine. I try to read anything Mason writes. He’s always sharp, and he was among the few critics who gave one of my favorite novels1 (It’s All Right Now by Charles Chadwick) its due. As for Mitchell, I want to read him in theory, but I’ve yet to feel inspired to actually pick up the books. I’m most interested in Black Swan Green, his semi-autobiographical novel, and by consensus his least formally inventive.
11:45 A.M. I go back through several publishers’ catalogs to firm up a list of titles that I hope to assign for review on The Second Pass in the fall. I add Dinaw Mengestu’s sophomore novel, How to Read the Air, and the list is now sixty-five books long, which seems ambitious. I may have to prune it a bit.
4:35 P.M. I read the first few pages of The Art of Losing, a debut novel by Rebecca Connell that appeared in the mail last week. It’s being published in October, and I add it to the list for review. I realize this is the opposite of pruning.
11:00 P.M. The Criterion Collection recently released Make Way for Tomorrow, a 1937 movie directed by Leo McCarey, who also directed Duck Soup, The Awful Truth, and dozens of others. I watch it on my laptop. It stars Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi as an elderly couple who lose their home to foreclosure. None of their children are able to take them both, so they’re separated. Legendary character actor Thomas Mitchell is great as George, the son who takes in his mother. Made in the wake of the Social Security Act of 1935, the movie, without being overtly political at all, unfolds like an argument for the importance of social safety nets. There are moments of real humor, but the overall mood is melancholy3. Read More »
- A 700-page debut novel published when Chadwick was seventy-two, It’s All Right Now tells the story of one man’s life over several decades. The narrator, Tom Ripple, is a brilliant creation: true to life, fond of bad puns, passive, frustrated, loving, forgetful, nostalgic, accidentally insightful about himself. Chadwick’s style and Ripple’s thoughts are subtle but possessed of great accumulated power. Mason wasn’t totally alone in praising it. David Gates said, “No writer—no writer—has ever been more scrupulous in honoring his characters’ complexity,” and Benjamin Kunkel called the novel “[a]t once modest and epic” and described Ripple as “one of the most vivid and robust characters in recent British fiction.”
- The only novel by Grossman I’ve read is The Book of Intimate Grammar, and that was many years ago, but I remember admiring it. Advance word about the new novel has been enthusiastic, not even including Nicole Krauss’ already legendarily effusive/mystical blurb.
- On one of the DVD’s extras, Peter Bogdanovich recalls having dinner with Orson Welles, and asking him if he’d ever seen Make Way for Tomorrow. Welles responded: “Oh my god! That’s the saddest movie ever made! It would make a stone cry!”