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  • At Work

    Joe Dunthorne on ‘Submarine’

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    Craig Roberts plays Oliver Tate.

    Novelist Joe Dunthorne’s delightfully British debut, Submarine, is told from the point of view of teenager Oliver Tate, whose twin mission is to lose his virginity by his sixteenth birthday and to salvage his parents’ ailing marriage. The film version, which was adapted by Richard Ayoade, was picked up by Harvey Weinstein and Ben Stiller and opens today in the U.S. I spoke with Dunthorne not long ago about his experience working with Ayoade and the process of adaptation.

    Harvey Weinstein is notorious for cutting films to make them more palatable. Have there been any significant changes to the film ahead of the American release?

    One thing they’ve added is a card at the start saying something along the lines of “Dear Americans, I am Oliver Tate. I come from a country called Wales, which is near England. You may have heard of famous Welsh people like Catherine Zeta Jones and Anthony Hopkins. You have never invaded Wales, and for that we are thankful” and so on. It’s a kind of introductory card, which is written by Richard Ayoade, the director, at Mr. Weinstein’s suggestion, and the idea seems to be that it needed signposting as a comedy. Whether that’s a judgment on the book, or the film, or American audiences, who knows!

    At least they didn’t do a Trainspotting and subtitle it …

    The Welsh accents weren’t quite thick enough to warrant that. Trainspotting is an interesting link though, because it showed that something may be key to the novel but that doesn’t necessarily make it key to the film. You know how in the book of Trainspotting there’s that absolutely crucial scene where Begbie meets his father down by the train tracks—which is where the title comes from—well, Danny Boyle did away with that. There was something I felt was key in Submarine the novel, namely the revenge of Zoe, the fat girl whom Oliver and his friends bully, but with the film script, it suddenly became expendable. In the book, it’s when Oliver gets his comeuppance for being a bit of a shit, so it’s important in terms of his “coming of age,” but for the film it felt too peripheral.

    What you end up asking yourself is, is there room in a film for something that sits at that sort of tangent to the narrative? A scene that’s somehow faraway from the story but remains important. Maybe not. Maybe it’s something to do with the linearity of film, or maybe simply the two or so hours of viewing time doesn’t allow for those sorts of digressions.

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  • Arts & Culture

    The Coke Side of Life

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    “Liz Taylor knows it, the president knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.” —Andy Warhol

    Evel Knievel on the set of Viva Knievel, 1977.

    Coca-Cola is the brand par excellence, the marca di tutti marche, the brand the other brands dream about being (even though the brands never sleep). Nothing else is even close. When it comes to what a brand is, Coke, as they say, is it. According to the branding consultancy Interbrand, Coke has a “brand value” of seventy billion dollars, which is twelve billion more than its nearest competitor, IBM. That’s a strange measurement, brand value, because it takes several nebulous things into consideration, including probably love. While many people are fond of Coke, some of them to the point of addiction, who even likes IBM?

    Coke’s status is not merely economic or pop cultural or emotional or psychological. Coca-Cola transcends those categories to compete in the broader realm of speech, of monosyllables. We’re told that Coke is the second most recognized word in any language, after okay.

    There are 6.9 billion people in the world, and according to The Coca-Cola Company they drink 1.6 billion Cokes a day. I don’t have the figures for this, but it may be that right now the only thing people on this planet are doing more than breathing is drinking Coke. There may be more people drinking Coke this very minute than sleeping. There may be more people drinking Coke than awake.

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  • Arts & Culture

    Making Art

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    Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, who founded the Feminist Studio Workshop, with Judy Chicago and Arlene Raven. Here they are in de Bretteville’s house in 1973.

    Toward the end of !Women Art Revolution, the performance artist Janine Antoni, who was born in 1964, recalls a moment when her professor, Mira Schor, asks if she’s heard of the work of Ana Mendieta, Hannah Wilke, and Carolee Schneeman. Antoni hadn’t, and she went to the library to learn more. She found nothing, so Schor brought Antoni clippings and catalogues she had saved at home. The moment was profound. “I looked at this work,” Antoni said, “And I thought, ‘I’m making the work of the seventies.’”

    !Woman Art Revolution, which plays for just this week at IFC, is a documentary by Lynn Hershman Leeson. The film weaves together decades of interviews with female artists, which Hershman Leeson began recording in 1966 in her Berkeley living room, and she continued recording through the next four decades.

    There are over four hundred hours of tape, and it took Hershman Leeson three and a half months to watch it all—once. It is incredible. Nancy Spero, who died in 2009, shares a humiliating appointment with Leo Castelli: “Ivan Karp saw me. I was wearing high heel boots at the time. I was really kind of tall. Ivan is small. … He had me put [my tablet] on the floor so every time I turned the page, it felt I was genuflecting to him. And then he said, ‘What’d you bring these to me for?’” Here’s the late art historian Arlene Raven: “I stopped doing the dishes, making the three meals a day, the laundry, and the house cleaning and so on. The process of personal liberation for me resulted in the break up of my marriage.” The Guerrilla Girls appear: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” Marcia Tucker, the founding director of the New Museum, talks about how she was hired as the first female curator at the Whitney, but at $2,000 less than her colleague James Monte: “So I went into see my director and I said, ‘Listen this is what’s happening and you’ve got to change it.’ And he said, ‘Oh well, the budget, the budget, the budget.’ And I said, ‘The New York Times, The New York Post, The Daily News.’ So it got changed!”

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  • At Work

    Oliver Broudy on ‘The Saint’

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    Oliver Broudy was a disenchanted freelance journalist living in New York City when he met a philanthropically inclined millionaire whose story struck him as so meaningful that he decided to follow it halfway across the world. The result is The Sainta short memoir of Broudy’s travels with a man whose spiritual efforts range from the incredible to the horrible, and from the enlightening to the self-destructive. Broudy served as managing editor and then senior editor of The Paris Review, working under George Plimpton and Philip Gourevitch.

    What made you decide to write this book?

    Recklessness, I guess. The last resource of the truly stymied. Before The Saint, I only wrote for magazines. But as sweet a gig as magazine writing can sometimes be, there’s a limit to what you can do in that format. Sometimes it can be agonizing, because you get so close to a subject, but the editorial rubric of the magazine prevents you from addressing it the way you’d like to. So you end up sitting there helplessly as this great material sails by. I used to console myself that I could always go back and write my own version of whatever magazine piece was plaguing me at the time, but inevitably by the time you’re done with the magazine version, revisiting the same material becomes unthinkable. Those lost opportunities linger and ache. That had happened to me too many times, and I was determined to try something different.

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