Sunday, July 31, 2011

Retracing Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath"

Dead Authors

Some of our favorite authors have met the Grim Reaper in unusual ways.

From a piece on Publisher's Weekly...

1. Tennessee Williams choked to death on a bottle cap. In 1983, Williams was found dead with an eyedrops bottle cap blocking his larynx. An empty bottle of wine and several kinds of medications were also found, and their consumption was thought to have restrained his gag reflex.

2. Sir Francis Bacon died of pneumonia after stuffing a chicken with snow. In 1626, Bacon wanted to do a meat preservation experiment so he went out in a blizzard with a piece of meat. He died a month later.

3. Molière was seized by a coughing fit while performing one of his plays and died hours later. While performing his play The Imaginary Invalid (off-the-radar irony) for King Louis the 14th, Molière started coughing and gasping and, after a brief delay, resumed and eventually finished the play. He had been suffering from tuberculosis for years and died hours later.

Of Mice and Men - the Opera

The Economist takes a look at a staging of the Carlisle Floyd-created production.

From the piece...

For Mr Beresford, it was odd that no modern American opera had ever been performed in Australia, despite the strong cultural ties between the two countries. He persuaded Opera Australia, the country’s main company, to take on both productions. Audiences have enthusiastically endorsed his judgment. On the opening night of “Of Mice and Men”, a standing ovation greeted Mr Floyd when he came on stage. Now 85, the American composer expressed delight that his opera had finally found Australian audiences more than four decades after its premiere in Seattle.

The timing does seem right to revisit Steinbeck’s Depression-era story. It follows two migrant labourers, George and Lennie, who must rely on each other in the harsh environment of rural California. Mr Beresford first heard the opera when he was directing “Cold Sassy Tree”, a later work of Mr Floyd’s, for the Houston Grand Opera. He was struck by the strength and poignancy of a duet in the second act between Lennie and the story’s one (unnamed) female character as they relate their respective dreams: he to find his own farm with George, she to find fame in Hollywood. Both dreams are palpably doomed. “It knocked me out,” says Mr Beresford to The Economist. “I knew then that I must take this opera to Australia, even for that duet alone.”

With carefully judged moods, Mr Floyd’s music brings the story to life. His musical composition matches the tautness of the novel, and what he calls its “almost total lack of diffuseness”. The Sydney production is also distinguished by stage settings that give an unmistakable sense of time and place.

Kafka Drank Milk

Favorite snacks of famous writers are highlighted, here.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

10 Incredibly Perfect Moments in the History of Editing

The list, care of Neatorama.

From the piece...

In 1938, Warner Brothers writer Ben Hardaway directed a short film featuring a very sneaky rabbit. The cartoon was called Porky’s Hare Hunt, but the bunny that starred in it didn’t have a name. So, the best creative minds in the business got together and dubbed the up-and-coming star “Happy Rabbit.”

Ben Hardaway, whose nickname was Bugs, also directed he next short starring Happy Rabbit. As the animators drew up early image for the film, one of them labeled a sketch of the rabbit “Bugs’ Bunny,” to make it clear that the drawing was part of Hardaway’s project. The label was mistaken for the name of the character, and soon enough, all the animators were calling Happy Rabbit “Bugs Bunny.” The tiny error created an icon, and, as they say at Warner Bros., that’s all, folks.

Great Summer Reading (and What To Drink While You Read)

Some ideas, care of the San Francisco Weekly.

E-Books and Paperback Book Publishing

E-books continue to change the face of book publishing. Indeed, now book publishers are putting out paperbacks in no time flat.

From a piece in the New York Times...

Publishers say they have a new sense of urgency with the paperback, since the big, simultaneous release of hardcover and electronic editions now garners a book the bulk of the attention it is likely to receive, leaving the paperback relatively far behind. They may also be taking their cues from Hollywood, where movie studios have trimmed marketing costs by steadily closing the gap between the theatrical release of films and their arrival on DVD.

“I’m looking to do it more and more,” Jane von Mehren, the publisher of trade paperbacks at Random House, said of releasing paperbacks early. “We feel as though there is this trade paperback book buyer that we want to make sure is still getting served. The idea that someone would wait for a year is an assumption that we should no longer make. So we’re looking at shortening the window.”

The future of the trade paperback has been a frequently debated topic among publishers, who have long seen the paperback release as a moment of reinvention, in which they can take a book that was already out, redesign its cover and pitch it to a wider audience.

“We think our job as paperback publisher is to find the second life for the book, to bring an extra dimension to the audience for the paperback,” said Anne Messitte, the publisher of Vintage/Anchor, part of Random House. “We watch each book very carefully to determine the best moment for paperback publication.”

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Incomprehensibility of William Shakespeare

Can we understand Shakespeare in real time? When we're watching "Titus Andronicus" on stage, can we really follow what the actors are saying?

From a piece in the New Republic...

I was interested in testing my convictions under what many consider the ideal conditions for experiencing Shakespeare: I am often told that the comprehension problem all but vanishes when the plays are performed with top-notch British actors. Even the acoustics were right, as the RSC has actually reconstructed their theater inside the Park Avenue Armory (ah, real government subsidies for the arts).

First, however, I should dispel two possible misimpressions. I am not arguing that Shakespeare’s language can be too “dense” or “poetic,” but that it can be simply incomprehensible because of the passage of time. Also, I am referring to taking in the language through the ear during a live performance, not reading and referring to footnotes. In any case, the question at As You Like It: When an excellent and highly trained British actor delivers Shakespearean language a few feet away from us, can we always understand the basic meaning of the sentences he or she utters?

I found that the company’s high level of skill, including the lucid staging and direction, indeed did much to get across the language’s meaning. It left me still uncomfortable that it takes these kinds of chops to pull it off: After all, there are only so many companies like this. But more to the point, in more than a few places, even in this production, it was quite impossible to follow the meaning. Not because the actors weren’t doing their job, but simply because time has passed.

Terry Gilliam Meets Paul Auster

Gilliam's coming movie? A take on the Paul Auster novel, Mr. Vertigo.

From a story in the Los Angeles Times...

Filmmaker Terry Gilliam is at work on a script based on Paul Auster's novel, "Mr. Vertigo." Auster's best-known film work has been written directly for the screen -- 1995's "Smoke" won him the Best First Screenplay prize at the Independent Spirit Awards.

For his part, Gilliam has adapted books to screen before, notably the 1988 film "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen," from a children's book series, and 1998's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" from the book by Hunter S. Thompson.

"You read books," Gilliam said at a recent film festival in Poland, "and at first think, oh, that would make a great film. And then you realize, no, it wouldn't make a great film." But then he remembered one that would.

Want to Read an Unpublished Yeats Play?

You're in luck.

Ready to Rumpus

Dave Eggers catches up with Maurice Sendak.

From a piece in Vanity Fair...

Sendak’s sense of humor is pitch-black and ribald, though this fact, and the baroque essence of his work, is often lost on readers now that his books have become canonical. “A woman came up to me the other day and said, ‘You’re the kiddie-book man!’ I wanted to kill her.” He hates to be thought of as safe or his work as classic, and he won’t tolerate overpraise. “My work is not great, but it’s respectable. I have no false illusions.”

He’s wrong, of course. Sendak is the best-known, and by most measures simply the best, living creator of picture books, and in the stretch of years since his most prolific period—when he made In the Night Kitchen, Where the Wild Things Are, Kenny’s Window, The Sign on Rosie’s Door, and the “Nutshell Library”—his work has only grown in stature. No one has been more uncompromising, more idiosyncratic, and more in touch with the unhinged and chiaroscuro subconscious of a child.

Using the Word "Haboob" Pisses People Off

For reals. Don't use the word, haboob.

From a piece on the Encyclopedia Britannica blog...

It’s the Arabic part of the mix that is driving certain Arizona nativists batty. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?” one wrote in a letter to the Arizona Republic. “haboob? english please?” wrote another, while still another urged, “were not in india.” (Sic, sic, sic.) Added yet another, sagely, “Haboob comes from a foreign language!”

Making allowance for some of the writers’ seeming unfamiliarity with English in general, we might dust ourselves off and consider that one of the great strengths of our language is its long-standing habit of picking up useful words from wherever they might come. We already use thousands of (now-suspect) borrowings from Arabic, from algebra to zenith, that may not figure in the vocabulary of uneducated speakers, but that do necessary jobs all the same. Haboob has been in general use for generations, alongside another Arabic word, monsoon, and a Spanish one, chubasco.

Books Featured on the Colbert Report

Happy reading!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Children's Lit Poster Art of Christian Jackson


Writers and the New Happiness

Whereas previous generations of accomplished writers were awash in alcoholism and cigarettes, sexual-romantic openness, spiritual misery, and financial ruin, today’s young writers are more likely to faithfully drink 8-10 glasses of water daily, be married, get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, and have a decent credit score.

From a piece in the Millions...

I’ve been noticing for a while that health and happiness – a balanced, stable life – are “in.” The trend has been building for some time, and seems to coincide roughly with my generation, i.e., Gen X and younger, the college-educated children of baby boomers. What I find most interesting is that the trend seems to make no exception for writers and artists, historically the vanguard of counterculture.

There is a sense that we’ve been scared straight. Whereas previous generations of accomplished writers were awash in alcoholism and cigarettes, sexual-romantic openness (these days known as “promiscuity”), spiritual misery, and financial ruin, today’s young writers are more likely to faithfully drink 8-10 glasses of water daily, be married and/or monogamous (definitely married if there are children), get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night (maybe even on a memory foam mattress), and have a decent credit score. Joan Acocella wrote in a 2004 New Yorker article about writers’ block:

In my observation, American writers today drink much less than their predecessors. I asked a psychoanalyst what they do instead, to take the edge off. ”Exercise,” he said.

So sharp is the cultural turn toward health, that in an artists’ mecca like New York City, you can no longer smoke outside in public spaces without incurring a fine of $50 (the law seemed to pass with barely a shrug from New Yorkers).

Who Said It? Taylor Swift, or Jane Austen?

Good luck!

The End of the White Outsider

Sixty years ago, Holden Caulfield defined what it meant to be outside the system. Demographic changes mean that a new generation is looking for a non-white hero. Author Ned Vizzini is on the hunt to make him relevant again.

From a piece in the Daily Beast...

The Catcher in the Rye turns 60 this month. That puts Holden Caulfield in his mid-70s, near the end of his natural lifespan, but in many ways he continues to dominate American culture as he did in the 20th century. He is the White Outsider—a Caucasian kid who despite his advantages feels misunderstood—and he has been everywhere from 1951 on, in Rebel Without a Cause, Spider-Man, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Nirvana, and Wes Anderson, to name a few. He is still the fountainhead of young-adult literature. He is still a handle for anyone wishing to comment on white privilege. He still pops up in press on everyone from Woody Allen to Osama bin Laden. Demographically, though, he has become an endangered species.
Click here to find out more!

The population shift to the South and West that dominated last year's U.S. Census coverage hid a profound truth: In 12 years, when today's bouncing babies are ready for Holden, more than half of American children will be non-white. The long-predicted shift of America from a majority-white nation to a majority-minority nation will not happen in the general populace for decades (because older whites are living so long), but among the youth it is already taking place. Teachers and writers who venerate Catcher have to ask themselves: How relevant is Holden in a world where he is an actual minority?

Answering this question requires a dip into “post-racial” America that gets uncomfortable.

Edgar Allan Poe - the Godfather of Goth

John Cusack was a Comic-Con to discuss the new movie he's in about the last days of Edgar Alan Poe.

From a story in the Los Angeles Times...

John Cusack really got into the role of Edgar Allan Poe for his part in James McTeigue’s upcoming thriller “The Raven,” due out next year and named for the landmark poem. The film, which is set in the last five days of Poe’s life and centers on a serial killer who’s using Poe’s writings as inspiration for his murders, was on display Friday during the Relativity panel in Hall H, and Cusack wowed the audience with his knowledge about the writer: “I saw some of Hunter S. Thompson in Poe — his unflinching ability to delve into the abyss and come back. He reminded me of Hunter in that way.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Some Graves of Famous Authors


The Impact of The Lord of the Flies

It had one on Stephen King.

From an article in the Telegraph...

I had read adult novels before, or what passed for them (the room of water-dampened books in the Methodist parsonage was full of Hercule Poirots and Miss Marples as well as Tom Swifts), but nothing that had been written about children, for adults. I was thus unprepared for what I found between the covers of Lord of the Flies: a perfect understanding of the sort of beings my friends and I were at 12 or 13, untouched by the usual soft soap and deodorant. Could we be good? Yes. Could we be kind? Yes again. Could we, at the turn of a moment, become little monsters? Indeed we could. And did. At least twice a day and far more frequently on summer vacations, when we were often left to our own devices.

Golding harnessed his unsentimental view of boyhood to a story of adventure and swiftly mounting suspense. To the 12-year-old boy I was, the idea of roaming an uninhabited tropical island without parental supervision at first seemed liberating, almost heavenly. By the time the boy with the birthmark on his face (the first little ’un to raise the possibility of a beast on the island) disappeared, my sense of liberation had become tinged with unease. And by the time the badly ill — and perhaps visionary — Simon confronts the severed and fly-blown head of the sow, which has been stuck on a pole, I was in terror. “The half-shut eyes were dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life,” Golding writes. “They assured Simon that everything was a bad business.” That line resonated with me then, and continues to resonate all these years later. I used it as one of the epigrams to my book of interrelated novellas, Hearts in Atlantis.

It was, so far as I can remember, the first book with hands — strong ones that reached out of the pages and seized me by the throat. It said to me, “This is not just entertainment; it’s life or death.”

The Fight for Snow White

New York Magazine takes note of two competing Snow White movies that'll be showcased at a theater near you quite soon.

From the article...

Both films released concept art this week, but while Singh's project revealed only Collins as Snow White, the Huntsman panel showed off pictures of Stewart's warrior princess take on the maiden, Theron as the evil queen, and Hemsworth as the tough huntsman who becomes Snow White's ally. Huntsman director Rupert Sanders also promised that his Snow White film will be an action-adventure with a scope akin to that of Lord of the Rings, which would differentiate it somewhat from Singh's movie, intended to be a lighter, more comedic story.

"They're good people, and these are two different films," Singh admitted. "The problem that I always find is that it's not like two disaster movies or two different things: These are two movies with Snow White, and I don't think there's too much room in the market for it, though I could be proven wrong."

The Bones of Cervantes

There's a quest to find them.

From a piece in the Guardian...

Historians and archaeologists plan to reveal the true face of the author of Don Quixote of La Mancha, Miguel de Cervantes, as they embark on a quest to find the lost bones of one of western literature's key writers.

The project to seek Cervantes' bones, which lie buried somewhere in the walls or floors of a convent in central Madrid, would allow forensic archaeologists to reconstruct the face of a man only known from a picture painted by artist Juan de Jauregui some 20 years after his death.

The bones may also reveal whether Cervantes, who is believed to have died of cirrhosis and was accused by rivals of being a notorious tippler, drank himself into the grave. "They may not just help us to discover what he looked like, but also why he died," said historian Fernando Prado.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Literally is Literally the Most Misused Word in the English Language. Literally!

So says the Boston Globe.

From an article there...

Schur isn’t the only one peeved by “literally’’ gaining popularity as both a throwaway intensifier and a replacement for “figuratively.’’ It’s a word that has been misused by everyone from fashion stylist Rachel Zoe to President Obama, and linguists predict that it will continue to be led astray from its meaning. There is a good chance the incorrect use of the word eventually will eclipse its original definition.

What the word means is “in a literal or strict sense.’’ Such as: “The novel was translated literally from the Russian.’’

“It should not be used as a synonym for actually or really,’’ writes Paul Brians in “Common Errors in English Usage.’’ “Don’t say of someone that he ‘liter ally blew up’ unless he swallows a stick of dynamite.’’

The Fighting American and Speedboy

Captain America was not the only superhero fighting the good fight under the star-spangled banner. Oh no!

From a piece in the Los Angeles Times about the long-forgotten Fighting American...

Where Cap and his sidekick Bucky battled Nazi goons, the Fighting American and his sidekick Speedboy (who looks like Bucky with peroxide-blond hair) faced off against nefarious Communists during the Cold War 1950s. Along with the Simon autobiography, Titan has published a collection of Fighting American's battles against crazed Commies that's perfect for perusing after you see the movie "Captain America: The First Avenger."

Imagine two brothers who are opposites: Johnny, who's strong and handsome; and Nelson, who's sensitive and small. When crusading newscaster Johnny uncovers a Communist plot, the villains mortally wound him. As he's dying, Nelson swears to avenge him -- and agrees to take part in "Project Fighting American."

PBS NewsHour on the Closing of Borders

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

How a Novel Could Turn Around Tiger

Time Magazine discusses the current career of Tiger Woods and a new novel that's out called The Swinger.

From the piece...

In their roman à clef about Tiger Woods, Shipnuck and Bamberger thinly disguise as fiction plenty of gossip they've heard over their four combined decades covering the PGA Tour (SI, like TIME, is published by Time Inc.) But, Shipnuck assures me, Bamberger and he pulled that 342 number out of thin air, just to have a little fun.

What's more relevant to the story and to the reader — including, possibly, Woods — is the way Tree approaches his postscandal life. The authors' idealized version of Woods comes totally clean about his past mistakes. There are no staged interviews, no clipped or dodgy answers. Tree lets his guard down, even cracks a few jokes about the absurdity of his situation. He starts enjoying the company of his fellow players and — gasp — the fans. He wins that Masters, his game even gets better, and yes, fans fall for him all over again.

Real life, of course, is much more complicated. But reading The Swinger, you can't help wonder, What if Tiger were more like Tree?

And, talking about Tiger, is his caddy, the one he just let go of, planning on writing a tell-all book? The Huffington Post has more about that possibility, here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

How Not to Write a Book Review

Robert Pinsky, on Slate, gives us three golden rules.

From the piece...

Every book review, said the anonymous document, must follow three rules:

1. The review must tell what the book is about.
2. The review must tell what the book's author says about that thing the book is about.
3. The review must tell what the reviewer thinks about what the book's author says about that thing the book is about.

If this template is not actually Aristotelian, it has that philosopher's breathtaking plainness and penetration. To sneer at it as obvious would be a mistake. Even the clunky or stammering expression of the three rules ("what the reviewer thinks about what the author says about that thing the book is about") works as a hammer, driving home the essential principles and their distinctly separate, yet profoundly interrelated nature.

Applying the three-part standard to every book review I read, I find that many—or most?—fill only one or two of the requirements. Sometimes a reviewer dutifully paraphrases a book, fulfilling Rule One with a stab at Two, but seems too shy or fearful for Three. Another kind of writer, eager to show off, proceeds directly to Rule Three with a perfunctory glance at One and nothing about Two. Only a few reviewers do their work well enough to provide all three kinds of information, and a certain number—disciples of John Wilson Croker—avoid all three.

Bakku-Shan, And Other Words That Have No English Equivalant

The list, care of Mental Floss.

Bone - The Movie?

It's afoot.

From a story in the Los Angeles Times...

Various film versions of “Bone” have been in the works for almost 10 years, Smith said, but translating the elaborate tale of the Bone cousins being kicked out of their town and landing in a valley they never knew existed “has been a real puzzler,” even though the cartoon portion is already drawn.

Paramount and Nickelodeon were involved in early film attempts. In the last couple of years, Warner Bros. has taken up the charge: Two scripts have already been written and rejected — a third is currently in the works and will most likely yield three separate, computer-animated, 3-D films, Smith said.

“I’m a comic book guy, I’m not a movie guy,” he explained, adding that he’s “actually excited about the movie for the first time in a long time” after having seen a four-minute “Bone” short recently put together by Warner Bros.

“Fone Bone was falling in the water and going through cliffs and canyons. The dragon moved in from off camera in the shadows with smoke around him, all in 3-D. It was pretty mind-blowing,” said Smith, who estimates that the earliest a “Bone” film would be done is two years from now.

Ten Unrealized Film Adaptations from Classic Books

Would you liked to have seen Heart of Darkness filmed by Orson Welles? A Confederacy of Dunces by Harold Ramis? Flavorwire discusses movies that never came to be, here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Archie Comics...and KISS?


From a piece on Comic Book Resources...

KISS arrives in Riverdale this November in the pages of ARCHIE #627, which kicks off the four-part “ARCHIE MEETS KISS” storyline, written by Archie’s own Executive Director of Publicity and Marketing, Alex Segura, and featuring art by Archie superstar Dan Parent. When one of Sabrina’s spells goes awry and a cabal of monsters invade the town, the Archie gang and KISS join forces to try and save the day. Full of adventure, humor and – of course – rock, the story is certain to appeal to fans of the band and the Riverdale gang.

“We’re ecstatic to team up with Gene, Paul and the entire KISS Army for this project,” said Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater. “KISS is such a huge part of Americana and that goes hand-in-hand with Archie and friends. We’re honored and excited to help bring KISS back to comics in a huge way.

“This is a unique arrangement but one that we’re proud to be a part of. IDW – like Archie – know their audience and create high-quality and mass-appeal product. We’re looking forward to bringing two great KISS comic series out in the coming months that’ll appeal to the biggest audience possible.”

Goodbye, Borders. How Are Those Independent Booksellers Doing?

PBS went to find out, asking several owners of several of America's most beloved indie bookshops.

From the piece...

City Lights Books, San Francisco
Elaine Katzenberger, Executive Director and Publisher

Now more than ever, we believe that what we do is crucial. We believe that intelligent discourse and unfettered questioning are the foundations for any hope for an engaged citizenry, crucial for democracy and for the health of us all. We've been an independent bookseller and publisher for over 55 years, and the vision that still inspires us was born in a time similar to our own -- a prevailing culture of paranoia and fear -- and City Lights was founded as an attempt to further a robust, informed confrontation with the realities of the time. Providing a place for people to engage with ideas -- and with each other -- is what bookstores, and books themselves, do. We're committed to that mission, and to those who share it.

Like all small businesses, our capacity to continue playing a meaningful role is being challenged in many ways: most obviously by the global downturn in the economy, and by the effects that developing technologies are having on every aspect of our lives, but most powerful is the challenge of a media culture that seems intent on devaluing intelligent discourse in order to increase profits. Our hope lies in the strength of enough people's ability to resist that numbing force, and as long as those people remain committed to a future that's not dictated purely by profit margins, City Lights will survive, and continue to do our part.

A History of the Title Sequence

Designed as a possible title sequence for a fictitious documentary, this film shows a history of the title sequence in a nutshell. The sequence includes all the names of title designers who had a revolutionary impact on the history and evolution of the title sequence.

A History Of The Title Sequence from jurjen versteeg on Vimeo.

Rare Photos of the Beatles First Concert in the U.S. Sell Handsomely

Quite handsomely.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Five Best Baseball Books

The list, care of the Wall Street Journal.

Emily Dickinson - Erotic Grief Counselor?


From a piece on Big Think...

The English language is such an unwieldy monster that dominating it seems impossible; most great writers are lucky just to tame it for a while. Not Dickinson: some of her poems are more interesting than others—she grew less radical as she aged—but she never really wrote a “bad poem” after 1861. Her ear, which seemed so eccentric to contemporaries, turned out to be damn near flawless. In her ability to verb nouns, noun verbs, scramble syntax, and mint a seemingly endless supply of original metaphors—all while exploring the outer reaches of intellect and emotion—she’s American literature’s best example of someone “thinking like Shakespeare.”

Like Shakespeare, too, she wears a permanent biographical mask. Who was she, really? Why did she stop leaving the house? Did she suffer from all the mental illnesses she’s been retrospectively diagnosed with—or some, or none of them? (“Much Madness is divinest Sense…”) What was her sexual orientation? (On the evidence, I’d guess predominantly straight, possibly bi-curious—but I wouldn’t risk a bet on it.) One thing is certain: her life, romantic and otherwise, took place almost entirely on the page.

Because misery loves company, Dickinson is the perfect poet to read when you're in pain. Whatever kind you’re feeling—grief, anger, jealousy, loneliness—she’s felt it as intensely and can express it better. Not that she’s always healthy to read at those moments: like Kafka, she’s a paragon of neurotic martyrdom, of acquiescence to the “Geometric Joy” of our daily prisons. Where Walt Whitman provides ringing affirmations of hope, Dickinson’s poems counsel the voluptuous pleasures of “that White Sustenance – / Despair.”

Comic-Con - The Movie?

It's coming this fall from the wonderful and fertile mind of Morgan Spurlock.

From an interview in Entertainment Weekly...

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope come about?
MORGAN SPURLOCK: It came out of a conversation I had with Stan Lee two years ago at Comic-Con. I met Stan at a party, and I went over to thank the guy. I said, “As a kid, reading your comic books gave me so much courage to want to write and be creative.” And Stan goes, “Morgan, I love your movies. We should make a movie together. We can make a documentary about Comic-Con!”

It’s such a Hollywood story. My agent was standing right behind me. I said, “Stan and I want to make a movie about Comic-Con,” and my agent goes, “You should meet my other client.” Cut to the next day, and I’m having breakfast with Joss Whedon. By the end of the weekend both Stan and Joss had agreed to produce the film. And Comic-Con said yes. For 25 years people had pitched to them the idea of making a film about Comic-Con, and they always said no.

Any idea why Comic-Con had never allowed a crew to shoot there until now?

They were afraid. It’s a very precious thing to them and to all of us geeks who love it. They didn’t want to have a film where they were made fun of — they didn’t want to make Trekkies. The fact that Stan was on board and Joss was behind the film, as well as [Legendary Pictures CEO] Thomas Tull and Harry Knowles from Ain’t It Cool News — there was suddenly a level of geek prominence in this little dream team. I think that’s what swayed Comic-Con [to say yes].

A Clockwork Orange - The Musical?

Indeed and the author, Anthony Burgess, even wrote some songs for it.

From a piece in the Guardian...

Burgess, who died in 1993, started working on a stage version of A Clockwork Orange a decade after Stanley Kubrick's controversial 1971 film adaptation. "The reason why Burgess wanted to make his own stage adaptation, quite a long time after Kubrick made the film, was to assert his ownership of the story," Dr Andrew Biswell, director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, told BBC News. Although the Royal Shakespeare Company premiered a production based on Burgess's script in 1990, his songs were replaced with compositions by U2's Bono and The Edge.

Despite his dark tale of delinquency, Burgess's songs aren't so grim. "It's pretty close to West Side Story," Biswell said. "That's one of the obvious influences." It's a sinister image: droogs snapping their fingers and singing about Maria. "There's this scene in prison, where one of the prisoners is kicked to death, which is throwaway and jolly," Biswell explained. "That's completely different from the corresponding episode in [Kubrick's] film, which is gloomy and depressing."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Shakespeare's "Richard III" Like You Haven't Yet Heard

Top Ten Animal Adventure Stories

The list, care of the Guardian.

How Much is a Librarian Worth?

It depends where they are in the world. More, here.

Happy 50th, Catch-22

The book is discussed properly on the Smart Set.

From the post...

Though it seized the public imagination with a force that is rare in literary fiction, Catch-22 was not unanimously praised when it first appeared in 1961. Whitney Balliett, writing in the New Yorker, declared the novel a facetious mishmash: “Heller wallows in his own laughter and finally drowns in it. What remains is a debris of sour jokes, stage anger, dirty words, synthetic looniness, and the sort of antic behavior the children fall into when they know they are losing our attention.” Similarly, a reviewer in the New York Times described the novel as “an emotional hodgepodge” and declared that it “gasps for want of craft and sensibility.” Of course, these were just the initial reactions of those whose job it was (and is) to churn out short reviews on deadline, a discipline that doesn’t always favour the kind of high-end literary novel that reveals its riches gradually.

But even today there are many critics, some of them of no small reputation, who regard Catch-22 as grossly overrated. Of these, perhaps the most distinguished is the American critic Harold Bloom, who, in his preface to a collection of essays dedicated to Heller’s novel, wrote: “It is neither apocalyptic nor a masterpiece, but a tendentious burlesque, founded upon a peculiarly subjective view of historical reality.” (In a later edition of the same book, he added: “It will not last, and there’s an end on it.”) Nevertheless, Catch-22 has sold millions of copies and gained the endorsements of many fine critics. Why, then, does this remarkable novel elicit such divergent reactions?

The answer is partly literary and partly ideological, and is bound up inextricably with what we think Catch-22 is.

Vanity Fair
also revels in the work, here.


A new biography of David Bowie is reviewed by the New York Times.

From the piece...

I’ve since caught up, a bit, with Mr. Bowie’s earlier and best music, and I looked forward to “David Bowie: Starman” to hit the reset button on my sense of the man and his work. On that level this book works. It pursues a number of galvanizing themes. It argues for Mr. Bowie less as an instinctive rocker than as a shape-shifting cabaret singer and composer writ large, a performer working in the tradition of Harold Arlen, Frank Sinatra, Hoagy Carmichael and Bertolt Brecht as well as the blues. Mr. Bowie was an outsider. Before him, the author writes, “pop music had been mainly about belonging.” His music meant so much to so many because it presented “a spectacle of not-belonging.”

The book depicts Mr. Bowie as charming but calculating and ruthless — a man who made few close friends and cared mostly about tending to what the author calls “Brand Bowie.” The singer Morrissey said about him: “He’s a business, you know. He’s not really a person.”

Mr. Bowie was not a natural singer or songwriter and toiled for his success. He has a good ear, so good that some of his best material, the author argues, pickpocketed the work of others. Mr. Trynka notes how closely Mr. Bowie’s song “Starman” resembles “Over the Rainbow.” Mr. Bowie’s hit “The Jean Genie” pilfered a riff from Muddy Waters’s “I’m a Man.” The song “Life on Mars” borrowed a chord sequence from a French song called “Comme d’Habitude,” later reworked into English by Paul Anka as “My Way.”

Mr. Trynka was the editor of Britain’s classic-rock magazine Mojo from 1996 to 2003; his books include the biography “Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed.” He interviewed more than 250 people to write “David Bowie: Starman,” and although Mr. Bowie himself did not cooperate, this book feels close to definitive.

Comic Book Stained Glass


The Beckhams Suddenly Spark Sales in a Classic Book?

'Tis true!

Under the Banner of Heaven - The Movie

Ron Howard's next project?

From a small piece in the Hollywood Reporter...

One day after their high-profile adaptation of The Dark Tower was tumbled by Universal, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are leading the charge of another adaptation, Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer.

The rights to the book is in the process of being acquired by Warner Bros. and the plan includes having Dustin Lance Black, who wrote Milk and Warner¹s J. Edgar, pen the screenplay.

Imagine would produce and Howard would direct.

Bridget Jones's Diary - The Musical

The Telegraph takes note of the coming production.

From the article...

Renée Zellweger has become synonymous with Bridget Jones after playing the perennial singleton in two highly successful films.

Helen Fielding, the author of Bridget Jones’s Diary, says we will, however, have to rethink the character when a West End musical opens next year starring Sheridan Smith in the title role.

“It’s going to give a new perspective,” Fielding says at The Spectator summer party in Westminster. “Lily Allen has just completed the songs and they’re fantastic. The music is a really catchy, unusual mixture of all different styles of music. I think people will love it.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pat Benatar's Jesus Christ Novel?

Glory be!

The Amazing Spider-Man

How to Undress a Victorian Lady in Your Next Bodice-Wripping Victorian Romance Novel

Now we know how, thanks to the Wall Street Journal.

From the piece...

For most people, giving a presentation in skivvies to 100 professional peers sounds like a bad dream. But Ms. Gist was giving a workshop on Victorian clothing at the Romance Writers of America's annual convention this summer. The romance novelists had gathered in New York to learn how to dress—and undress—heroines in their novels.

It took an hour for Ms. Gist to squeeze into a dozen layers that a lady would have worn in the 1860s—stockings, garters, bloomers, chemise, corset, crinoline or hoop skirt, petticoats, a shirtwaist or blouse, skirt, vest and bolero jacket. By the end, workshop attendees were skeptical that seductions ever occurred, with so many sartorial barriers.

"How did they ever have hanky panky?" asked novelist Annie Solomon.

With great effort, it turns out. Women wore blouses under their corsets—making actual bodice ripping fairly pointless. Corsets fastened in front and laced up the back and couldn't be undone in a single passionate gesture. "You'll see pictures of corsets on bare skin. That's completely historically inaccurate," Ms. Gist told her audience.

Footage of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Top Ten Iranian Books

The list, compiled by Kamin Mohammadi, from the Guardian.

Video Games and Book Covers

The greatest video games of our lives introduced us to spellbinding stories and otherworldly beings from the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond, so why shouldn't they have the honor of book covers designed like full-fledged and respected novels?

A gallery of artwork by A.J. Hateley, care of Comics Alliance.

Dolly Parton's Quest to Get Kids Reading

For over 15 years Dolly Parton's been spearheading a campaign to get kids reading.

From a piece in the Guardian...

The fact that the scheme carries Parton's name has led some to think that Parton herself funds the library; in fact, while her Dollywood Foundation pays for all the administration costs in maintaining the database, it does not pay for the actual books. It is, however, able to ensure that the books are bought at a hugely discounted rate: Penguin, which supplies all the books, sells them to the scheme for an average price of £2, which is up to a quarter of their usual cost.

In Rotherham the cost of the scheme is met through donations from the Chamber of Commerce, the NHS and, this year, the local authority. In Luton, the scheme is being paid for by the Wates group and it is anticipated that around 24,000 books will be sent out each year.

While the scheme is undoubtedly laudable, is there any need to spend money giving families free books when they can easily visit their local library? "Not everybody is that way inclined", says Lilburn. "The difference with this scheme is that the book is addressed to the child and, based on all the parental feedback we get, the children are really excited when that book comes through the door."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Photos of 19th Century Vaudeville and Burlesque Performers


Graphic Elvis

USA Today takes note of a new book highlighting Elvis Presley's love of comic books.

From the piece...

Artists from all over the world have been commissioned for Graphic Elvis, from Japanese animé to Indian artists to famous comic illustrators such Paul Pope and Greg Horn. "It's about a global icon being celebrated by global artists," Devarajan says.

"It's exciting to see people who are this talented take Elvis and do their own spin on him to create something new," says Scott Williams, vice president of marketing for Elvis Presley Enterprises.

Many of Presley's loves have been documented over the years — from his affinity for peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches to his passion for karate and hip-shaking. Graphic Elvis is the first project to fully explore his penchant for comics, which Al Wertheimer and others captured in photos that will appear in the new book.

When he was named one of the Jaycees' Ten Outstanding Young Men in 1971, Presley told the crowd: "When I was a child, I was a dreamer. I read comic books and I was the hero of the comic book. … So every dream I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times."