The Completed Eyes Wide Shut?

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When Stanley Kubrick died on March 7, 1999, there was still a little over four months until Eyes Wide Shut’s release date, July 16. There is no basis to argue Kubrick wouldn’t have altered the film right up to that date and possibly even beyond as he did with 2001 and The Shining, films most similar to Eyes Wide Shut. Michael Herr says, “…there was looping to be done and the music wasn’t finished, lots of small technical fixes on color and sound, but it wasn’t ready to show…” Continue reading

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To Live To Read To Live

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TO LIVE TO READ TO LIVE

Gimmickry attached to the world of belles-lettres has me chagrined: not the book itself, but the buying of the book, the book trailer, the story “behind” the book, the “personality” who wrote the book. The latest iteration, where reading is concerned, revolves around the reputed mental health benefits of reading, it keeps your brain fit. This may be partially true, but to use it as reasoning to do something that doesn’t call us is underhanded, bullying. A true reader, a true human, doesn’t need to be sold on anything that is so fundamental. Continue reading

Why Write?

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WHY WRITE?

At a recent event I hosted, I asked the assembled writers this question. Besides the “practical ordering of my reality” type of answer, there were also some surprises: one woman had been a classical singer, but failed, and needed to embark on something else having to do with language. One man said, I write to talk about what I read—equally unassuming. I began to think that it would be much more stimulating to know why certain writers wrote than to engage with anything they had written, especially fiction or poetry—two ultimate forms needing years of practice. It’s debatable who said, “Everyone has a book in them…” but the second clause of that sentence, as uttered by Christopher Hitchens, is as concretely dismissive of the first: “…but in most cases, that’s where it should stay.” Who would have thought there were so many writers, that oodles would have the calling—many thanks to the internet? Now there is no barrier to that fusty adage, but it might be better to say, Everyone has some opinions in them. Continue reading

Hugh Kenner Hits a Home Run

Wouldn’t it take an outsider to aptly critique the American scene, the American people, the American culture? Hugh Kenner, a Canadian, did this at the end of a section devoted to Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams in his book A Homemade World: The American Modernist Writers. A book dedicated to Guy Davenport. A book on Donald Barthelme’s syllabus.

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Coming: The Sounds of Sam Lipsyte in The Fun Parts

THE SOUNDS OF SAM LIPSYTE

In the next few weeks we will hear that Sam Lipsyte’s The Fun Parts (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is funny, irreverent, sex-obsessed, witty, broken, indiscriminate, and wry. Listening is the key verb as concerns Lipsyte. In the best stories: “The Climber Room,” “Deniers,” “The Wisdom of the Doulas,” “Snacks,” “A Worm in Philly,” “Expressive,” “Ode to Oldcorn,” and “Nate’s Pain is Now,” readers reading to the little man or woman that controls their brains will hear in their heads a prose holding piteous subjects grandly animated with vibrant and uncanny sounds. These delightful noises are a bonus because they accompany such an unwonderful world—not necessarily an evil place, but a staging ground for the salacious and ignoble to have their way with the weaker of the species.

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Yi Yi: The Best Film You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

During the opening wedding reception, the yawning father (NJ) takes his son (Yang-Yang) for food he wants to eat.

How often do two people who have been watching a film look upon each other breathless and transfixed at the end? I had seen Yi Yi, Edward Yang’s 1999 film, but as is often true with any pleasure, I had to share the experience with someone and so a week after seeing it I played the DVD for a friend. For a second time I was crushed, weeping at many of the same scenes, yet finding different shadings in the various plots and subplots. It’s the story of birth and death in an extended family, but it is much more.

The film is set in Taipei, and its opening piano music set over a wedding reception makes one think it may be a Taiwanese Terms of Endearment. To some extent this is true, but people coming into this film won’t be overwhelmed by the star power of the American film, though a few of Yi Yi’s actors are famous in the East. If all the players are strangers and to some extent the culture (the island of Taiwan has a checkered history, being thrown back and forth between Chinese and Japanese rule), audience identification can be purer. If given, trust won’t be tainted by the accuracy of marketing to the right demographic. So who is Yi Yi aimed at? Yang’s film is directed to the humanists and to the people who have loved life and hated it—people who have tried to do their best and ever endeavor to know themselves better.

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“I don’t know why we live…but I believe we can go on living for the reason that life is the most valuable thing we know anything about”

From Letters of Note:

In July of 1883, the novelist Henry James received an emotional letter from Grace Norton — a good friend and fellow writer who, following a death in the family, had recently become depressed and was desperate for direction. James’s beautiful response can be seen below. It is, without a doubt, one of the greatest letters of advice I’ve ever had the fortune to read.

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