Paula Bomer’s Recent Reading at Brown University

Here’s the introduction I delivered before Paula Bomer’s reading at Brown University’s Literary Arts Department’s Demitasse on February 21, 2013:

Reading Paula Bomer’s alternately sardonic and poignant stories and novel, I couldn’t help thinking about Akira Kurosawa’s observation that “To be an artist means never to avert your eyes,” because Bomer unwaveringly, relentlessly observes the fumbles, foibles, and failures of mostly women, but also men, on the verge of, yes, breakdowns, nervous and otherwise, but also breakups, crackups, and myriad other fallings apart. She keeps looking and looking, when most people in the name of propriety, but really because of their fear, hypocrisy, and/or the like, would look away; but she also forces readers to watch, using her words as a corrective, much like the Minister of the Interior in the film version of A Clockwork Orange, who employs an “experimental aversion therapy” for rehabilitating criminals, where the “volunteer” is drugged, strapped into a chair, has his eyelids propped open, and is forced to watch violent movies. Make no mistake, these are moral tales, as cautionary and chastising as they are entertaining.

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Style as Imitation

Leonardo #1, page 17 (1987) (detail; First Publishing reprint). Art by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

1.

My father, who once trained as a baker, taught me when I was a kid how to bake an apple pie. I don’t know where he got the original recipe from; I highly doubt that he invented it. Certainly he didn’t invent the idea of baking pies. And he didn’t invent the idea of baking an apple pie.

He was very clear about certain instructions:

  • always use Granny Smith apples;
  • always use ice-cold water;
  • touch the dough as little as possible.

Since then, I’ve baked several apple pies, and over time I’ve modified the recipe slightly, but it’s essentially the same (and I never violate his prime instructions).

When I make a new apple pie, I’m not doing anything new.

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Brevity, Part 2: Long Takes

Some of us have been discussing long takes in movies, and John mentioned that he’d like seeing a list of films that consist primarily of the beautiful things. So here is a start at such a list. (And here is another one, which like this list embeds many YouTube clips, such as the magnificent opening shot Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil (1958), the homage Robert Altman pays it in The Player (1992), and many others—including some overlap.)

But first: What’s the value in the long take?

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