- Going Dutch Fifty-Two Pickup, Swag from Four Novels of the 1970’s by Elmore Leonard. Library of America. 808 pp. $37.50
Elmore Leonard wrote great—I would almost say groundbreaking—dialogue, but the rest of his writing was ordinary, even pedestrian. Let’s the opening of Fifty-Two Pickup.
“He could not get used to going to the girl’s apartment. He would be tense, ... Read more
- And Gets Back Up Again Empire Falls by Richard Russo. Vintage. 483 pp. $16.95. ****
Richard Russo has done it again, written a book where I was full of a kind of mild admiration through the first half, seeing how he had set up an interesting situation, sketched in some sympathetic characters, done some writing that was mildly humorous, then somehow, ... Read more
- He Cared Too Much Stories by John O’Hara. The Library of America. 860 pp. $40.00
John O’Hara was an Irish Catholic and doctor’s son from Eastern Pennsylvania who believed—apparently for much of his life—that he would have been a happy man if he had just gone to Yale. That didn’t keep him from getting booted from three prep schools, one ... Read more
- The Wonder of Women Wonder Woman a film by Patty Jenkins. With Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright ***1/2
Arrival a film by Denis Villeneuve. With Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker *****
A Quiet Passion a film by Terence Davies. With Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Ehle, Duncan Duff ***
I’m as happy as everyone else that we finally have a movie about ... Read more
- Academic Hack Straight Man by Richard Russo. Vintage Contemporaries. 391 pp. $14.00. ****
I read this book because of Jennifer Senior’s review of Richard Russo’s latest book, in which she called Straight Man a better academic novel than David Lodge’s Campus Trilogy. I was so impressed by that remark, and the general tenor of Senior’s review, that I ... Read more
- The Dharma of F.M. Alexander The Alexander Technique: A Skill for Life by Pedro de Alcantara. The Crowood Press. 128 pp.
I have never thought of the teachings of Buddhism and Taoism as the esoteric observations of a few ancient teachers. I think of them as the truth about life. The first canto of the Tao Te Ching, for instance, comes ... Read more
- Pip Pip Hooray! Purity by Jonathan Franzen. Picador. 598 pp. $17.00. *****
I had an odd and unique experience reading Purity. I got slightly bogged down in the book’s first section, which focuses on the title character; her name is Purity but she goes by Pip. She seemed clueless and helpless, living with a collection of strange roommates, burdened ... Read more
- Alcoholics Preposterous Colossal a film by Nacho Vigalondo. With Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell. *???
There’s a mind state called suspension of disbelief, where we overlook an unlikely aspect of a work of art because it is a premise of what we’re watching. The idea that James Bond would always do the right thing at the right ... Read more
- Doc, Ya Gotta Level Wit Me Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2017
My Lineup: Whose Streets? / Still Tomorrow / The Good Postman / Abacus / Zaatari Djinn / Tribal Justice / Strong Island / Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities / Quest / The Force / May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers
At ... Read more
- Old Corn-Drinking Mellifluous Absalom, Absalom! By William Faulkner. 315 pp. $15.95
I’m obsessed with the subject of telling stories. I’ve spoken before about how all stories are false, or all stories true; they are, in any case, human fabrications, which may have little to do with what actually happened. We love them nevertheless. Human beings tell each other stories, ... Read more