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Nobody's Perfect: Writings from The New Yorker Paperback – September 9, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The title phrase of Lane's fabulous collection of reviews and profiles is taken from Some Like It Hot, uttered by the unflappable Osgood Fielding III when he finds out his flame isn't a dame. That sense of bittersweet glee is also felt throughout Lane's reviews, as he skewers the likes of Sleepless in Seattle, Poetic Justice and The Scarlet Letter with gusto. Not content to waste precious words on bad movies, he saves his longer pieces for films he likes, such as The Usual Suspects, The English Patient and, most surprisingly, Speed. There are hundreds of movie reviewers in our cinema-obsessed country, but few bring such intelligence and ‚lan to the task as Lane, who weaves together erudition and plain language so artfully that he often trumps whatever snippets of cinematic dialogue he's using to illustrate his point. Of Braveheart, he writes: "The obsequies seem to go on forever: the bodies are buried at a Christian ceremony, after which a little girl comes shyly up to William and gives him a thistle. I thought, I'm out of here." Lane's other pieces, which include book reviews, profiles of authors such as Nabokov and Pynchon, and a few full-length magazine articles, round out the collection nicely, showcasing a writer who can make a sing-along version of The Sound of Music seem like the most compelling night in town. For those who look forward to Lane's pieces, and for the many who should, this weighty tome is as delightful as watching Marilyn Monroe doing the shimmy.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Those who have long awaited this compilation of Lane's most memorable pieces will not be disappointed. He is intellectual, witty, entertaining, and, without a doubt, one of the finest reviewers of our time. Compared frequently to Edmund Wilson and Kenneth Tynan, Lane exercises his expansive knowledge on a seemingly endless number of topics in this delightful group of commentaries, originally published in his New Yorker column. A decade of his finest work-a total of 141 columns-is neatly presented to the reader in three categories: movies, books, and people. One of the best aspects of Lane's column, and of this anthology, is that it wanders across cultural and intellectual borders. The author discusses everything from Forrest Gump to the art of cookbook writing to the joy of Legos and personages ranging from Julia Roberts to Ernest Shackleton. The main flaw, if a flaw at all, is that nearly half the essays are dedicated to the movies du jour from years gone by. Still, Lane is endlessly entertaining, and his ability to present memorable observations about less-than-memorable movies makes him a joy to read. For critic-at-large wannabes, this collection will serve as a de facto guide for years to come. Recommended for larger public libraries and academic libraries with extensive journalism collections.
Ken Winter, Preston Lib., Lexington, VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (September 9, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375714340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375714344
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #465,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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75 of 83 people found the following review helpful By on November 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
There are many reasons one should be critical of The New Yorker. For a start, there's the aura that leads unwitting subscribers to believe that there is nothing better to be had. Then there's the gratuitious and unprovoked way that they inflicted Joe Klein on an unsuspecting country. And why, oh why, must John Updike be the exemplar of the best of American fiction? But no one can deny that it can be very funny. There's the cartoons, the covers, the back pages and of course, Anthony Lane, the film critic.
Reasons why Anthony Lane gets four stars: 1) He is very funny. On "Forrest Gump": "The movie is so insistently heartwarming that it chilled me to the marrow." On Janet Jackson in "Poetic Justice," making a whole range of expressions in a mirror: "Now, it's possible for an actress to get away with this, but she has to be Liv Ullmann and the movie has to be `Persona'" On the score of "The Fugitive": "It appears to be based on the principle that nothing is as scary as hitting a drum apart from hitting it harder." On scenes in "The Bridges of Madison County": "During their visit, the weather went from grey to bright very quickly, and the continuity person was sent to bed without any supper." On Kurtz's kingdom in the revised version of "Apocalypse Now": [There is] "the perennial uneasy suspicion that Kurtz's kingdom is in fact nothing more than a T.S. Eliot Study Group gone terribly wrong." (2) He likes bad puns: "Faster Pussycat! Kilt! Kilt!" on "Braveheart." (3) He's very perceptive (see most of the comments above, and also his comments in the introduction about how Ridley Scott is becoming less mature in his movies). (4) He is not only brave enough to prefer "The English Patient" to "Fargo," but is quite willing not even to mention the second movie in his book.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Harvey S. Karten on September 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
York: A. Knopf, 2002, 752pp. Reviewed by Harvey Karten 9/6/02.
Anthony Lane has a prose style that makes us want to read what he has to say even if we go to the movies but once a year. His writing is so witty, so entertaining, that given the quality of so many films these days, Lane can easily provide us with more laughs than an Adam Sandler comedy and perhaps even more tears than can be evoked by Mike Leigh. He'd better be good: he's had the unenviable task at The New Yorker magazine of filling the shoes of Pauline Kael, arguably the most influential American critic of the latter part of the Twentieth Century. Like most of us critics, he may hate to sit through bad movies but loves to go to town pointing out what's disastrous about "Showgirls" and "Battlefield Earth," yet his satire is more the gentle type preferred by Sir Arthur Gilbert than the scathing sort of a Jonathan Swift or a John Simon..
Whether or not you're a regular reader of The New Yorker?where he shares the film critics' pages with David Denby?you can catch up on the wit and wisdom of this Londoner who spends a considerable amount of time in New York by reading his new book, "Nobody's Perfect." (The title comes from Osgood Fielding III's statement in "Some Like It Hot" when, having been discovered that under that dress lies a man, gleefully responds, "Nobody's Perfect."
As self-deprecatory as Woody Allen, Lane employs a style all his own, though his prose can be compared to that of Atlantic Monthly's hilarious P.J. O'Rourke. For example, when he received a phone call from Tina Brown, New Yorker editor at the time, he tells us that when Brown phoned him, "I was sitting in London...
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ours is a nation in which baseball fans have heated arguments over who is the best second baseman ever (my choice is Rogers Hornsby over Joe Morgan but not by much). The best this, the best that, etc. Such debates seem inherent in our culture. Is Pauline Kael a better movie critic than James Agee? Siskel than Ebert? Ebert than Sarris? Sarris than Schickel? What about Anthony Lane and David Denby? Who the hell cares? I have read and admired all of these movie critics, sometimes agreeing with them and other times not. Each has helped me to "see" more or appreciate something less in certain films. On occasion I adjust an opinion after a second viewing, thinking more or less highly of a film in part because of what a critic has observed.
While reading Anthony Lane's work in The New Yorker since 1993, I have often wished that at least his best of it be published in a single volume. That wish has now come true for me as well as for countless others. For reasons already provided, I will not get into comparisons and contrasts with other writers (Kael, Denby, Updike, Lahr, et al) and cut to the proverbial "bone": Those who generally appreciate Lane's work will thoroughly enjoy reading this book. Those who generally dislike his work need no opinion of mine. The title refers to one of the funniest film lines ever. It is expressed by Osgood Fielding III (played by Joe E. Brown) to "Daphne" (played by Jack Lemmon) at the conclusion of Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959). Like men dressed as women, films are not always what they seem to be.
Matters of agreement and disagreement about films aside, this volume also includes some of Lane's best `Profiles" from The New Yorker.
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