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A Fine Romance
A Fine Romance
by Candice Bergen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.26
140 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A perceptive writer speaks from the catbird seat., January 31, 2016
This review is from: A Fine Romance (Hardcover)
Candice Bergen is a legendary star, not famous for her acting perhaps, in fact when she was coming up in the 1960s she had reviews that would just about have slayed anyone not made of steel. She has always had to roll with the punches of bad reviews, but of course she won Emmy after Emmy for her role in sitcom Murphy Brown, which paralleled her own life to a certain degree and which put her on top for the first time in her life. This book details the making of Murphy Brown by one who was on the set in practically every scene, a gifted writer who can bring us into moments of intense artistic concentration, and takes us backstage to where the difficult decisions are being made. She is always self-aware, to a degree not given every Hollywood star, and the parts where she senses the crew turning against her, and the steps she must take to win them back, are comparable to the way Henry James wrote about strong women in the late 1890s—with bitter self-knowledge.

About halfway through the book, however, one stops rooting for Candice Bergen, and her daughter Chloe too. It's not her fault her husband, Louis Malle, was fabulously rich and invented the little sugar packets you see on the tables of every French restaurant in the whole nation of France, and nor is it her fault that the passion ran out of her marriage and her husband began to look around at other, younger women, such as the French sex-kitten "Miou-Miou," to name but one. Watching him die must have been a horrible bore, but she went ahead and did it, even though it played hell with her filming schedule. Se had always the staring incomprehension of Malle's older children, Manuel and Justine, to deal with and being cast as the wicked stepmother is not a pleasure for anybody. When Candice remarries and forgets to invite Malle's older children to her wedding—tres mal! But she tells us they became friends after that and today everyone is happy together. I wonder why she tells us that Manuel and Justine are the children of the Canadian glamor icon Alexandra Stewart? Surely that was just Justine—and Manuel was somebody else's son? Maybe faulty copy editing, the way that several of the other fine hundred reviewers have mentioned that redundancy plagues A Fine Romance. We hear over and over again that Malle owned a truffle farm with no cell phone service—a dealbreaker for a busy actress—and also we hear about those sugar packets.... But then when she meets Marshall Rose, I'm sorry, Candice Bergen, we none of you wanted to be out on the streets or anything, but this guy is too rich!

He makes the truffles and the sugar packets of your previous husband look like de rien! Why did you let him talk you out of giving up your own apartment, which as redundancy tells us is the prettiest apartment in New York, and move in with his grand mansion, ceding your cute flat to Chloe?

You also seem to remember that, since Murphy Brown, your film career has suffered and you have been relegated into tiny jokey parts in US comedies, parts the late Margaret Rutherford might have turned down as too vulgar, and yet you forget to mention the best film work of your life, the lead in the 2003 beleaguered-wife thriller "Footsteps," written for you by the one and only Ira Levin? If this picture was on DVD of even humble VHS tapes, more people would know about your shining moment. On the Ira Levin internet sits, some know-it-alls have advanced the theory that Marshall Rose has suppressed this picture entirely, which he could do in an instant of course, preferring the public to think of you as a beautiful clown and klutz. Say it isn't so! Get "Footsteps" into the hands and hearts of the general public and let us see justice done! Ad while you are at it, what about "The Adventurers," (1967) based on the famous Harold Robbins novel? It's not only you, it's Olivia de Havilland and Charles Aznavour and Leigh-Taylor Young and the beautiful Jobim music which brings back a whole era. It was named one of the worst movies ever made, but we still want to see it! Get Marsh to release this one too.


My First Hundred Years in Show Business: A Memoir
My First Hundred Years in Show Business: A Memoir
by Mary Louise Wilson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.06
68 used & new from $4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Surrounded by pills her whole life and now she gets revenge, January 4, 2016
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Mary Louise Wilson keeps topping herself in this list of everyone who’s ever had clay feet or acted mean to her. She is a wonderful writer, every bit as piercing as Diana Vreeland whom she played in Full Gallop, a play she wrote herself with Mark Hampton, who turned on her, though for the first four years of their collaboration he was like, her soul brother, but then mysteriously another woman (screenwriter Jay Presson Allen, who worked with Alfred Hitchcock and Alan King) came between them and Mary Louise found herself confronting new version of the script that she had not authorized.

No one told Mark Hampton that the Wilson version of Full Gallop was inferior, except for the seductively autocratic Jay Presson Allen. That was the problem with these people she surrounded herself with, they buckled under the opinions of Oscar winners and couldn’t see that somewhere, under the self-deprecating putdowns. Mary Louise Wilson was a real artist.

She makes a lot out of the fact that there are two guys called Mark Hampton and the one who betrayed her was not the more famous of the two.

Another couple who betrayed her was her brother and sister, each about five or ten years older than she, and a couple of neurotic nuts who could have played in Grey Gardens. Indeed Mary Louise won a Tony for her work in the Musical of Grey Gardens, for she had lived through the confusion of living with self-centered nuts with bodies like living, electric lies! There was her black boyfriend she met in Cincinatti when both were starring in Volpone—he was a piece of work. There was Judy Holliday, the top Broadway star who was certifiably crazy and who, during the run together in the flop Hot Spot (the early 60s musical set in the Peace Corps), said only one word to Mary Louise Wilson: “Salts.”

She was so powerful and so crazy she sabotaged the play beyond a success, by climbing down out of her star dressing room and re-writing the scenes so she never had to act in a single scene with her leading man. Or was it crazy Gerry Mulligan, then Holliday’s boyfriend, who sabotaged her? It’s hard to say.

I know one guy who is going to love this book and I’m going to send it to him now!


Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press
Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press
by James McGrath Morris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.43
62 used & new from $4.24

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "window seat on the world", November 28, 2015
A friend told me I knew too little about the black press of the 20th century and, with my interest in mass media, that it was silly of me to be so ill-informed. He recommended a forthcoming book which is now on my bookshelf, the life of Ethel Payne, the queen of American journalism. Folks called her the queen of back journalism, but after reading even a few chapters she jumps across racial boundaries and takes on the title from peers from her white counterparts. Yet she is hardly celebrated at all. Is there a reason for this? McGrath Morris does his best to make us understand what it might have been like for the young Ethel Payne, growing up in a racist society and struggling for every meal, yet driven by parents who believed fervently in education as the way out for an embattled race.

Payne herself was sometimes—not her worst enemy, that's a cliche—but sometimes she was not her own best advocate, and time after time in the book McGrath Morris shows her getting tired or frustrated with this or that plum job and then moving on, sometimes without a clear vision of what she wanted to do next. Periods of joblessness ensued, but like a cat she always managed to use her extensive network of friends and business contacts to find something worthy of her talents. She was a journalist who learned quickly, and she could put away scruples when she had to, and best of all she stood up for what she believed in, and risked the ire of many powerful forces of evil. Her personal life? Well, it isn't easy at the top, especially for a successful woman, and especially, or so she believed, for a black woman. The contretemps in which she criticized Vernon Jordan in 1980, when he survived an assassin's bullet only to be told by Payne in her nationally circulated column that he had no right being out late at night with a white woman not his wife—this story alone could make a whole movie, and yet we wee Ethel Payne as acting perhaps without knowledge of the facts and at the least, uncharitably, bit again, she was not afraid to chew up and spit out even black men if she thought they were making fools of themselves.

The dramatic moment of McGrath Morris' story is his account of the 1955 Bandung Conference, an episode of world history very little covered today. This was am international conference for representatives of five Asian nations and five African nations‚ no white powers invited, and the first time in modern history such an event occurred. Indonesia was the country selected to host this amazing meeting of minds, and all around the world far-seeing blacks saw and celebrated that something new had come into being—a conference in which white nations were treated as not the majority of the peoples of this earth. US emigre novelist Richard Wright wrote, "Only brown, black and yellow men who had long been made agonizingly self-conscious, under the rigors of colonial rule, of their race and their religion could have felt the need for such a meeting." Great minds fought like tigers to get to Bandung but in the end, many leftist intellectuals like Paul Robeson and W E B DuBois found their entrance denied via the machinations of the State department. McGrath Morris points out that of nearly 800 delegates, not a single one was female, and in general very few women managed to get into the conference at all. But Ethel Payne went! And her coverage made her a household name, angering Eisenhower but sealing her reputation among the black readers of the black press. (Adam Clayton Powell, the controversial black Harlem congressman, also went to Bandung, but ironically he was so fairskinned that security refused to give him black status, preventing him from entering some assemblies, so he clung to Payne, claiming to be as black as she. (I can't really repeat his exact words here.) The biographer digs in and brings us an hour by hour account of the riveting, surreal congress, and Payne's strategies to give her American audiences a sense of what was going on without censorship from either the right or left. She was present at, and wrote about, nearly every important civil rights initiative. And while she pioneered the rights of black women, she refused to write the "women's pages" pap her editors sometimes asked her to write about. Very few figures from the entertainment world, for example, make it into the pages of McGrath Morris' book—perhaps they were judged too peripheral or self-aggrandizing.

Can a white biographer write an adequate biography of a black subject? Can a male biographer write successfully, thoroughly, of a woman's life? I'm glad this isn't a test case for biography, because there are more than a few places in which McGrath Morris' race and his gender show themselves all too painfully. And yet he has written an exciting, provocative book that makes one stand up and cheer for Ethel Payne, while shaking one's head at the vicious racial climate through which she had to pass and which prevails today. I don't know.


Shakespeare's Flowers
Shakespeare's Flowers
by Jessica Kerr
Edition: Hardcover
43 used & new from $0.71

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is it love-in vain, or love-in-idleness? A fantastic garland of half knowledge, November 20, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Shakespeare's Flowers (Hardcover)
Shakespeare’s Flowers is a book new to me, even though it came out years ago, when Shakespeare himself was still a big name, taught in schools, and so on. But people still love their flowers, and I think there will always be a market for this book by Jessica Kerr, illustrated by eminent flower illustrator Anne Ophelia Dowden and first published in 1969 by Thomas Crowell and Sons. Crowell had shot to prominence in the YA world by signing up legendary Denver superstar Lenora Mattingly Weber, who developed her Beany Malone books and their successor, the Katie Rose Belford books, before her tragic end in 1970. I was about to say, are Jessica Kerr and Anne Ophelia Dowden serious about their names, or were girls called Ophelia back then? Jessica’s are a dime a dozen, but Shakespeare made the name popular with his famous Merchant of Venice.

Jessica Kerr studied all the flowers named by Shakespeare in his canonical plays, and of the ones that survived into the1960s, Anne Ophelia Dowden, who drew only from nature, obtained specimens and captured that just-plucked quality that’s so poignant about cut flowers. The book is handsomely printed in Belgium with the pastels drawn from the flatlands surrounding Antwerp—same pastels Herge used when creating indomitable Tintin, and employed by persecuted Luc Tuymans in his photorealistic paintings of Mandela and other political titans. We discover that there are two Shakespeares, the townsman and the countryman, and each had his own special flowers—those cultivated in London gardens, and the “wildlings” of the green and the forest, When Shakespeare was a boy, his mother hung a twist of dried herbs over the doorway to her kitchen: these were not only used to give flavor to pot roasts or to heal wounds, but they could actually kill witches and spectral intruders who tried to pass into the cooking place of the house of Shakespeare. Ninety percent of Elizabethans believed in fairies and ghosts, and each had flowers sacred to them.

I knew nothing of all this, but what I did not realize, and Kerr refers to it only lightly, was that some of Shakespeare’s plays contain not a single flower, while in others he uses them sparingly. I keep asking myself, what is with that? Kerr assumes that The Winter’s Tale was written at the end of Shakespeare’s life, when he had returned to Stratford and “much preoccupied with the growing and planting of trees and flowers.” How does she know this? Because they appear so often in the late romances—a circular form of reasoning, but oddly persuasive.

Some of Shakespeare’s flowers are gone today, victims of climate change but also of changing styles of horticulture. Gillyvors, for example. They were like carnations (in The Winter’s Tale, the “fairest flowers of the season/ Are our carnations, and streak’d gillyvors.” Kerr suggests that what gardeners call “pinks” are similar to the flowers Elizabethans called “gillyfors,” yet they functioned as spices similar to today’s cloves, and were used to spice up mead, so they were also known as “sops-in-wine.” In Love’s Labour’s Lost, we have the verse about “lady-smocks all silver-white,/ And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue/ Do paint the meadows with delight.” Botanists think the “cuckoo-bud” was the buttercup, but there’s no being sure. Cuckoo-buds were brilliant gold, but so might have butter been in those days before Land o’ Lakes, Imperial, and Country Crock Butter.

I love Kerr’s writing, its flourishes of wild imagination coloring in the dim spots in our lack of knowledge. “There is one flower in Ophelia’s ‘fantastic garland’ that we have not met before. The crowflower is thought to be the pink flower known today as ragged robin, found where land is moist or marshy.” This would fit in with Kerr’s thesis that all the flowers in Ophelia’s fantastic garland were among those he himself could have seen while walking along the river Avon, perhaps in a trance, to get more into the character of Ophelia in her mad moods, but it begs the question about the crowflower being the same as the ragged robin.

The biggest shock was that the pansy we know was pretty much the “little Western flower” Oberon describes in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, and yet it had nothing to do with pansies in Shakespeare’s plays, which is known in the USA as a “Johnny-Jump-Up,” and where Shakespeare lived—England—they call it “heartsease.” “”Heartease has many other quaint names such as ‘Three faces under a hood,’ ‘Tickle my fancy,’ or ‘Pink of my John.’” It is this flower, which Shakespeare calls “love-in-idleness,” that is thought to be the sacred flower of Cupid, and he shoots it at young lovers, and if you put one apiece on the sleeping eyelids of your beloved, that person will wake and fall in love with you forever should yours be the first face they see upon opening their eyes.

“Three faces under a hood,” of course, was transmuted by Ezra Pound in his famous poem “In a Station of a Metro,” and therefore began modernism with a bleak bang. In other news, we find out that in the reign of Elizabeth I, pubhounds did not dunk roasted crab in their tankards of ale… they put in glamorous crab-apple blossoms! That was their popular Christmas dish. My birthday’s on Christmas Eve, so the apple blossoms dunked in ale will be on me, or my name’s not “Pink of my John.”


The Big Builders. a Whitman Learn About Book
The Big Builders. a Whitman Learn About Book
by E. Joseph Dreany
Edition: Hardcover
5 used & new from $6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars and I loved seeing things go down, October 19, 2015
The Big Builders came out the year I started the fourth grade, and it became an important book to me. As an adult I can see what appears to be an ideological message I never really understood as a kid. But what kid would? Or do I mean, what boy would? I still don’t understand why I was so fascinated with builders and junkers both, could stand for hours watching construction crews erect even the smallest of buildings, and I loved seeing things go down, too, as they often were in the Robert Moses-dominated Long Island of my youth. I hear from my grandchildren (now grown themselves, starting families of their own) that their own kids love videos involving big trucks and that they are the best babysitters around, these videos. You can leave the house for hours and your kids will literally not know you are gone.

That’s how I was with this Whitman “Learn-About” book by the utterly strange and compelling immigrant figure, E. Joseph Dreany. The back of my tattered copy of The Big Builders reads, “In that part of northern Canada where log cabins and tar-papers shacks are still plentiful, and where winters mean deep snow, long icicles, and temperatures that tickle the sub-zero mark—that’s where E. JOSEPH DREANY, aithor and artist, was born and raised.” I wish I could show you some of his illutrsations but they are quite fanciful and cinematic. On the front cover a crew of four hard-hats reach out to each other from opposing red-gold girders as they lasso the Golden Gate Bridge, above the raging waters of Hoover Dam while above soars the then-new United Nations Building. It turns out these workers are Mohawk Indians, who have the “iron nerve” to takes to stand without safety belts with only a steel beam to stand on in heavy winds. “Once they came from an Indian reservation in Canada. Now they live in Brooklyn.” Dreany doesn’t talk down to kids, exactly, and it was from this book that I found out that the iconic Lever Building was the first NYC building to be erected without setbacks, from the third floor up. A giant slab on its end, like the UN Building that followed it. Now we see these buildings and don’t even appreciate the power of the Mohawk Indians that made them—like the artisans who created Mont Ste. Michel and Chartres, they are forgotten balancers.

The chapter on the building of Hoover Dam likewise is written and illustrated with real force. My total knowledge of Hoover Dam comes from a gay amalgam of Dreany’s The Big Builders with memories of Elvis and Ann-Margret touring the dam for kicks in the splenetic dreamworld of George Sidney’s Viva Las Vegas! It was from Dreany that I learned that the construction of Hoover Dam was larger and more difficult than the building of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, or, to look at it in another way, imagine a grand pyramid erected upside down within the walls of a western canyon, and then flooded with water, and you can see how the chariots of the gods isn’t just a fanciful Canadian idea, it may be a real thing, and that is why this extraneous scene of Elvis and Ann-Margret was inserted into the film in question, to announce the endorsement of the thing by actual 20th century gods of music, beauty and dance—a “dam that tamed a wild mustang of a western river,” to be colorful about it. The book also answers the questions, “What is a ‘Gismo’?”—“Can you bounce a ping-pong ball on water?”—“Who eats ‘woodburgers’?” and many more attractive propositions that every child yearns to know.

This cover shows just half of the visual excitement that the legendary Dreany brought to us Whitman Learn About books. You'll learn about colors and capitalism in The Big Builders.


The Big Builders
The Big Builders
by EDWARD JOSEPH DREANY
Edition: Hardcover
5 used & new from $0.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big Questions for Little Millennials, October 19, 2015
This review is from: The Big Builders (Hardcover)
The Big Builders came out the year I started the fourth grade, and it became an important book to me. As an adult I can see what appears to be an ideological message I never really understood as a kid. But what kid would? Or do I mean, what boy would? I still don’t understand why I was so fascinated with builders and junkers both, could stand for hours watching construction crews erect even the smallest of buildings, and I loved seeing things go down, too, as they often were in the Robert Moses-dominated Long Island of my youth. I hear from my grandchildren (now grown themselves, starting families of their own) that their own kids love videos involving big trucks and that they are the best babysitters around, these videos. You can leave the house for hours and your kids will literally not know you are gone.

That’s how I was with this Whitman “Learn-About” book by the utterly strange and compelling immigrant figure, E. Joseph Dreany. The back of my tattered copy of The Big Builders reads, “In that part of northern Canada where log cabins and tar-papers shacks are still plentiful, and where winters mean deep snow, long icicles, and temperatures that tickle the sub-zero mark—that’s where E. JOSEPH DREANY, aithor and artist, was born and raised.” I wish I could show you some of his illutrsations but they are quite fanciful and cinematic. On the front cover a crew of four hard-hats reach out to each other from opposing red-gold girders as they lasso the Golden Gate Bridge, above the raging waters of Hoover Dam while above soars the then-new United Nations Building. It turns out these workers are Mohawk Indians, who have the “iron nerve” to takes to stand without safety belts with only a steel beam to stand on in heavy winds. “Once they came from an Indian reservation in Canada. Now they live in Brooklyn.” Dreany doesn’t talk down to kids, exactly, and it was from this book that I found out that the iconic Lever Building was the first NYC building to be erected without setbacks, from the third floor up. A giant slab on its end, like the UN Building that followed it. Now we see these buildings and don’t even appreciate the power of the Mohawk Indians that made them—like the artisans who created Mont Ste. Michel and Chartres, they are forgotten balancers.

The chapter on the building of Hoover Dam likewise is written and illustrated with real force. My total knowledge of Hoover Dam comes from a gay amalgam of Dreany’s The Big Builders with memories of Elvis and Ann-Margret touring the dam for kicks in the splenetic dreamworld of George Sidney’s Viva Las Vegas! It was from Dreany that I learned that the construction of Hoover Dam was larger and more difficult than the building of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, or, to look at it in another way, imagine a grand pyramid erected upside down within the walls of a western canyon, and then flooded with water, and you can see how the chariots of the gods isn’t just a fanciful Canadian idea, it may be a real thing, and that is why this extraneous scene of Elvis and Ann-Margret was inserted into the film in question, to announce the endorsement of the thing by actual 20th century gods of music, beauty and dance—a “dam that tamed a wild mustang of a western river,” to be colorful about it. The book also answers the questions, “What is a ‘Gismo’?”—“Can you bounce a ping-pong ball on water?”—“Who eats ‘woodburgers’?” and many more attractive propositions that every child yearns to know.


Finishing School
Finishing School
DVD ~ Frances Dee
Price: $14.99
22 used & new from $9.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bird on a Wire, October 16, 2015
This review is from: Finishing School (DVD)
Finishing School has the sort of raw edge of the pre-Code films, the sort that shocks you a little because you pause and ask yourself, "Did she really say that?" There's the one sequence where the girls are in a taxi looking forward to a weekend of gin and sin, and the youngest girl decides she wants to experience the weekend without her braces. It's like something from a John Waters film, the way that they actually reach into her mouth and grasp at the metal wire until it's wrenched out--just not all the way, so that the poor girl is stuck there with three or four inches of mousetrap steel sticking out of the left side of her face. She doesn't even blink an eye, she's like an animal who just wants to maximize pleasure. The shocking thing is that among the girls egging her on is Frances Dee, who until now has been the goody two shoes girl who is from the highest of American aristocracy, shocked by the casual drinking and sex play of her classmates. Now she reveals herself as just as amoral as the rest of them. That picture of the girl with her braces wedged into one side of her mouth is as disturbing as anything Man Ray or Luis Bunuel was making around the same time. Can we credit the presence of Wanda Tuchock behind the camera, a Hollywood screenwriter credited here as co-director, for the picture's deeply unsettling picture of women together on a spree?

The film benefits from a raft of astonishing performances, from Frances Dee herself, to Ginger Rogers as her roommate "Pony," to Billie Burke as the vain, selfish mother (like Gladys Cooper in the later "Now Voyager") to Beulah Bondi, who could often go sentimental but here is a hard case operator, cold as they come, and always watching and lurking like a cobra. And then there's Bruce Cabot from King Kong who is a total love god in this picture, handsome as they come, and more understanding than Dee has any right to ask of him. He's like a big elongated version of the present-day literary critic Kaplan Page Harris, with the same knowing grin. Tuchock seems to know how to make the most of Cabot's limited acting abilities--just train the spotlights on his cheekbones and let shadows rest on the bones of his forehead and he will seem to be irresistible enough to make even the goodest girl go "bad." He's a waiter in the hotel where Rogers and Dee go to have sex with frat boys--then he's an intern at a children's hospital fighting disease--then he's a crusader in the war against stuffy finishing schools--and he comes down the chimney at Christmas Eve like a lithe, dark, wet-eyed Santa Claus with a big gift for the poor little rich girl. The thing with the pre-Code movies is, you have to be more adult than it's possible actually to be nowadays, to understand what is actually happening in them. And this movie, as you can tell by the various reviewer's wildly differing synopses, is not easy to follow--to say the least. But it is magnificent, for all its cruelty, like an early Pasolini film.


Charles M. Schulz: Conversations (Conversations with Comic Artists Series)
Charles M. Schulz: Conversations (Conversations with Comic Artists Series)
by M. Thomas Inge
Edition: Paperback
Price: $30.00
41 used & new from $2.66

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Theater of Cruelty, October 12, 2015
Charles Monroe Schulz was a household name even in France, where I as an American boy growing up in French provinces had my own subscription to the International herald Tribune from ages 6 to 10. In this remarkable book of Conversations, we discover much about the lure that held Schultz a prisoner of French thought, feeling and culture, including his service in WWII as an American GI. Professor Inge, who published this book within a few months of Schulz’ lamentable passing in the year 2000, reproduces the notorious Peanuts strip that Schulz created for the Sunday comics on the 49th anniversary of D-Day, in which the skies are filled with white foamy clouds, American soldiers huddle in prayer on long benches built into hulls of airplanes, and then they are dropped in chutes onto the bloody beaches of Normandy on June 6, with those huge crucifix-like objects the Vichy government erected in the sand to prevent invasion. One Charlie Brown-like boy in a huge checked cap rocks in the surf, only his face visible—is he drowning? Underneath a box caption: “June 6, 1944, ‘To Remember.’” The Sunday strip puzzled Peanuts readers back then and continues to act as an anomalous reminder that for Schlulz, like William Faulkner, the past was not dead—it’s not even past.

The continual return to childhood is treated again and again in these interviews, which span a good 45 years. As they go on, they get more ponderous, but so does Schulz, while many of the interviewers seek to find out why Peanuts lost so much of its punch in later years. Few will now remember that it was part of the sick humor movement that changed American laughter in the volatile 1950s, like Lenny Bruce, Nichols and May, Albee plays like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? But childhood is cruelty and that’s where Peanuts excelled—with the existential nightmare of Lucy always grabbing the ball before Charlie Brown can kick it, or the cloud of dust that attends the eternal outsider Pigpen. “I couldn’t do that now,” Schulz says, examining some old cruel comic strips. Even the expression “good grief” had too sadistic a connotation for the aged Schulz. Did he live a lifetime of regret? Seems like it. Modernism played hell with one’s values, and devils like Lucy masquerade as psychiatrists for five cents a session. Anarchic Snoopy flips into air and barks at the planes flying overhead, and in one of them Schulz kneels, praying over the Norman coast, among a group of boys he will never see again.


Gephyromania (New)
Gephyromania (New)
by TC Tolbert
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.00
8 used & new from $15.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Running Up That Hill, October 9, 2015
This review is from: Gephyromania (New) (Paperback)
Gephyromania indicates a keen interest in bridges. I’m sure I’m not the only one who didn’t know what this word meant before turning to TC Tolbert’s brightly colored Ahsahta Book. I knew the opposite, gephyrophobia, a fear of crossing bridges, for it is a fear that has possessed me since I was a child. But for the trans person there may be both: a fear of the bridge, and yet a compulsion to build and cross, and cross back. I met the author earlier this year, after several years of hearing about her/him from mutual friends, most of them poets, as one of the most charming, attractive, and talented poets in the West. It didn’t take me long to connect the work I had read in Gephyromania with the bridge-building of the trim, sharp subject before me. Instantly we fell into one of those talks where two people finish each other’s sentences. Or three people, for we had an old friend, the poet Samuel Ace, with us too. In Gephyromania the speaker announces, from within parentheses, that “I am the least brave person that I know.” I understood this as a reaction from one who has been called “brave” for the gender and poetic choices s/he has made for so long it is like breathing out and breathing in, and perhaps a nod to other forms of courage.

What, I asked myself, is the symbolic function of parenthesis within Tolbert’s text? They form a version of fort, like Freud’s construction of “fort/da,” a forested space in which to hide or protect one’s body from attack. Perhaps a confessional booth--must find out if Tolbert was raised Catholic, as I was—a ceilinged space in which one can speak truth with the hope of forgiveness, or to announce oneself without fear of contradiction. That this place that is a revelation of fear is a space in which one can deny being brave—indeed, in which one can declare one to be the least brave person—that’s paradoxical, like something from an unfinished Bataille story.

We always hear that in Italian, “stanza” means “room” and here, on page 84, the little room of parentheses is the only thing you can see on the page—besides the page number itself—two words in parenthesis: “(and still).” Here the phrase lies hobbled to the left edge of the page, but because of the horizontal, Doug Powell-like orientation of the poem vis a vis the book, what one might think of as the left, turns out to be on the right (close to the book’s spine) like some Elizabethan alchemy performed by John Dee. What I’m suggesting is that Tolbert is harnessing the shapes and rhythms of the poem to mirror the disconcerting trials, trails and exhilarations of trans subjectivity? I wish I knew more, but reading and re-reading this marvelous book will keep me firmly on the take for as long as I can hold on. John Wieners told me he had to stay “on the take” to find all the poems he wound up writing, and through the sometimes difficult patches of his life, there was this one tendency that allowed him to live—the habit of acquisition. Tolbert’s breakthrough is to add to this habit the one of, not diminution, but of walking away from, of rolling one’s box up a hill till its shape changes to something one can recognize as one’s own. Like Kate Bush used to say, "If I only could, I'd be running up that hill."


It Started in Naples
It Started in Naples
DVD ~ Clark Gable
28 used & new from $14.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Better or for Worse, October 5, 2015
This review is from: It Started in Naples (DVD)
I walked into the living room and the TV was on but suddenly my wife, sitting near the remote, snapped it off as though it was something she didn’t want me to see, her face nearly expressionless except for a gleam of worry in her eye, the sort of look one wears when one’s keeping a secret. But we are both New Narrative writers and usually there are no secrets between us! When I picked up the remote and switched it to reverse, I could she that she was watching some kind of highly colored vintage melodrama set on the Island of Capri. Eventually she broke down in giggles and admitted hysterically that she was watching Sophia Loren and Clark Gable in Melville Shavelson’s It Started In Naples (1960).

This is really my kind of picture and not hers, so I must have infected her with rom-com fever! “Well, rewind it, I’ll watch it with you,” I offered, but she wouldn’t hear of it, she was too caught up in the action. She said she would just recap things for me. “Previously, on It Started in Naples,” she began, and quickly running through how this little 8 year old boy was the center of a custody war not between two divorcing people (perhaps there was no divorce in Italy in 1960, we guessed), but between Sophia Loren, whose sister had married a bohemian American ex-pat called—we never did find out what he was called, but he was the younger brother of important US corporation lawyer Clark Gable. And her sister and his brother had perished in a Fiat crash, or perhaps the car had gone off the narrow twisty mountain roads above Capri’s beautiful blue waters—leaving behind a son whom aunt Sophia Loren—a second rate cabaret entertainer with little talent but a fabulous figure—was trying to bring up, when she thought of it. Eventually they were going to get together, but not before a lot of neorealismo hijinx and a lot of vino and cheese and grapes went down, and sexy dancing and captivating photography. Many on IMDB claim that this is their favorite movie of all time. Well, for one thing, it is a blistering anti American satire of imperialist business and law practices, the whole “Ugly American” thing Clark Gable embodies. This is harsh pseudo Billy Wilder stuff! It’s like A Foreign Affair with Loren in the Dietrich role, and Gable in the Jean Arthur role. Gable is incredibly withered and shrunken, but still magnetic, and game for anything. In this role it’s almost tragic that his American sophistication and wariness of being “played” almost loses him his chance to find the one boy he had never even known he wanted, his 8 year old self, half American, half pleasure-mad Italian.

The little boy is like nothing on earth I’ve ever seen in the movies. With long arms and legs, and tiny playsuits, his face often dirty, he gets drunk, sneaks cigarettes, just wants to have a good time in Capri. His English is rusty, and we could barely make out what he was saying half the time, but he’s learning American slang (“I’m a tough guy, see?”) as fast as Gable can dish it out. Often in his underwear—a weird Italian pair of Ur-Jockey shorts you’d never find on an American boy--he stays out all night, steals trinkets and things he thinks his aunt might like, knows far too much about sin and gambling, and avoids the hated school house. His mouth always running, his bare feet stirring up a continuous whirligig cloud of dust, like the old Roadrunner cartoons, or Pigpen from Peanuts. He’s thoroughly criminal, like little Jackie Earle Haley from The Bad News Bears, or actually like a boy from an earlier Italian strain of cinema, like the boy in De Sica’s Bicycle Thief. De Sica is in the movie too, playing Gable’s lawyer, super tall and handsome and expansive and a double-crosser, like everyone else in this tourism-driven island.

Loren is gorgeous, but more slovenly than usual in her US films, often wearing one weird blue ensemble with green underpinnings that doesn’t know if it’s a house dress or a cocktail dress. It’s like the producers forgot to buy her any more outfits. This one factor allows he movie to go into overdrive, insisting on its status as “neo-realistic,” that she should keep wearing the same dress every day like an ordinary housewife of Italy. And the sunny criminality of the boy (the child actor, Marietto, who actually was about 13 when he played the role), and De Sica’s practiced vamping, it’s practically a potted history of postwar Italian cinema. But in bright color, brighter than anything Visconti or Bava ever achieved. It’s like the cinematographers and set designers here were practicing for upcoming Jacques Demy movies, for not until The Umbrellas of Cherbourg would there be a movie where you really didn’t care what was happening on the screen, everything was so luscious like flowers blooming before your eyes. When Gable and Loren slip out of a motorboat and into the velvety waters of Capri’s Blue Grotto, part of your brain knows it’s not them, but you don’t care, they’re svelte silhouettes at play in all the moonlit waters of the earth.
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