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CRAZY BOOK, KRAZY PEOPLE! {NOT}

Like the irritation factor 25 Late Review like The GroanyDad's Saturday BOOKS supplement like 99.9% of 'mainstream/broadshee-it "music writing" {which is neither writing nor music, in its head or from its heart} like 78% of hackademic discourse* ... : HOW CAN PEOPLE TAKE SUCH EXCITING THINGS AND TURN THEM INTO SUCH DULL DULL DUUUUULLLL WILL-THIS-DO STODGE & PIFFLE & 'I WOULDN'T LINE MY CAT TRAY WITH THAT' DISCOURSE ???

Like. Just see the title/concept of this new book - Writers at the Movies** - and think: Hey. That ought to be (mildly, but who knows, the right writers, even wildly} interesting. There ought to be a good proportion of interesting stuff in here: all the writers I know are OBSESSED with Movies and what's more often write better - or at least more passionately, more outta leftfield or, what's the nu jargon, 'outside the box'? - about them than so-called professional movie crits ...

Then but, out of TWENTY SIX count 'em "essays" there are only two, OK, let's be charitable three that I want to read {and I've read one of those already: Susan Sontag on Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz, from 1983 but republished last year in her own Where The Stress Falls [Jonathan Cape], although personally I would steer you in the direction rather of a cheap n cheer... well, no, not cheerful, but useful little p/back edition of Under The Sign of Saturn [Vintage Pbk. £6.99, tho' I got it for £1.50 in one of those handy local cutprice book warehouse places] - which, whatever you think of Sontag {and I'm deeply ambivalent} she is right on the money here and at the height of her explicatory powers on Walter Benjamin {brilliant title essay} Syberberg {"Syberberg's Hitler"}and a brilliant essay on Elias Canetti {"Mind as Passion"} which, the latter, is one of those essays which made me go straight out and buy the work in question ... er, I've rather lost track here of all my brackets within brackets and ellispes and ...

{ ... }

Right.

Sontag on Fassbinder.
PLUS: the 'benefit of the doubt' one is Richard Howard on Bresson, because Howard is a brilliant translator and I figure that in some (probably fairly large} measure I OWE him for the reading pleasure he's brought me down the years. And alright, I might just read Rick Bass on Buffalo '66 becoz of my interest in Vincent Gallo and because "Rick Bass" is a name I vaguely but vaguely recall ...

But do I want to read Julian Barnes on Chabrol? {Isn't that something like a potential future dictionary definition of MIDDLE BROW or WORTHY or something?}

And who ARE all these people? Charles Baxter, Anne Carson, Stephen Dobyns, Deborah Eisenberg, Ron Hansen, Edward Hirsch {whose choice is "Stevie" directed by Robert Enders: no, me either}, Philip Levine, Margot Livesey, Phillip Lopate, Francine Prose, Lawrence Raab, Michael Ryan, Jim Shepard, Charles Simic, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Geoffrey Wolff ... I mean, I've got nothing personal against these people as individuals, they're probably very capable poets and very nice people ... which though, therein probably lies the root problem here don't you think ... I mean niceness, I mean, I'd say, editorially, you've got a problem when someone like Lorrie Moore is one of the HOTTER more RACY or CONTROVERSIAL or "well known" names in your line up ...

But there is Robert Stone on The Krays.
Which, one, I say everything he, Robert Stone, has ever written is worth reading. And two, it's already a priori exciting as an idea because it's not the type of pic you'd think he might pick ... {whereas, unlike ... Barnes ... Bovary ... Chabrol ... zzzzz ... }

And he is note perfect, Stone, on this underrated little hard gem of a film.
I mean - that might almost be a future dictionary definition of greatness against the odds or underrated gem or unlikely grandeur - a film starring two ex-Spandau Ballet members that made me cry. I hasten to add: it was the climactic moment in what, I think, may have been Susan Fleetwood's final screen appearance {as the twin's seemingly chirpy but actually simmeringly resentful Aunt Rose} that made me blub. {Her untimely death only multiplies or underscores the resonances of the scene in question, which, people who've seen it will know which one I mean immediately I suspect.}

Stone sets the sene for his (re)appraisal of The Krays by stressing all the things it is not, and not about. (It is not a piece of habitual U.K. cinema naturalism about jolly East Enders, about crime or poverty or so on.) Rather ...

"Much of what goes on seems to be about love - between the brothers themselves; between the brothers and their savage, willfully protective mother; between them and their weird, doting Aunt Rose; between Reggie Kray and the unfortunate young woman who marries him. Love, not poverty, or squalor, or wartime deprivation seems to be what's making everybody crazy.
[....]
"At a certain point in The Krays, it becomes apparent that its subjects exist on a plane beyond the normal run of human pathology. Beady-eyed as sparrows and about as genuinely introspective, they are constitutionally heartless, more nonhuman than inhuman, less alive than undead. Their chief animating force is a kind of predatory alertness that gives a new dimension to the concept of us and them.
[....]
"Life-into-legend is the true subject of The Krays. The film begins and ends with the bleached image of a swan in flight, accompanied by the voice of the twins' mother crooning a homemade fairy tale about their quasi-miraculous birth. [...] The world evoked by the film is as pre-Freudian and pre-Marxist as the work itself is post-Freudian and post-Marxist - intelligent, cruel, and very violent."

++ -- -- ++

*{ not official figure.

**{{ Writers at the Movies. Editor · Jim Shepard [Marion Boyars £11.95 - and I have to say I was SHOCKED at first when I saw that this was Marion Boyars ... but, yes, my initial intuition was correct: First published in the United States ...

posted by Ian 8/15/2003 05:05:00 PM

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