Thursday, December 20, 2007

James Meek's Vocabulary and a big pre-holiday Hodgepodge

I loved this article, largely because I am terribly aware of my deficient vocabulary. When I wrote about Cormac McCarthy's The Road, I mentioned how impressed I was with his use of vocabulary, and I'm so pleased to see that someone else felt similarly. Better yet, he articulates the technique's effect much more powerfully:
McCarthy uses the same technique in The Road, except that in this novel, it is noticeably the father-character's power over the bits and pieces that make up everyday life which is expressed by the use of obscure, specialist words. "He pulled the bolt," McCarthy writes, when the father is carrying out a life-preserving bit of repair work on a shopping trolley, "and bored out the collet with a hand drill and resleeved it with a section of pipe he'd cut to length with a hacksaw". It takes a decent dictionary about 25 words to explain even simply what a collet is; the implication in The Road is that, if you can't put a name to a collet, you aren't going to survive the post-apocalypse.

My bookish crush on Scott Esposito continues as he outshines all other guest commentators in the millions's 2007 books round-up.

I think Maureen Ryan has great taste in tv, and I always look forward to her round-ups of the year's best.

The wonderful Charles Isherwood turns the writer's strike into an occasion to write a fine piece on the relationship between Broadway and Hollywood. Speaking of the strike, have you seen the wonderful short films being made to support the strikers? I particularly liked episode 20 (Woody Allen) and Episode 16 (Amy Ryan and Patricia Clarkson, reading from the phone book), the latter of which makes its point while also proving that Clarkson can transform anything into gold.

Old (from March) but new to me, this absolutely fascinating list of the 100 most influential US liberals (from the Telegraph) - there's also a list of conservatives.

Say, how'd that queer film blog-a-thon turn out? Looks good.

Jonathan Lethem curated a movie series in Brooklyn! So what did he show?

I've been coming across strangers' blog posts recently (thanks to some updated web alerts) and finding some interesting stuff. I thought this post on "the gay voice in American literature" was half mad and half brilliant.

Then there was this attempt to pick films that will define the decade. It's an interesting project because it's getting late in this decade-with-no-settled-upon name, and come to think of it I've seen surprisingly few of those fluffy trend pieces trying to characterize the 00s (unlike the previous 5 decades, which all got "defined" to death in pop culture).

And this piece rebutting some Time statement that French culture is dead. I would have thought laughter a sufficient response, but this blogger is not as lazy as I.

Interesting and fresh twists on the year-end movie piece: "2007: Five Directors Who Shifted Gears for the Better"; "Five Great Pieces of Criticism from 2007"; and the year's best soundtracks.

Scorsese's legendary editor Thelma Schoonmaker was married to THE Michael Powell? I never knew that!

Alan Weisman (mentioned earlier) brought his doomsday scenario to Chicago - Chicago Without Us.

Ouch! It's FilmThreat's latest Frigid 50. So mean, yet I can't help getting sucked in.

Achy Obejas reviews Loving Frank.

I thought Jim Shepherd's response to being nominated for the National Book Award was sincerely sweet.

Roger Ebert has been back for a while, but when I saw this review of Beowulf, I knew he was also back in fine form:
In the name of the mighty Odin, what this movie needs is an audience that knows how to laugh. Laugh, I tell you, laugh! Has the spirit of irony been lost in the land? By all the gods, if it were not for this blasted infirmity that the Fates have dealt me, you would have heard from me such thunderous roars as to shake the very Navy Pier itself down to its pillars in the clay.
And I thought it was amusing that he belatedly filed his best of 2006 list. Nothing but death can stop a cinephile from making those lists. (My 2007 list within the next few weeks.)

The Guardian on the state of Westerns.

Cats or birds, which will the animal lover side with? (Actually, in this case, I think the answer is pretty clear.)

From the Times on "Movie Deals":
A film deal also helped Tom Perrotta’s career as a novelist, if not quite in the way some detractors think. When his novel “Election” was published in 1998, he said, “I got a lot of reviews that said, ‘He wrote this to be a movie,’” an idea he calls “laughable.” In fact, he had written the book years earlier, but it sat in a drawer until someone connected him with a film producer, who showed it to the director Alexander Payne, who optioned the film rights, which in turn led to a book contract. Since then, he’s had no trouble having his novels published — or filmed. He was a co-writer of the screenplay for the film based on his novel “Little Children” and has also been hired to write the film version of his new novel, “The Abstinence Teacher.” “Writing screenplays,” he said, “has the paradoxical effect of making me a more literary writer, much more conscious of what I can do in a novel that I can’t do in a script: the ease of a flashback within a flashback, how you can have immediate access to any event in your character’s life.”

A darkly amusing Salon piece on the exploitation of conservative authors. BFH.


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