"Babe Ruth: Tremendous ballplayer. But he doesn't step to the plate. Because he's dead. You and I, on the other hand. We step to the plate."
-- Gus Demitriou (Dennis Farina) in Luck Episode 1.5, written by David Milch and Scott Willson. 02/26/12, HBO.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
The most exciting and instructive project of the last six months.... And you can do it, too.
Watch "Stalker" by Andrei Tarkovsky. Pay attention. Read Geoff Dyer's discursive, funny, charming, profound, scene by scene description of "Stalker", called "Zona: A Book About a Film about a Journey to a Room". Go back to watching movies completely refreshed and reinvigorated. (By the way, even if you don't read Dyer, "Stalker" is so deeply in the realm of the "weird", that it should have been included in Jeff VanderMeer's anthology. This is Tarkovsky's "At the Mountains of Madness".)
I could end up quoting the whole book here, since it touches so many of my own reactions to art and the world..... Too much typing, though. Try this:
Soon people will not be able to watch films like Theo Angelopoulos's "Ulysses' Gaze" or to read Henry James because they will not have the concentration to get from one interminable scene or sentence to the next. The time when I might have been able to read late-period Henry James has passed and because I have not read late-period Henry James I am in no position to say what harm has been done to my sensibility by not having done so. But I do know if I had not seen "Stalker" in my early twenties my responsiveness to the world would have been radically diminished.
"Ulysses' Gaze" was another nail in the coffin of the European art cinema (a coffin, cynics would say, made up entirely of nails) opening the floodgates to everything that was not art because anything seemed preferable to having to sit through a film like that..
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Friday, February 17, 2012
When the Women Come Out to Dance (Elmore Leonard)
- Highlight Loc. 3445-50 | Added on Friday, February 17, 2012, 06:51 PM
[Martin Amis:] I was recently in Boston visiting Saul Bellow, and on the shelves of the Nobel laureate, I spied several Elmore Leonards. Saul Bellow has a high, even exalted view of what literature is and does. For him, it creates the “quiet zone” where certain essences can nourish what he calls “our fair souls.” This kind of literature of the Prousto-Nabokovian variety has recently been assigned the label “minority interest.” There is patently nothing “minority interest” about Elmore Leonard. He is a popular writer in several senses. But Saul Bellow and I agreed that for an absolutely reliable and unstinting infusion of narrative pleasure in a prose miraculously purged of all false qualities, there was no one quite like Elmore Leonard.
Richard Gehr twitted a link to a list of rules created by Thelonious Monk, who died thirty years ago today. (Monk didn't write them down, but Steve Lacy took notes more than fifty years ago.)
The second of these made it into "Against the Light", if I'm not mistaken. Monk -- who hated the extraneous -- and Elmore Leonard would have had much to discuss.
STOP PLAYING ALL THOSE WEIRD NOTES (THAT BULLSHIT), PLAY THE MELODY!
IT MUST BE ALWAYS NIGHT, OTHERWISE THEY WOULDN’T NEED THE LIGHTS.
DON’T PLAY EVERYTHING (OR EVERY TIME); LET SOME THINGS GO BY. SOME MUSIC JUST IMAGINED. WHAT YOU DON’T PLAY CAN BE MORE IMPORTANT THAT WHAT YOU DO.
YOU’VE GOT TO DIG IT TO DIG IT, YOU DIG?
A GENIUS IS THE ONE MOST LIKE HIMSELF.
Friday, February 10, 2012
When Game of Thrones aired on HBO this past spring, there was a lot of conversation and debate about the depiction of sex, rape, and female agency on the show and in the books. How do you feel about the way the show handled those things in comparison with what you tried to do in your novels?
My novels have quite a bit of sex in them. ... I have read some people saying that they added sex scenes, and they did. They also didn't put in some sex scenes that are in the book, so on balance, I think they're the same. A few things were handled differently. Obviously the way I wrote it in the book is the way I would have handled it.
How do you make decisions about the depictions of sexual violence that you include in your writing?
Well, I'm not writing about contemporary sex—it's medieval.
There's a more general question here that doesn't just affect sex or rape, and that's this whole issue of what is gratuitous? What should be depicted? I have gotten letters over the years from readers who don't like the sex, they say it's "gratuitous." I think that word gets thrown around and what it seems to mean is "I didn't like it." This person didn't want to read it, so it's gratuitous to that person. And if I'm guilty of having gratuitous sex, then I'm also guilty of having gratuitous violence, and gratuitous feasting, and gratuitous description of clothes, and gratuitous heraldry, because very little of this is necessary to advance the plot. But my philosophy is that plot advancement is not what the experience of reading fiction is about. If all we care about is advancing the plot, why read novels? We can just read Cliffs Notes.
A novel for me is an immersive experience where I feel as if I have lived it and that I've tasted the food and experienced the sex and experienced the terror of battle. So I want all of the detail, all of the sensory things—whether it's a good experience, or a bad experience, I want to put the reader through it. To that mind, detail is necessary, showing not telling is necessary, and nothing is gratuitous.
Sunday, February 5, 2012
Tulk has passed along an essay on Elmore Leonard from The New York Times that I like even better than the excellent Guardian overview he posted earlier. The reviewer, novelist Olen Steinhauer, admires Leonard in a way that is closer to the heart of the matter, as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps this is because I first began reading him in mass quantities during the fruitless years trying to write screenplays. They don't call him a writer's writer for nothing.
Steinhaur has been on my "ought to read" list for years. Time to bump him up to the top.
Friday, February 3, 2012
He has never used the word...
A Clash of Kings: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Two (George R.R. Martin)
- Highlight on Page 2 | Loc. 73 | Added on Thursday, February 02, 2012, 07:57 AM
Martin writes fewer sentences that are individually savorable, and so he reads faster, and therefore seems speedier, than Leonard, even though he is objectively wordier.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Military fantasy! Tom Clancy meets Tolkein! Check out the cover....Details from Jeff VanderMeer, who interviews the author:
The idea for the Shadow Ops series came to Cole while working for the Pentagon in the late 1990s. “The Pentagon is regulation-central. Everything has a rule and a manual to look it up in…Well, add geek to that. I kept wondering ‘What if Army Materiel Command was having to requisition magic wands? What if the contractors working here were gnomes? What would the regs say then?’ Would there be a department set up to handle magic? How would the senate appropriate funds for that?” These kinds of questions drove Cole to write Control Point “as the only way to answer them.”