Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

We're Your Dreamgirls, oooohhh

Saw Dreamgirls yesterday, hoping to be wowed, awed, and overpowered by the movie-musical. I was overpowered by Jennifer Hudson-- not just her potent pipes, but her charismatic face and serious acting skills put the other Dreams to shame. Beyonce, love her as much as I do, couldn't compete. The movie was mixed; it had moments of sublimity, it lookedgorgeous, and was full of powerful sounds and songs. Eddie Murphy was simultaneously hilarious and tragic, a definite highlight. But too many of the more maudlin songs from the musical were kept on at the expense of a quick-flowing plot. While songs that advance the plot are understandable on stage when the actors are far away and you can't see their facial expressions, in a movie like this they just seemed ridiculous. Furthermore, I was hoping for some more huge song and dance numbers to give Twyla Tharp a run for her money.

But quibbles aside, it was a lovely filmgoing experience, and worth the hype. Some of the songs are definitely still stomping and howling and emoting their way across my brain.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Christians and the Pagans...

Looking for some holiday cheer? Let socially-conscious, witty and self-aware chanteuse (and personal hero of fellow-ette's) Dar Williams provide it.
My favorite verse?

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch, Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, "Is it true that you're a witch?"His mom jumped up and said, "The pies are burning," and she hit the kitchen, And it was Jane who spoke, she said, "It's true, your cousin's not a Christian, But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I Actually Pity Lindsay Lohan

After a hard, tough few days watching oodles and oodles of year-end recap shows, I have this to add to my thoughts on the scandals and successes of '06:

<---girl, you ROCK that Kabbalah bracelet!

Cogent point number 1)
Leave Lindsay Alone:
Sure, she's a wardrobe malfunctioning, nearly illiterate, somewhat vulgar human being, but can you blame her? Look at her insane, battling parents and the way they pushed her from like the age of two months onward. As someone wise once said, she's the Michael Jackson of her time. What really pushed me over the edge, though, from Lindsey-haterdom to a more neutrally disgusted position, was watching several year-end recap shows show footage of Lindsey shopping...and then seeing the pan-out to the literally fifty cameras that were following her as she did so. I just found that to be a most pathetic sight. I mean, I would go nuts too if they were following me as I tried on my [insert designer name here because I don't know who's hip] outfits.

Oh, but if you get any good Lohan-gossip, send it my way.

Cogent point number 2) I want to amend what I said a while back about my favorite music of '06. It's not that pop beat out every other genre, it's that pop was so soundly influenced by other genres..."Hips Don't Lie", "My Love", and "Promiscuous" not to mention all of Fergie's stuff, were essentially hip-hop songs with some techno, dance and reggaeton influences thrown in to a to make them extra spicy. And, umm, singers with white or white-ish skin (cough, cough, Elvis). So it's not that Hip Hop is Dead, as Nas proclaims, but rather that the mainstream has embraced it. Which may mean it's dead. Fuck if I know. Next point.

Cogent Point Number 3) As for Indie Music, I absomalutely loved Franz-Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" and Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Gold Lion" for my mainstream-Williamsburgy not-really indie are they? fix, and appreciated the straight-up melodic rock with a strong beat that both songs embraced. I mean, if you can listen to a song at the gym, how alternative is it, really? But seriously, how much more valuable a contribution to society are you making when you help people burn calories? Riddle me that, Kim's Video staff.

Not-very cogent point number 4) Movies this year sucked. I mean, they really sucked. I think that besides Borat, one of the only really stirring movies I saw this year was friggin' Memoirs of a Geisha, and I saw that in like January because it was an '05 movie for fuck's sake.. The Illusionist was excellent but a very limited scope, and Dave Chappelle's Block Party was probably the most thought-provoking and subtly intellectual film I viewed this year. Now I'm not discounting The Queen. The Queen may be good. I plan to see it over vacation and issue my judgement/proclamation.
And lastly, Talladega Nights is worth a mention exclusively for the Sacha Baron Cohen character and the scene where Mos Def and Elvis Costello are walking arm and arm in his garden. What a crowning moment.

Some sort of point number 5)
Good Reads, Bad Reads, Whatever. Do I look like I care?
Schadenfreude alert! I just had to point out this article denouncing Literary darling Marisha Pessl because, ummm, let's see...I am jealous of her!

As for books I read this year that actually came out this year and I can talk about with some degree of expertise, uhh, I think they were Lisey's Story, and The Thirteenth Tale, the latter of which I actually got to write about for publication. They were both really absorbing and gruesome and fun. Take that, Richard f'in Ford!

The end, for now.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Justin Timberlake is funnier than the entire SNL cast put together.

We tuned in to SNL last night to see JT perform some bomb tracks off of Futuresex/Lovesounds, but instead ended up shrieking with laughter as Justin worked like a pro, showing unabashed enthusiasm and willingness to make fun of himself.
It's so interesting to watch an episode like this one or the Hugh Laurie one where the hosts are able play characters instead of "straight people" and are willing to dress in drag or other silly costumes and let go of celeb self-consciousness, and compare the results with the way the show is when there's a dull host (Matthew Fox or Paris Hilton). I think everything from the skits to weekend update is affected.


*Opening monologue paid tribute to the chipmunks Christmas song... resuscitating a gem.

*Justin dancing it up as a cup-o-soup to the tune of salt-n-pepa "shoop" and "whoop there it is."

*The "!@#$ck in a box" digital short, found here joins the ranks of the Natalie Portman rap and Lazy Sunday as hilarious viral shyte!

*The Barry Gibb Talk Show-- one of my favorite SNL skits ever because of the catchy recurring tune.

*The gay couple from New Joisey returning on Weekend Update.

*Seth Myers: Barack Obama appeared in New Hampshire last week. When he heard about it, President Bush asked "did we catch him?"

Also, JT's new album is so freakin' funky. And he is so awesome. I hate people who hate on him just because he's pop (i.e., the borough of Williamsburg, the staff at Kim's Video, etc...) They don't know to appreciate the real thing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Holocaust Denier Conference is a world class gathering of thugs

And every time I read about this so-called-conference, I can't stop thinking about this scene from Blazing Saddles (apolos for the poor quality):

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Holiday! Celebrate!

We eagerly went to the Nancy Meyer's-directed chick-flick/Ro-Co on opening weekend, to give a hearty "fuck you" to Apocalypto among other reasons. The movie was super-adorable, incredibly romantic and easy on the eye, but the relentless focus on eye-candy couple Cameron Diaz and Jude Law at the expense of Kate Winslet and Jack Black's much more interesting, combustible, believable pair was really disappointing. I think it must have happened in the cutting room, because surely anyone more interested in charisma and freshness than in box-office numbers wouldn't have let the movie be so lopsided.

It's not that the Law/Diaz romance didn't have its charms, because their overly dysfuctional courtship was cute and sweet at moments. But it was a let-down for those of us excited to see Kate in her first contemporary comedy and Jack sporting his more serious side that so much valuable screen time was wasted just watching the two more chiseled, somewhat vapid blondes moon over each other. And both Diaz and Law are so traditionally good-looking and were so impeccably groomed (a characteristic of Nancy Meyers' movies-- does she ever portray shlumpy women who aren't super-neat and put together?) that their romance belongs in fantasyland. The slower, more self-effacing and bumbling characters that Winslet and Black embodied so well were magnetic, interesting, and new. So of course, they were sacrificed. The meta-ironic part of it all is that Eli Wallach's character, an aging screenwriter, rails against the way box office results and money dictate severything in Hollywood these days. So it would seem!

At the risk of repeating myself, the England-America house-swapping/self-finding trope was much better done by Maeve Binchy in the lovely novel Tara Road. It was made into a movie with Andie MacDowell that I now am eager to Netflix for comparison's sake. I imagine I'll find it more genuine. Nonetheless, it bugs me that the critics are always eager to pounce on female directors for pandering to female audiences with pleasurably gift-wrapped romances, yet they're willing to praise a Michael Mann or a Mel Gibson for laying on the gore and guns and even call them auteurs or visionaries. It's amazing how much of our conception of high-taste is still determined by gender stereotypes.

PS. Speaking of gender stereotypes, Rufus Sewell's turn as a cad of the caddiest sort justifies my putting him on my hunkiest actors in period-dramas list. He almost upstages Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones playing the same role-- and Kate Winslet would have made a much better Bridget as well. How about Bridget Jones, the remake, with Sewell, Winslet, and Jack Black-- and not a ditzy blonde in sight?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Imagine all the people...

We miss you, John Lennon...

Went to Strawberry Fields tonight with friends despite the absolutely frigid temperatures... it was so icy and bitter that the crowds were not nearly as copious and chill as in the past. Everyone was in a single, tight circle around the "imagine" mosaic instead of the usual six splinter factions I've seen in the past.
On the other hand, I haven't come out on the 8th since high school, and the marked difference in the police presence (and massive spotlights that gave the bare trees an eerie white glow) also seem to have made a difference in the vibe. Nonetheless, by nine or so, the usual mix of ex-hippies, star-struck high school students, curious Eruropean tourists and assorted freaks were loudly belting out everything from "I Feel Fine" to "I am the Walrus." There was even a spirited rendition of "Mother" off of Plastic Ono Band, and the requisite and appropriate "Give Peace a Chance." The packed bodies and rising voices kept us warm enough to say for ten or so songs, but we lacked the flasks that many were passing around, so we retired to the very un-Lennony Starbucks around the corner for Peppermint Mochas and other holiday drinks. We toasted John's memory. His death was so senseless, his life so rich and interesting, and the legions of fans who braved the icy night to sing his songs is just a small example of the influence he had.
We all shine on.

A Wedding in December

Just finished another Anita Shreve book as a respite from all the weighty prose I've been wading through. People sometimes rag on Shreve because she's a popular writer (As we know, Egalitarian Bookworms pooh-pooh that sort of thing) and easily readable, but I find her books to be a pleasant and absorbing experience. They feel like they're happening to you... you're effortlessly gliding through a new world with its inevitable catastrophes (Shreve loves the haunting presence of sudden, tragic deaths from the past as much as Virginia Woolf loves run-on sentences) and passionate relationships that are often either rebounds from those tragic losses or infidelities with difficult consequences. She handles both these topics with painful, beautiful, understanding.

This book in particular is about a group of high school friends, who lost their most popular and charismatic member in a horrifying accident just before graduation. They come back together after 30 years for the wedding of two of their friends-- one of whom is suffering from cancer. If it sounds thoroughly depressing, Shreve keeps it from being so.
She does a lovely job of giving us sympathy for all the right characters and leaving the perspective of the really obnoxious ones to our own imagination. The New England scenery that her pen loves so much-- particularly that rocky Maine coast, and the deep woods and hills of the snowy Berkshires and White Mountains, is as stark and appropriate a background as ever. A Shreve novel is always a wonderful diversion and a gentle but thorough excursion into heady emotional territory. I just sometimes wish that her novels were even longer and meatier so that I can stay with them for as long a time as possible. concusion, don't hate on Shreve, cause Anita. A-really-nita. And so do you.

What's up with all these "Best of 2006 " lists?

I'm going to start my own best of 2006 list and add to it whenever I please.

Let's begin, shall we?

Best techie invention to take us by storm in '06: The googlification of the world (gmail chat is hot, and now even my blogger is googled!)

Best surprise political announcement in '06: Barack "walking, talking hope-maching" Obama saying he may run for president edges out Donald "Maureen Dowd is obsessed with me and calls me Rummy" Rumsfeld saying bye-bye at long last.

Best Celeb Drama of 'o6: Shiloh Jolie-Pitt kicks Suri's baby butt (but they're both so cute).

Best Hip-shaking singles for your all night booty-rocking needs: A tie between "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira and "My Love" by Justin T. Proof that 100% pure pop music is now more inventive than almost any other genre on the top 40. (Don't worry, indie rock, I haven't forgotten about you.)

Most Tired Celebs Ever: The "princess pack": Paris, Jess, Lindsey, Nicole and the Olsen Twins. Get some intelligence and lose the faux boho duds.

Best Video Spoofing Most Tired Celebs Ever: Pink's "Stupid girls."

and more to come as this "Long December" rolls onward.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cry the Beloved Country

Fellowette has arrived at the decision that it's mad hard to write about reading the two kinds of books she unoriginally reads...1) the kind that are like so famous and renowned and stuff that they're given the title "classics..." and 2) the kind that hella people are buying and consuming so that they're given the name "bestsellers".

Why so difficult, pray tell? Because, duh, everyone's saying stuff about these tomes already. And I'm not that fucking inventive. It was easier back when I was blogging about being a disgruntled New York City Teaching Fellow and just channeling my experience nurturing the troubled youth of this nation into a sometimes less than sane/coherent but eminently write-able narrative.
Nonetheless, onwards I stride.
On the subject of of youths and nations, the latest classic I read, thanks to my NYPL subscription, is Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Patton. It's one of those books that one knows, from its first paragraph onward, is fully intended to be the author's piece de resistance, his/her statement on a major social problem, a sweeping something that will matter. Like Beloved or A Passage to India, such a novel aims to Speak the Truth as well as tell as story. So it's all the more wonderful when a book like this manages to whisk you into a gripping story and endear you to its characters despite the weightiness of its subject, (in this case, the horrible legacy left by imperialism and the breakup of the tribal structure in South Africa.)
Cry is an uplifting tragedy, if the genre exists, and the undercurrent of universal strife that runs steadily through the story doesn't stop us from acquainting ourselves greedily with a new set of customs and cultures, humor and sorrow... and the rhythm of Patton's english is so different from ours it gives us a sense of place immediately.
The book is about an aging tribal pastor, Stephen Kumalo, and his son Absalom (yep, the name is symbolic) and the tragic events that befal them when they leave their village for the big city of Johannesberg. Absalom falls into a life of thugdom, to use a very modern expression, and his father sets out to follow him. Terrible things follow.

The saddest thing about the story is how much it resonates with today's America, which despite having no explicit institutionalized apartheid, has a deadly legacy of exclusion and legally sanctioned discrimination that it refuses to contend with.

Cry was different from other novels of its kind because of its decidedly hopeful tone despite the horrors it chronicles, and the time and credit it gives to several characters from the white ruling class who have altruistic tendencies. Patton's strong attempt to be honest and almost impartial almost makes the overall effect more devastating. Because despite the kindness of the white characters, Patton puts a critique into the mouth of a young student of agriculture: if they hadn't broken things up to begin with, they wouldn't have to mend them.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hurrah! The Times publishes its ten best books of 2006 list...

fairly boring, as always. They omit Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth, and Updike (all of whom make it onto their "100 notable books" list) but include Richard Ford's latest. And they do love Marisha Pessl very very much, which threatens to arouse my dormant catty jealousy. But no! Down girl. I'm sure she's lovely, and very deserving of this praise. Really.

Here's the 10 best list, ladies and Gs.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

cultural consumption diaries, round deux.



Fellow-ette's Dad:

Oy, such naches. I'm kvelling. Yesterday I spent the day in federal appeals court watching my dad argue forecefully for the right to strike during bankruptcy (to put it simply). The three-judge panel was shrewd and tough (a "hot bench" in legalese) but all in all, pops wowed em with a mix of passion and sick legal evidence. Almost made fellowette think about taking the LSATs. almost, but not quite.

For Your Consideration:

More belly laughs than expected in this Chris Guest farce...yes it was less consistent than his previous films, possibly because it was a more biting and less loving kind of satire (it was Hollywood that was being lampooned after all), but if you love a good purim-related joke and watching Guest's amazing usual cast of characters ham it up in their usual riotous and deadpan way, then it's definitely worth your ten bucks and two hours. Critics, stop drinkin' so much Haterade!

Exhibitions a la Metropolitain:

The Vollard exhibit (he was a dealer of late impressionist and early modern art) is something special, room after room of Cezannes, Picassos, Van Goghs, not to mention two of f-ette's favorite artist groups ever, the Nabis (prophets) and Fauves (wild beasts). A huge, overwhelming art-fest.

The Tiffany exhibit is less cerebrally stimulating (thank the Lord) but so very very pretty. Shiny stained glass! Opalescent mosaics! Opulent extravagence. Good stuff.

Studio Shitty on the Sunset Strip:

Not so shitty this week, surprisingly.

Cry, The Beloved Country:

Half-way through it and already crying for the beloved country. The stuff Patton does with the English language is breathtaking-- almost like he's re-inventing it, combining it wth other languages and creating something entirely new. I probably just unintentionally plagiarized that from some critic but oh heck. It's true.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Liveblogging Madonna Concert on NBC: Hour 2.

9:08 Madonna singing "I love New York" with a an electric guitar, strange large feathered collar, and rotating NYC skyline minus twin towers behind her.

9:10 NBC: bleep bleep bleep bleep. Clean up that mouth, Madonna.

9:12 I think she's trying to be Lou Reed.

9:13 camera going in and out of trippy, man.

9:16 Linklater-esque animatesd screen of madonna floats in backround.

9:17 madonna dons "music"-style cowboy hat and kicks some air.

9:18 Don't fall! oh, she's doing that on purpose.

9:19 Madonna shoves hand and face in front of videocam...yeah you and every "hi-mom"ing football player.

9:25 mucinex commerical. so gross.

9: 28 disco inferno?

9:30 "Music"-->dancers doing russian-style dances to "music" and a bevy of hip rollerskaters boogying.
how did she advertise for these people? "must be able to gyrate and groove...while rollerskating expertly...on stage... in front of thousands."

9: 34 Madonna's dressed like a Bee Gee...She's clearly Barry. clearly. The androgynes behind her are Robin and Maurice.

9:34 I'm still contemplating the immortal line; "music makes the bourgeoisie and the rebel." true words, true words.

9:40 white bodysuit. non-white background dancers.

9:42 kama-sutra esque pickup dance move. Madonna: "put your hands all over my body." Dancer:"okay!"

9:45 Madonna shouts: "Allright it's time to put on your dancing shoes." Weird tecnho version of "La Isla Bonita" ensues.

9:47 I think she's actually having fun! Shake it, woman.
Madonna: "Andale, Andale!"

9:50 Chase Bank co-opting yet another Rolling Stones song for commerical. Boo.

9:53 Finale, "Hung Up" preceded by built dudes cannonballing all over the damn place in purple tracksuits.

9:54 Yes! She's wearing the crotch-hugging leotard!!

Crowd chanting "time goes by so slowly!" quicker and quicker. odd and ironic.


Liveblogging Madonna Concert on NBC:

<--What NBC deemed too offensive.

So I'm foregoing making applesauce for tomorrow's feast to watch Madge strut her stuff.
All times approximate:

after the first song, my parents yell up from downstairs, "she sucks!"

8:10 Madonna is riding a mechanical bull and sticking her leg in the air as she sings "Like a Virgin." I'm disappointed that the bull isn't actually bucking.

8:18 Just saw the part where she was being crucified and censored by NBC... they don't show the actual crucifixion part but they do show her in her sexy crown of thorns with the large cross behind her. Dear me, it was soooo much more innocuous than I was led to believe... behind the cross, a counter counting out AIDS orphans with pictures of starving African children... ho-hum, ho-hum rather uncontroversial and somewhat touching! She even quotes from Matthew and endorses several charities while up on her disco-ball torture device.

8:25: There are two half-naked guys with a jewish star and a crescent on their bare chests humping each other with their arms.

8:30 now they're hugging/rabin arafat style.

now they're humping madonna between them,.

this is so deep.


8:50 A woman in a burka is writhing in a cage.
Really writhing. Twirling, in fact.

8:56 "I'm Sorry"--> Madonna is flirting/hugging/kissing carious androgynous ethnically ambiguous young dancers and rocking a leather jacket. This is the first actually good dance song she's sung all night.

8:56 wow she's pointing at her vagina quite overtly and raunchily.

9:00 neon snowy-stuff is falling from ceilling.

9:01. Madge riding someone's back. apparently miming kung fu moves with her velour-clad kickers.

9:02 Camera pans to fans. I'm bored too, cameraman.

9:02 Madonna whips off leather jacket, does a catwalk walk. Flagellates ground viciously with jacket, tosses it aside.

9:03 Bob Fosse-esque dance moves involving old-fashioned cage chair and rotating hips. And all that jazz.

9:05 Madonna sinks into floor.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Cultural Consumption Diaries, Part 1.

The New Bond:

Muscular, hulking, brooding and tortured. Daniel Craig's James Bond is, according to me (despite being a Bond virgin before "Casino Royale"), my brother, and my boyfriend (both experts), the best Bond, like, ever. And there's much to be said about the film itself, from its brutal action sequences to high-stakes poker games, but I'll leave it to the critics. A human, cruel, caustic Bond with depth
and baby blues? Yes, please, I'll take it. Shaken, stirred, like Craig, I don't give a damn.

Ludacris on SNL:

The man's a great comedian (check out his "hype man to the stars" where he punctuates Streisand, Louis Armstrong, and more with signature "yo, at's right!"s and "that ass!"es) but the material's still weak. Come on, staff writers, pull it together!

Manet at MOMA:

So MOMA's started going buck-wild by featuring artiste's who are too pre-modern (or early modern, if you will) to be part of the collection permanente-- started this summer with their Cezanne/Pisarro exhibit and continued with their display of Manet canvasses related to a very political, and very apropos, topic--namely the occupation of a country by a Western regime and its consequences: "The Execution of Maximillian" a puppet governor sent by France to Mexico.
Spun by the permanents afterwards, feasted our eyes on Pablo's dames from Avignon, Kandinsky's expressions, and Mondrian geometry. In the Duchamp room, and older couple was heard exclaiming "WHAT?". It was so da-da.

Movie Trailers

"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix": What can one say but OMG OMG OMG! Pant pant pant huff huff ... squeeeeeaaal!

"The Holiday": Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet seem awfully cute in this. But why isn't there more being written ab
out how this movie's premise is a rip-off of Tara Road, Maeve Binchy's best novel, which takes the whole house-swapping England/America thing to a much deeper level? Still, can't wait to see it. And Jack Black's a romantic lead? swoon. I love it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

There's Good Books... and Then There's Great Books

<----Michelle and Daniel Day: maybe a bit more explicit than Wharton intended, but not by much.

While nosing around my childhood bedroom on Friday I came upon a dog-eared, crumbling copy of Wharton's The Age of Innocence. I thought I might entertain myself for a few minutes by re-re-reading the first few pages, you know, the ones where Newland Archer takes his opera glasses and scans the crowd, first settling satisfactorily upon May, his placid wife-to-be, and then landing with consternation upon a strange woman in a dress with a too-plunging neckline. But once his eyes, and mine, had made contact with the figure of the Countess Olenska I was hooked again, and spent much of the weekend absorbed once again in Wharton's rigid Old New York, her ironic, deceptive descriptions, and the trapped desperation of Newland's love. I also picked up a few sexual references where I hadn't last time (have I really not read this since high school?) including a key discreetly mailed in an envelope, some wild-oat sowing, and other not-so-veiled overtones. I find the sexuality in this story more realistic than the Selden/Lily interplay in the House of Mirth, and have to wonder if Edith Wharton was more, ahem, experienced in the ways of passion when she wrote it.

Regardless, there was something about reading such a great book that put everything else I've read in the last few months-- all the gripping bestsellers and thought-provoking Pulitzer-Prize winners and sensational debuts--in a different light. My rabid consumption of The Age of Innocence tripped by with such intensity, such belief in every word I was reading, such conviction on my part that I was in strong hands, that I kept putting it down and saying "This is a Book." Does that make me not egalitarian after all, and a snob?
Perhaps. But I don't find Wharton a snobby read-- what keeps me moving through the pages is a constant, bubblng sense of passion and rebellion, that although frustratingly thwarted, carried immense emotional momentum. So yeah, I read it for the sex and anger that never materializes, in other words.

So what of Wharton's insistence on an always-tragic, always disappointed ending? I think she reason she always handed the victory to Society and Morality was evidence of self-hatred on her part, a sort of stockholm-syndrome esque identification with the society that condemned her and choked her when she was younger. And somehow, even though every time I read her books and hope for a better ending, I know they wouldn't be the same books if they had them. They would be fantasies, not realities, or they would birth Anna Karenina or Scarlet-Letter-like tragedies of trangression. (Or am I just justifying?)

Ah well... if I want to read a Wharton story with passions acted-upon, I can always read or watch the Buccaneers, whose posthumously-tacked on ending is entirely un-Wharton-esque and utterly delightful. And Scorcese's adaptation of Age is now No. 1 on my Netflix queue. Word.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A theoretical OJ confession. A couple of gay penguins. And one hot faux TV personality.

There's lots of literary scandal afoot, dear readers...

The first is that OJ Simpson, defendant extraordinaire and off-the-deep-end author, is going public with his new book, entitled "If I did it." His publisher and TV interviewer considers it his "confession" but it's all written as "what-if" hypotheticals. What??
Oh, and the station airing the interview (the others were too demure to pick it up)? the one, the only, classy FOX News. Check it out.

Fellow-ette has no comment other than to hold her nose.
Just as scandalous to some is the outrage Illinois parents are venting over a book called "And Tango Makes Three," which is the "true story of two male penguins in New York City's Central Park Zoo that adopted a fertilized egg and raised the chick as their own."
[Awwwwww]. The parents are requesting that children be given special permission to read the book, or it be moved to another section. Double-What???

Sigh. There is nothing more censorious than the "American Parent Teacher Association." Good for the district attorney for staying put in the face of censorship. This reminds me of the scene in Field of Dreams where Kevin Costner's wife calls the book-censoring mother a "Nazi Cow!" and then starts shrieking about how it felt like the 60s again while her husband starts goopily following the voices he hears. Oh, and the parents all vote for freedom of speech. Good times.

And finally, not a literary scandal at all but rather proof that brilliance and wit are definitely bringing sexy back: Ironic hero Stephen Colbert makes it onto People's sexiest man alive list as surprise. Hurrah! The winner? Super-hot super liberal George Clooney. I feel like this kind of caps the democratic victories last week. We're so hot right now.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Crappy weather calls for good art...


The Lake House, with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reaves which so far is the most unabashedly romantic , no-holds-barred love-fest I've seen onscreen in a while. Only halfway through, but I'm ignoring the poor script to be mesmerized by the sweet slowness of the film, and the way its time-travel aspect is quietly subsumed by the overpowering scent of romance. Thanks, Netflix!

The Thirteenth Tale-- just started the campily creepy literature-obsessed novel.

New York Times Critics talking about Flannel Pajamas and Who the !@#$% is Jackson Pollak? two movies I enjoy contemplating but likely shall not see.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness, part 2.

Fellow-ette, amateur nature photographer: Autumn in NY.central park...
Cabrini and Ft. Washington playground

Flower garden entrance to Ft. Tryon Park
the mighty Hudson

the Great Lawn.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Lisey's Story

Boo'ya Moon!

Stephen King has become a personal hero of mine of late. It's not just because he can write, which he can, or because he can connect with bazillions of readers from all walks of life, but because...his writing is so unabashedly emotional, and yes, his insistence on always bringing in the zombies, demons, and ghosties within and without is kind of, well, spiritual. And so many writers are afraid to be spiritual these days.
Americans like authors like King because he makes them laugh, scream, and cry. I certainly did all three while engrossed in Lisey's Story. I laughed at King's absurd uses of language (and have adopted the vaguely kinky phrase "strap it on!" as my own personal mantra of toughness), jumped 40-fucking feet in the air every time the phone rang, and sobbed inconsolably while contemplating the end of the marriage that King describes so poignantly. It was one of the most soul-seizing books I've read in years.

So I already mentioned that Janet Maslin compared this book to the Greatest. Book. Ever, Ulysses ( said slightly ironically). But the Times, almost as fascinated with King as it is with its own bloated significance, isn't done. The cover story of yesterday's Book Review continues the endlessly fascinating discussion: Is Stephen King a bad writer because he's popular? Or is he popular because he's a bad writer? Or is he a good writer who's misunderstood because he's popular? Or wait... can I write about liking King and still seem smart?
To his credit, the author seems to side with the Kingmeister, though he can't resist a few jabs at King's earthly prose. On the whole, a good piece that did its darndest to walk the line between highbrow and appreciative.

Best moments, followed by translation:
"His stuff appealed to people more familiar with Aerosmith than “Arrowsmith,” and the literary gatekeepers didn’t approve."
But I am familiar with both, and I do approve.

A few unfortunate lines remain, for example, “Amanda sounded just as bright as a new-minted penny.” (Cut to [Harold] Bloom, spitting out his morning coffee.) But give him a break: King is a volcano. Let his new admirers play Flaubert to his Hugo.
I'm not as snotty as Harold Bloom, but I can make awesome metaphors about ninetheenth-century French authors.

Boo’ya Moon is “this world turned inside-out like a pocket,” and it’s as real as J. M. Barrie’s Never-Never Land, L. Frank Baum’s Oz or the Grimms’ forest. Like those places, Boo’ya Moon arises from childhood longings for the things not provided by one’s parents or guardians, and it’s as forbidding as it is wonderful.

I speak the truth.

This last analogy is un-mockable because I agree with it ;)
...the book reminded me more of fave children's author Madeleine L'Engle than anyone else, with her almost religious approach to Sci-Fi and horror. Boo'Ya moon, like all other alternate worlds, is about the fulfillment of our desires. And that's what Stephen King does that the darlings of the literary establishment are too self-conscious to do. Fulfill our greedy desires. He takes us to alternate realities, populates the hallways with ghosts, and devours bad guys with monsters in big, breathtaking scenes. King is a literary cinematographer, an unabashed pop-culture fiend, and an all-around awesome dude. And hard as it is for all of us, even Egalitarian Bookworms, to praise him without self-conscious allusions to the Great Books we like to read in our spare time to "big ourselves up" as Ali G would say, we don't need to. This book stands on its own, and so does Lisey. And so does Stephen King.

And Harold Bloom can eat it. Egalitarian Bookworms hate him.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

More Ordinary than Fiction.

Hollywood, What Gives?

Fellow-ette rarely met a movie she didn't like. Mediocre romantic comedies, cheesy action movies, high-budget horror-flops have all pleased in the past. So why is this season's crop so full of crap? Marie Antoinette, The Prestige and now, Stranger than Fiction have all been yawn-inducing let-downs. The only saving grace? Borat. It only moviefilm I like.

But let's begin at the beginning. In a Saturday afternoon stupor, my sig other and I got tix for the new Will Ferrell high-concept comedy in an effort to liven ourselves up. Sure, the previews were dubious, but reviews have been decent, and the supporting cast (Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman and Queen Latifah) is strong. Plus, it's a supposedly light-hearded, very meta- meditation on fiction, which, for unpretentious lit critics, sounded like a perfect outing.

Would that it were so. The film was little more than a well-acted pack of cliches. I came out complaining that there were no character arcs; my boyfriend responded that there were no real characters. Ferrell's character, the IRS agent Harold Crick, started out as a number-obsessed, boring, lonely guy; a sketchily-drawn alienated modern man. He end up a sweet, romantically fulfilled, sketchily drawn alienated modern man. How does Harold really change, besides being happy? Not quite sure. He doesn't brush his teeth as much, for one. And he eats cookies, for another. This combination probably means that he gets cavities.

For a primer on how to do "curmudgeon-turned- sweetheart-thanks-to-
unexplained-supernatural-phemenon", see Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, c. 1995 (The Billster is clearly an inspiration to Ferrell). Not that leading man Ferrell didn't try very hard to be restrained and quirkily soulful; but he was given too little to work with. The minimalist office buildings, empty apartments, and deserted docksides that the camera lingers on oh-so-significantly are meant to signal his empty life; they end up signaling an empty script. It's all conceit, no flesh.

Thompson, Latifah and Hoffman ham it up brilliantly, but they can't overcome the movie's handicap. And Maggie Gyllenhal's Ana, gorgeous though she is, says three interesting lines at the begining and then melts like the gooey cookies she bakes, falling for Crick and turning so irritatingly cutesy and besotted that her badass tatooes suddenly seem out of place--in fact several more ruffles would suit her more. Yes, we understand why she stops hating Harold, who she met when he started auditing her, but why she falls for him is inexplicable. Who are either of these canoodling lovers, exactly? Not sure. The actors aren't even given enough meat to turn their characters into your basic, likeable ro-co leads.

Come closing credits, I felt neither edified on the nature of fiction or the nature of love. But the film's endless meditation on death did make me more scared than I already am of the perilous pitfalls that lurk in urban life-- if the movie wanted to be dark a la Adaptation, it should have just gone there.

I agree, Harold. It sucks when cute girls don't pay attention to you.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

RUMSFELD TO RESIGN--Dems win Montana!

Breaking news! Breaking news! Breaking news! Breaking news! A TRUE-BLUE day for bleeding heart liberals.

So this is far from literary or cultural, but it sure as hell is important, I mean it's totally as big news as Britney's divorce....check out the updates on the top of the and websites. And read the AP piece.

Add that to our takeover of congress and potentially the senate, and this is the first great day for our nation since, well...uhh...uhhhh... the, umm, Clintons? Or something?

It's been a long time, folks. Relish it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Britney and Kevin hit tha rocks, y'all...

The Spears/Federline liason, subject to such great scrutiny, and subject of so much heartwrenching pop and bad rap music, is finis. It's up on, folks, and it's officially the saddest, saddest day, like, ever, for fans of America's everycouple.

On another quasi-feminist note, I hate the media's constant focus on Brit's body and shlumpiness. She's a manufactured pop star, worked to death from a young age, who at last decided to live her life and relax and stop working so damn hard...and the public was outraged. Personally, I loved the cheeseburgers, the hoodies, the ratty hair. Sure she could have chosen a less thuggish husband, but if going for bad boys is an indication of a serious problem... I leave that thought unfinished.

So yes, I'm glad Brit's a free woman, I look forward to more bad Federline rap songs, and I hope that Britney takes life by the reins and works on her happiness as much as, and preferably more than, she works on her abs. But in our society, fat chance.

Another Literary Joke...

What did the bartender say to Charles Dickens when he walked in and ordered a Martini?


"olive or twist?"

Friday, November 03, 2006


Just saw a raucous. packed-to-the hilt stadium-seating show of Borat: cultural learnings etc etc at the Village East. I haven't seen an audience that excited since the last installments of the LOTR or Star Wars series. There was even a guy in full-on Borat regalia, moustache included, waiting on line. The result of this amped-up crowd, was this; my boyfriend and I always"Boo" extremely loudly at Mel Gibson's name on the screen when there's an "Apocalypto" preview (which there ALWAYS is, isn't there?). We often get a few laughs, sometimes we get stunned silence. This time we got hoots, cheers, and a rousing chorus of more "boos." An entire theater boing Mel Gibson. It was beautiful. Also, how idiotic does one have to do to show a preview for a Mel Gibson film before Borat? The juxtaposition of anti-semites, real and fake, is a bit too uncomfortable to ignore.

Anyway, there's not a lot to say about this laugh-til-you-vomit movie that hasn't been said in glowing terms by the bigwig critics. I'd really like to see it again, just because every moment is so precisely choreographed and symbolic that the immediate belly-laugh humor sometimes underscores the poignant and disturbing points being made. Cases in point: the evangelical Christians pass a sleeping Borat, apparently homeless, without so much as a nod on their way into church, but are all too eager to save his soul once he comes inside; the southern aristocrats will tolerate even the, literally, ULTIMATE breech of table manners--I'll leave more specific details out--but not the entrance of a black prositute as Borat's "friend."
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant work, Sacha Baron Cohen. I can't wait to see it again.
Bottom line: Go see this movie. And pssst.. pass it on: Jeer as loudly as you can when you see Mel Gibson's name flashed onscreen during those tiresome Apocalypto previews.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

And They All Lived Happily Ever After!

At long last, 840-odd pages of Victorian prose later, my reading of Trollope's The Way We Live Now is complete. I'll even be able to return it to the library on time, though slightly worse for wear.
As Victorian novels go, it's not one of my favorites, for the reason that none of the characters really pulled me in emotionally. Trollope was too good at delineating their faults. I cared enough to be glad when I saw some of the main characters settled happily (though not all of them received a good fate) as one always is at the end of a great, long journey at the hands of a 19th century author.

For all my joking about the anti-semitic comments in the book, Trollope's relentless stereotpying of the Jews and Americans--whose importance as movers and shakers compared to the staid, effete, landowning gentry was one of the books main themes--was always my focus while reading. He painted a vivid , engaging picture of the "Wild Cat" American widow(?) Mrs. Hurtle, and the kind, honest and "good-humored" Jewish banker Mr. Breghert, but he refused to give them any satisfaction plot-wise, and ultimately cast them back out of the society they charged into so energetically. Whether this was a brilliant exposition of the prejudices and narrowness of Trollope's lollygagging set of British aristocracy, or his own imability to imagine the "races" intermingling to such an extent, I can't quite decide.

The book's villains--from the pompous, magnetic swindler Melmotte, to the diffident and worthless group of young aristocrats headed by Sir Felix Carbury and Dolly Longstaffe--were hilariously drawn. The heroes and heroines were self-righteous and virtuous, but less angelically rendered than, say, David Copperfield's Agnes. Trollope showed them in their irrelevant straight-and-narrowness, which was appreciated (Although Copperfield was a much more enthralling, heart-wrenching read).

Anyway, on to Lisey's Story and this month's issue of Jane, and I bid farewell to the world of Westminster politics, gentleman's clubs, family manors, entailments, and marriages-of-fortune. But of course I'll be back; one can't say away from 19th century Britain for long.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Madonna: The Dateline Interview With Meredith Viera

Rant of the Day.

Just turned off the tube. Fellow-ette thought that this latest round Madonna's "adoption tour" was an absolutely catty, nasty, idiotic interview under the guise of hard-hitting "journalism." How is it good journalism to literally be the voice of the status quo, criticizing celebrtities because it's du jour to criticize them, instead of coming up with your own acutally interesting questions? If Viera's supposed to be tops at what she does, why is she just re-phrasing claims printed in tabloids as though they're insightful?

The worst part, by far was when she chided Madge for making too many statements over the course of her career--- and NOT SPENDING ENOUGH TIME WITH HER CHILDREN! Eeek! Where are Viera's children when she's making the dough trashing celebrities on her faux-news shows? Sitting, hidden, on mamas's lap?
It was such a profoundly conservative moment, and the fact that it was one woman criticizing another rankled the feminist in me considerably. It felt like 1952, with a dose of hypocrisy thrown in for good measure.

Then there was the host's chastisement of Madonna for letting her new child wear a Kabbalah bracelet (what if poor David wants to grow up Christian?), for crucifying herself onstage and offending the Vatican (Hello, her name is Madonna, I think she stopped caring about pissing off the Vatican a looong time ago.) It was a whole night of winners.

The interview as done was a waste of airtime... but could we expect less from anyone save Colbert or Stewart? Yes, Madonna has a saint complex, yes she's a tad affected, but yes, she's also done a fucking great job of entertaining, provoking, and inspiring us for a long time now, and she's never been afraid to say what's on her mind, be herself proudly, make an ass of herself, and brush herself off. The chanteuse has consistently refused to conform, and she's grown up and matured visibly, which makes her almost a role model. In a lot of ways, she's no different from a figure like John Lennon, who did and said plenty of frivolous or foolish things along with wise ones... but like Madonna, never denied that he was only human (that was the fans).

Madge, I love you. Meredith, you're dead to me. Barbara Walters, you'll never be.

And finally, on the trend of celebrities caring about Africa that has some people rankled: Since our world's wealthy governments don't seem to care enough, and are letting people die by the hundreds and hundreds of thousands, the fact that sheltered celebrities are spending so much time and resources on the continent that's troubled as a result of Western Imperialism can only be a good thing... right?

Aragorn, Son of Arathorn (AKA Strider, AKA Elessar) Owns a Publishing House?

"You said that you would give yourself to me, forsaking the eternal life of your people... Arwen!"

A Elbereth! Today the Times's Maslin (EB chick looves her articles) writes a charming feature about the bizarre indie sensibilites of Viggo Mortensen, who runs a tiny publishing house called Perceval Press. Perceval publishes photo essays, Spanish language textbooks, and fiction reimagined, all shot through with hip subversive revolutionary sentiment. Many of them are even books by Viggo himself.

A tidibit of yummy prose:
“I Forget You for Ever” is another of Mr. Mortensen’s eerily abstract photo essays, with haunting images that are titled in cryptic, oblique fashion. One street scene, “Arieto,” is named for the barely visible label glimpsed on a broken record. Less subtly named are pictures of foreign cities entitled “Bomb This,” intended as a form of deterrent.

The Return of the King, Indeed.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy All Saint's Day....

Happy Halloween! I've always loved Halloween because of the camp, the costumes, the creepiness, the CANDY!... it's my favorite pagan-inspired holiday, by far. My home-made costume consists of one part black turtleneck, one part faux-leather jacket, beret, sunglasses, nude lipstick and 'do. Not one penny spent. Not one shred of originality either. But hey, you can't have it all, can you?

Halloween is a great day for Egalitarian Bookworms around the globe, because it celebrates that ever-popular genre, the Gothic, which combines high and low exquisitely. From the Anne Radcliffe/Matthew Lewis days in the shock-ready eighteenth-century, through the "Sensation" novel of the Victorian Era, to American gothic weirdness with Wiliam Faulkner and Flan O' Stephen King and slasher films today, creepy art moves us in droves...
It moves us to snuggle under the covers, turn on the lights, and palpably shiver. Goth acts upon our physical selves, as any good Lit professor will tell you, and it moves us to purchase, purchase, purchase, as any teacher of teens will also say... evidenced when a new blood-and-gore fest hits the screen and every single under 18-year old in the country immediately buys a ticket.
So reader, treat thyself, and go buy a big, creepy, Gothic novel... any will do. Just don't turn out the lights.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Prestige

Twists, Turns...and Teases.

Just came out of a Sunday afternoon viewing of Chistopher Nolan's film The Prestige, which as another blogger brilliantly pointed out, has as much resemblance to "Itchy and Scratchy" as anything else. So much nastly violence, bumps, and bruises.

While some of the symbolism and foreshadowing reached Memento-like awesomeness, and the movie's meditation on obsession was well-understood and carried out, I was disappointed with the "Prestige" (or the "reveal" or the "twist" or the whatever)-- because as a very wise co-viewer of mine pointed out, it added little to our understanding of what came before. And between the two of us, we'd guessed everything well over an hour pre-conclusion.

Yes, watching the film for a second time would add some "aww shucks" and "so that's how they did its," but the the nastiness would remain puzzling and frustrating. Plus, (SPOILER) the filmmakers utilize an irritating combination of "real" magic/science and simple duping... I would have liked them to choose one or the other so that instead of a bevy of distractions, we had some more of the character development and insight that's there on the surface, but ultimately just a tease.

And as everyone and their mamas have pointed out, the women are just a bunch of props and distractions... maybe it's a metaphor for magicians' comely assistants serving as foils, but after Nolan's flimsy treatment of Katie Holmes in Batman Begins (a great film) and the downright nasty portrayal of women in Memento, his repertoire is beginning to spell m-i-s-o-g... you know.

That having been said, there were some spellbinding shots in the movie, most of which took place in Colorado Springs in and around a Shining-Esque hotel, and made me more interested in hiking, skiing, and view-gazing than magic tricks.

David Bowie and Andy Serkis as a scientist and his assistant added an excellent touch, as did a cast of birds and cats, and I thought both Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman brooded beautifully, while Scarlett Johanssen pouted as best she could in her miniscule role (she's beginning to get on my nerves though, I must admit.) Also, Michael Caine is just groovy, as always.

(Illusionist spoiler alert)
In sum, if there were a battle of one-upsmanship between the heavy, clinking Prestige and ghostly tableau of the Illusionist, the Illusionist triumphs because it plays the same game with a much a gentler hand, and makes us believe in a different kind of magic; that justice and love are achievable. And isn't that what movies are all about?

Hugh Laurie hosts SNL and classes up the joint.. while Borat does the opposite.

Live from New York, home of the JEW, it's Saturday night! -Borat

At long last, an SNL with an edge of cleverness, thanks to wonderful, brilliant, "droll" Hugh Laurie, also known as House on House, and Mr. Palmer in Sense and Sensibility.

The show's usual drivelly crap was undercut both by Laurie's effete charm and the cold opening monologue from self-promoting Borat, who made so many crude sexual references in three minutes, I hope the NBC executives peed their pants.

Laurie was charming in his monologue, and as another blogger pointed out, he actually didn't say "We have a great show tonight!" before introducing Beck, and (aww) he called the audience "sweetcheeks". He also one-upped the SNL cast in the accent department, showing off American, Irish, and Oxbridge British with an ease that trumped all their bluster.

Best moments of the night:

*Borat imitating the Wayne's World "Schwing!" during the opening scene.

*A very apropos "Funhouse" which actually mauled Republican scare tactics
*Laurie, while acting as the Queen's advance man, dropping his glasses and saying "don't worry, they're only an affectation" and being so pleased with himself that he almost broke character.

*Musical guest Beck's puppets/dinner table percussion shenanigans

*Howard Dean challenging Ken Mehlman to a fight on Hardball.

*The very old-school Dracula vs. Frankenstein sketch towards the end... seemed like something Chase and Martin might do. Surprisingly literate/narrative-driven.

*Hugh Laurie's AMAZING AMAZING protest song in which the chorus of "all we have to do is..." was always followed with garble. It was REALLY REALLY subtle and literate for Saturday Night Live... and whilst perhaps intended merely as a parody of protest songs, I felt it to be a commentary on the horrible state of current events and the seeming futility of doing anything about it. Sorkin would love to have something like this on his fictional Studio Shitty.

*Borat miming oral sex on Laurie during closing credits... cut to commercial! quick!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Trollope on Jews, Round 2

p. 459, Mr. Melmotte:

"This last article vexed Mr. Melmotte, and he proposed to his friends to send a letter to the "Breakfst Table" asserting that he adhered to the Protestant faith of his ancestors. But, as it was suspected by many, and was now being whispered to the world at large, that Melmotte had been born a Jew, this assurance would perhaps have been too strong."

Aha. The suspicion I've had all along that the story's chief villain, like his wife, is one of the "tribe" has at last been confirmed. Good good! Wouldn't have expected anything less from old Anthony T.

p.475, the LAWYER, Mr. Squercum, a "mean-looking man": "He seldom or never came to his office on a Saturday, and many among his enemies said that he was a Jew. What evil will not a rival say to stoop the flow of grist to the mill of the hated one?"

What evil indeed? O Tempora, O Mores! What times are these, that we may hurl slander upon our enemies by labelling them JEW whenever we please?

Literary Ponderings, Sexual "Deviance" Edition...

Marriage for One, Marriage for All!

Fellow-ette is so, so, sick of the gay marriage "controversy" being one. It's a travesty that people live among us without the basic rights we all take for granted and our voices aren't raised louder in protest. When a court decides it can't deny those rights (good!), and our society then raises a giant hullaballoo (bad!), I want to throw my shoes at the newscasters who blab and blab about it--even harder than I frequently throw them at the principal characters in Studio Shitty on the Sunset Strip.
But don't worry, a crew of asinine Democrats will doutless get up on their podiums in two-thousand-fucking eight and say "I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman" while obviously swallowing their tongues.
And as for their we need any more proof that Republicans are, basically, evil?

Lady Chatterly Takes an Amoureaux
The French have made their own version of Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover.... a novel which was at first controversial because of its expcicit material, then later because many find it boring and stilted. But the movie doesn't seek its thrills through explicit sex, but rather to capture the essence of Lawrence's material, whatever that was.

Filmmaker Pascale Ferran, (incidentally, a woman, and very much acclaimed) tells the Herald Tribune: "I felt joyous while making this film. But I also think that, as Lawrence said, ours is a tragic age, and that death - tragedy - is never far away, which is why we should love life. 'Lady Chatterley' is a declaration of joy."

Sounds good to me, as long as there's a little bodice-ripping. As for Lawrence's novels, the only one I've ever ventured is Sons and Lovers, which was so creepily Freudian and intense that the then 16-year old Fellow-ette decided to move on to greener pastures. I think Lady Chat is going to have to go back on my list, though, so I can try to catch this film when it comes stateside.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Close-bosomed friend of the maturing sun....

A picture which I did NOT take, alas.

So, readers fair, despite the strong nip in the air and our resultant urges to hibernate, Autumn in all its mists and mellow fruitfulness... has yet to sweep in and "blessent mon couer/D'une langueur/Monotone",'s actually not here yet. I ventured out yesterday with my film-loaded camera to capture some beauty across the Hudson on the Palisades. But aside from one yellow tree in Ft. Tryon park, everything was still just "this side" of green ... and Central Park is as verdant as can be. Apparently, further north, the foliage is spectacular, so one can only hope that soon enough the man-made pockets of natural wealth here in NYC will burst aflame as they lose their chlorophyll. And I will be there to capture it with the nice camera mom and pops got me for my high school graduation (many years ago), which I used to capture spring on my former stomping grounds.

Trollope Follow-up

On another note, I'm lingering around page 400 of The Way We Live Now. It's slow going. I really want to be over and done with it so I can read Lisey's Story this weekend and move on to something new next week, but I'm not even half-way through yet. Yes, 800-page ninetheenth-century tomes take a while. But the problem (and the genius) of Trollope is his social analysis is so sharp and cutting that there's no one I really identify with in the story enough for me to be invested thoroughly in its outcome. Unlike Eliot and Austen, who expose their characters' flaws and still render them endearing, Trollope reveals a society where the good people are weak and boring, the evil ones diffident and rude---and everyone is clearly about to lose all their money, the prospect of which affords the book's greatest pleasure! Anyway, one must keep on keepin' on... there's surely some intrigue ahead.

And for Fun....
gawk at these appalling magazine covers. Pretty horrendous.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Another Literary Joke, courtesy of SWVL

What do you get when you put Emile Zola in a whirlpool hot tub?

a j'accusi.

Egalitarian Bookworm (Chick?)'s abbreviated "MUST" List:

In tribute to a certain EW writer who does the real MUST list.

MUST TV show that's already gotten canned: Kidnapped (not Studio 60)... for the tight script, fantastic acting, and noir-ish feel.

MUST New album with freaky and allusion-packed video accompaniment:...Sean Lennon's "Friendly Fire"... check out samples etc. on his myspace page (and notice who he thanks under infuences... mom and dad!)

MUST presidential candidate: Barack Obama (no relation to Barak Obonga, as the fwavlosphere named our homemade water-pipe way back when in our college youth, har har har.)

MUST Dylan parody: Weird Al of "White and Nerdy" fame playing the palindrome game with Subterranean Homesick-Blues Style cards. He's really got his finger of the Bard from Hibbing's unique lyrical stylings. Note the fake Allen Ginsburg in the background...Talk about your literary references!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Breaking news...Janet Maslin compares Stephen King to James Joyce!

That's why we love the Maslinator. It's a great day in egalitarian bookworm (chick?)-land.

Read it and weep with tears of righteousness: Her Story of Him, Both Tender and Terrible.

Choice Tidbits:

"...Mr. King has delivered his version of Joycean wordplay, idiosyncrasy, voluptuousness and stubborn, obsessive chronology in “Lisey’s Story."

"...this book is haunting even by Mr. King’s standards. And he knows a thing or two about haunting."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Harry Potter Lives!

And so does his invisibility cloak.

Real article here.

Why the (Chick?)

Many moons ago, when I was searching for a name for my as-yet-unborn blog, I noticed that a lot of blogs in the book-o-sphere and many other o-spheres in general, ended with the word chick or chicks. In a fit of ironic humor, I appended said moniker (reminiscent of greasers and shake shops and misogyny) to the end of my blog's name, but with a question mark and parentheses to indicate my ambivalence.

And thus I typed it in: alea iacta est, said I and I became a (chick?)

Sunday Brunch and French royalty.

Just had Sunday brunch at Bleu evolution, the Washington Heights staple whose decor, according to Zagat's, is somewhere in between bordello and Mad-Hatter tea party-- as this picture only begins to demonstrate (and for the lushes amongst, us, prix fixe brunch avec coffee, OJ AND bloody mary or mimosa is only 12.95). The staff had amped up the decor times ten by hanging cobwebs and skeletons from every protruding object--of which there are many. Creepy and delightful--and the blueberry pancakes were yum.

It was the perfect setting for a literaryish discussion of last night's film adventure--Marie Antoinette at the Village East. Halfway through the movie, I turned to my companion in glee and said "I love this movie!" It had everything a romantic feminist could want, from gorgeous tableus to an expose of the patriarchal and bizarre court customs (Marie is essentially sold, after all, to France, for the sake of an alliance). We see the pressure their society puts on the Dauphine and Dauphin, who are as we know a very young teenage couple, to produce an heir-- and we realize that they don't really understand the mechanics of sex. We see maneuvering by and snubbing of the King's flamboyant mistress, who is cast away when he's on his deathbed, lest his last confession be negated by her presence. We see an endless set of tired, stilted rituals that at first cow Marie, and she soon learns to manipulate to her own advantage. It's a fucked up, fucked up world, and the approach of the revolution beats like a steady drumbeat only in our consciousness-- but it's there because we can't not think of it. So far, so good, Sofia Copola.

But after Marie becomes queen and Louis (Jason Schawtzman, who redeems the entire movie with his performance) finally figures out how to fit his key into Marie's lock, something goes terribly awry. The movie lapses into a series of montages of Marie popping champagne, lying, half-hungover on various settees and carpets, squealing with delight over more and more diverting and costly amusements, and swooning over a Count who literally does not speak at all during their affair. While Copola makes a half-hearted attempt to symbolize the oncoming revolution, it feels tacked on and empty. We're bored and frustrated with the camera's endless lingering on Kirsten Dunst's pretty, but not THAT exciting, mug. By the end, I wanted her to head to the guillotine out of sheer frustration with not only her shallowness, but the shallowness of her portrayal.

All the relevant commentary that could be made--about decadence, emptiness, social manipulation, the gap between rich and poor, the relationship between Marie and Louis, and the place of women at court-- suddenly devolved into a ode to pretty things. It was such a disappointing ending after the quick, clever and promising start. But the movie is definitely worth seeing because of the gorgeous costumes, the fun music, and the shots of Versailles ,which make a prettier picture the ole' gilded cage actually is these days (or at least what one can see of it behind the mob of tourists and schoolgroups and money being sucked away from them for lackluster tours).

Vive la Revolution!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Best NY Times Lede Ever...

Check out this widely-circulating story about Halloween costumes. Opens so many discussions about gender roles, self-exploitation, and whatnot, but read Stephanie Rosenbloom's words for yourselves...oh and one of the revealing photos even has a "post-post feminist?" caption...adorable.

"IN her thigh-highs and ruby miniskirt, Little Red Riding Hood does not appear to be en route to her grandmother’s house. And Goldilocks, in a snug bodice and platform heels, gives the impression she has been sleeping in everyone’s bed. "

I get it! It's really an Anne-Sexton or Angela Carter-esque inversion of the fairy tale tradition in this awesome pro-female way. Wow, go you, New York Times.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Social Etiquette Advice from A. Trollope

From p. 141 of The Way We Live Now.

"He stood for a while on the bridge watching his cousin as he cantered away upon the road...The young man was offensive in every possible way. Who does not know that ladies only are allowed to canter their friends' horses upon roads? A gentleman trots his horse, and his friend's horse."

For Heaven's sake young men, do not canter your friend's horse upon the road!

And the (still dishy) Runners-Up are:

Julian Sands as the "beauty!" and "joy!" loving George Emerson who rocks Helena Bonham Carter's world in A Room With a View (plus, there's more cornfield kissing).

Alan Rickman,
as the staid Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (remember how he paces back and forth when Marianne is sick and says: "Give me something to do or I shall go mad!"?)
Hugh Grant as the annoyingly weak-tempered but very sweet Edward Ferrars in the same.

Rufus Sewell, now known as the crazy would-be emperor in The Illusionist, for his stunning, stunning Will Ladislaw (my favorite literary hero ever, even more than Darcy) in the Masterpiece Theater production of Eliot's Middlemarch.

Eric Stolz as an effete, overwhelmed but passionate Lawrence Selden in Terrence Davies' under-appreciated adaptation of Wharton's The House of Mirth.
And the razzie goes to:
Jonathan Rhys-Myers, a personal favorite, for his miserably churlish and bratty George Osborne in Mira Nair's frustrating but excellent production of Thackeray's Vanity Fair.

Period Drama Eye-Candy, Round 2

Who steals our hearts in the big or small screen dramatizations of Wharton, Austen, Bronte and Bronte, James, Forster, Eliot, and more? Part 2.

#6-Daniel Day-Lewis

Makes the list for his embodiment of the early-modern romantic hero in the Age of Innocence. As in, he plays that epitome of wealthy indecision, the New York son of fortune Newland Archer--who is caught between Winona Ryder's sweet intended fiancee and Michelle Pfeiffer's sensual countless Olenska. From the first scene in Scorcese's underrated film where Day-Lewis puts the opera glasses on and sees Pfeiffer across the massive opera house, to the final scene with leaves falling in a wistful shot of Paris, he's melencholy and pondering and yes, we realize, the Victorian era is long gone. In A Room With a View, Day-Lewis plays the safe fiancee himself, Cecil Vyse, unable to understand why Helena Bonham carter has a thing for Julian Sands' George Emerson (and more on him, later).

#7--Timothy DaltonWe're bonded to this rather gruff and severe actor because he's gone where no one, not even Sir Lawrence himself has gone. To the moors...twice. To play Bronte anti-heroes Rochester and Heathcliff. His Heathcliff was particularly brutish, growling, and, well... dirty. And that's why he deserves a spot.

#8-Anthony Hopkins
What? Anthony Hopkins? Think about it. He lights up Merchant Ivory productions, and is equally at home on a manor lawn as he is feasting on brains. Obviously, he particularly dazzles in the tear-jerking, understated butler role that's one of the best roles in literature or film... like, ever ever ever...The Remains of the Day opposite Emma Thompson. And he does Forster proud as the less-than-honest Wilcox hubby in Howard's End opposite....Emma Thompson. Plus, he also plays this really erudite guy named Hannibal.

#9-Samuel West
Who the heck is he? Only the unprecedentedly dishy Austen anti-hero Mr. Elliot, so beautiful, so charming, that when he looks up at his cousin Anne on the beach and doffs his hat, staring wide-eyed at her reborn beauty, everyone knows that he's about to become a player for her heart. West also plays Helena Bonham-Carter's ill-fated working class love interest Leonard Bast in Howard's End. And anyone who has an affair with B-Carter while she's in Corsets is, like, seriously Major.

#10-Matthew MacFayden
I wasn't going to put him on this list, because of my general opposition to the liberties the new "Love Actually... And Pride and Prejudice" Kiera Knightley -heaving-bosoms-in-the-mist film version takes with Austen's text (I don't have the same problem with Ang Lee's equally rapacious S&S, but I'll explain that another time). But MacFayden is damn good, kind of mixing sneering and sniffing with a bit of adorable lip-trembling. And I hear he plays Sir Felix in the Masterpiece Theater Mini-series of the Way We Live Now, which I'm currently reading, so that's why he's grudgingly up here.

Runners up will be announced tomorrow. Still haven't forgotten Will Ladislaw.