C. S. Lewis once wrote that "you must not believe all that authors tell you about how they wrote their books" ("It All Began with a Picture" in Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories). Had Kaminski applied the same principle to directors and the films they create, he could have covered his "secret history" of the first six Star Wars films in about 1/3 of the pages.
To give props where they are due, Kaminski clearly did his homework. His citations are copious, and he clearly spent a lot of time working through the various sources to which he had access in an attempt to create a narrative surrounding the development of the Star Wars franchise. From commonly known sources, such as J.W. Rinzler's The Making of Star Wars and Dale Pollock's Skywalking, to much more esoteric fare such as long-forgotten interviews and even commentaries from the laserdisc, Kaminski has sifted through a lot of material to make his case.
Which is a big part of the problem. Kaminski's overall goal with this book is to show that George Lucas did not have the complete Star Wars saga written out before he created the original film, as the director sometimes claimed, both publicly and privately. To achieve this goal, Kaminski takes the approach of gathering everything he can find, tacking it up on a wall like an erstwhile detective trying to find a serial killer even though he's been kicked off the force, and then gesturing madly to anyone who happens to stumble upon his obsession while yelling, "See!? SEE!?!"
Yes. I see. But so what?
As Kaminski shows, Star Wars has been retconned over and over, so why should it be surprising that Lucas retconned the story of its creation as well? Furthermore, why does that matter? The story of the Star Wars saga's creation is interesting, but the story of its creator's beliefs about that creation is less interesting. Kaminski tries to do double duty by showing the "real" history of how Star Wars is created, and then proving that it differs from some (but not all) of Lucas's statements about that story. In attempting to serve two masters, Kaminski's work becomes less convincing, not the less so because in some parts of the book he seems to forget one or the other purpose altogether. Had he simply stuck to a sort of biography of Star Wars rather than trying to convince readers that George Lucas is a liar he would have produced a much better (and shorter) book. Heck, he could have even relegated the liar argument to an appendix – Bendu knows there's enough of them – and still come out better for it.
In addition to the argumentative problems of the book, it is rife with technical errors:
- Missing punctuation
- two types of notes (footnotes and endnotes) with no noticeable distinction between their use
- Date formatting – e.g., the use of "of" when citing a month and year, frequent (but inconsistent) use of ordinals on days, occasionally abbreviated years ('74 instead of 1974)
- Grocer's apostrophes
- Dangling modifiers – e.g., p. 78: "Like the film’s connection to Joseph Campbell, it was one trumpeted by the intelligentsia after the film became popular in an attempt to explain the success through more scholarly influence." – the "it" refers to the claim that the concept of “the Force” was derived from the ideas of Carlos Castaneda (outlined on the previous page)
- Awkward phrasings – e.g., p. 91 "Luke has self-trained himself"
-- He uses "mis-en-scene" instead of "mise-en-scène" every-freakin'-time!
-- On p. 380 he uses "Aura Sing" and "Aurra Sing" in the same sentence!
-- He refers to the "Clone War" (no "s") animated series
- A poorly generated index that clearly used a simple search of the text – for example, the index entry for E.E. Smith does not include references on pp. 59, 84, etc. because they use different forms of his name.
In addition, there are plenty of instances where Kaminski simply exhibits poor writing habits. For example, there are about 50 "most important moments" in the various Star Wars movies. Likewise, nearly every science fiction author he cites as an influence on Lucas is "one of the most important" in all of science fiction history. Kaminski apparently misunderstands what a superlative actually is, and it quickly becomes difficult to understand what he believes are truly seminal moments, influences, etc. on the Star Wars films, and what are merely notable. He seems unable to realize that things can be influential without overstating their importance.
My biggest gripe with Kaminski's work, however, is that even as he makes his argument about Lucas's inconsistent portrayal of the development of the Star Wars films, he fails to see how Lucas himself offers an explanation for that very inconsistency. As a film student, Lucas started out making abstract films, focusing on images rather than dialogue (which he has long been criticized as a weak point of his) or even story. As in C. S. Lewis's "It All Began with a Picture," so it was with Lucas – and for Lucas, it never stopped being about the picture. As the picture shifted from one film to three films to six, and at times potentially more, so did his description of it. Yes, the things Lucas said about how many scripts he had written or how many pages he had drafted were false in a number of cases. But none of that was ever the point for him. It was always about the process, the stitching together of images and the final products – if he didn't have it all written down ahead of time, who cares?
Anyway, as I said above, Kaminski should be given credit for the extent of his research. The book is repetitive and too long by half (or more), but it is nonetheless something that any serious Star Wars scholar should tackle at some point. If nothing else, the bibliography at the end is a good place to check for sources you might not have known about before....more
Being a fan of Joss Whedon, it's no surprise that I liked this book. Pascale does a great job of describing the situations, development and impact ofBeing a fan of Joss Whedon, it's no surprise that I liked this book. Pascale does a great job of describing the situations, development and impact of Joss Whedon's work — not just the stuff he has become famous for, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Avengers, but also things that are little known, such as his 1990s script doctoring work, or things that never came fully to fruition, such as his film Goners. Perhaps the most successful aspect of the way Pascale weaves Whedon's story is in showing how engaged and prolific he is. Although the chapters are split into somewhat discrete project-based units presented in chronological order, there is still a great sense of overlap, and messiness, to the order in which Joss took on those projects. For example, I never realized before that Nathan Fillion's appearance on Buffy and Gina Torres' and Adam Baldwin's appearances on Angel all occurred afterFirefly was canceled.
If there's one significant criticism I have, it's that I wish there were more information about Whedon's movie In Your Eyes, which was released released in April this year as a digital-only rental. There are four references to the film throughout the book, which give minimal information about the film as it was produced by Bellwether Pictures (Joss and Kai Cole's production company, which also produced Much Ado About Nothing) and released online. Joss has stated that the film came "from an old script" he wrote, and the film's female lead, Zoe Kazan, has dated that script in or around 1992—the same year that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie came out. I can understand why Pascale wouldn't be able to write about the movie's impact (or lack thereof) upon its release, but even a sentence or two about the initial writing of the script in the early '90s would have been a nice bit of detail, and certainly such detail would be germane given the references to a number of other scripts which never were produced.
All in all, however, this biography will definitely appeal to anyone who has enjoyed Whedon's work, and likely to many who have not enjoyed his work, but who are interested in artistic process.
Incredible story. I read this after seeing the movie, and I'm surprised to see that nearly all of the same elements are there, with perhaps a few minoIncredible story. I read this after seeing the movie, and I'm surprised to see that nearly all of the same elements are there, with perhaps a few minor tweaks combining some of Solomon's overseers/owners into fewer personalities, more suitable for film. About the only noticeable scene that's missing from the movie is Solomon's stopover in Washington during the return trip to sue Burch -- not the most painful of Solomon's experiences, but quite possibly the most frustrating.
As for the book itself, Solomon's tale is highly readable still today. The narrative is fast paced, yet provides sufficient detail to give a good sense of the people who made up a significant part of Solomon's life for that rather long interstice of enslavement. I was also intrigued at Solomon's interjections and descriptions of the institution of slavery, which he described as a complex system full of masters and mistresses who are variously benevolent and baneful, pious and puerile, magnanimous and megalomaniacal. Solomon's commentary on the system is as nuanced as it is unforgiving, being critical without becoming too -- tract-y, for lack of a better word. At the end he even acknowledges that if there is any fault of his story, it is that he highlighted "too prominently the bright side of the picture," a sentiment which it would be much too understated to call unexpected at best.
While not always a happy story, this is definitely a great one.
I'm generally not one to read biographies and memoirs, but I was delighted by this little gem, which I found nestled in the stacks of Baldwin's Book BI'm generally not one to read biographies and memoirs, but I was delighted by this little gem, which I found nestled in the stacks of Baldwin's Book Barn in West Chester, PA. Having been aware of Mises' economic work for some time now, I've known very little about his life. Honestly, before I picked up this book I couldn't have even said for sure whether he had been married.
Even for someone who isn't familiar with Mises' academic and professional work, the story of his meeting Margit, their long courtship, their escape from Austria and flight to America are all worth reading. And that happens in the first few chapters! The second half of the book is a bit more heady, but Margit's recollection of their many trips while Mises gave seminars and speaking tours are interesting as well, especially their trips to Latin America.