An oddity; a curiosity; a delightfully strange poetic novel that is full of surprises. From one page to the next it is impossible to anticipate just wAn oddity; a curiosity; a delightfully strange poetic novel that is full of surprises. From one page to the next it is impossible to anticipate just what Anne Carson will do next. There is sure to be a vivid description and/or a pithy, aphoristic observation -- but beyond that it genuinely feels like just about anything could happen. Truly unique and original and a lot of fun to read. "Desire is no light thing."...more
An odd book about an odd film. At first blush a book like this might seem sort of lazy: it really is mostly a narrative synopsis of Tarkovsky's beloveAn odd book about an odd film. At first blush a book like this might seem sort of lazy: it really is mostly a narrative synopsis of Tarkovsky's beloved sci-fi (sort of) film Stalker. Two hundred pages of someone describing a movie (in my case, a movie I've seen several times) and meditating (mostly in lengthy footnotes) on the making of the film and his own personal experiences with it over the years -- that's the book. That said, I once wrote a description of a single scene from a film for a writing course (I chose a scene from Ozu's Early Summer) and can tell you that it is not as easy as it sounds. Still, I do find myself thinking about the intended audience: some readers will be Geoff Dyer fans, others will be Tarkovsky/Stalker fans, a few might be both . . . but will anyone else be interested? Does it matter? Dyer is aware of this and makes fun of himself several times, which is disarming and endearing. Nevertheless, this will probably always be a novelty book.
I came to Zona as a Tarkovsky fan, though I was familiar with Dyer -- about 15 years ago a friend lent me his jazz book, But Beautiful. I read some of it but, for whatever reason, didn't actually read the whole book. So, I was probably less taken with Dyer's personal asides than his long-time readers will be. I did enjoy his behind-the-scenes anecdotes about Stalker (this alone made the book worthwhile) and many of his observations/descriptions of the film were useful. And Zona has made me want to watch Stalker again, which I will be doing this weekend. Some of the personal asides felt like a stretch, though, and Dyer's observations about the film (or the issues it raises) were never as insightful as I would have liked.
In the end, I liked the book but I liked the *idea* of the book that much more. I found myself wanting to try the form for myself: pick a film, describe it carefully from beginning to end, and use that narrative to frame a sort of hybrid of memoir/film criticism/philosophy. This may be an early example of a fledgling genre and, if nothing else, I appreciated that Dyer's book tempted me to try writing one of my own.
I first noticed Paulette Goddard in Chaplin's Modern Times. Then I saw her name on the copyright page of All Quiet On The Western Front. Could it be tI first noticed Paulette Goddard in Chaplin's Modern Times. Then I saw her name on the copyright page of All Quiet On The Western Front. Could it be the same Paulette Goddard? It is. So, I was intrigued. You'd think that someone who married Charlie Chaplin, Burgess Meredith, and Erich Marie Remarque; someone who co-starred in two of Chaplin's finest films, danced with Fred Astaire, helped launch Bob Hope's career, and nearly landed the role of Scarlett O'Hara; someone who was an avid collector of art (especially Modern and Impressionist paintings) and antiques (pre-Columbian, Egyptian and Western Asian); someone who was friends with Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera (was, in fact, painted by both more than once) even going so far as to help Rivera smuggle fifteen paintings out of Mexico while he was under house arrest following the assassination of Leon Trotsky . . . You would think that such a person's life would easily make for a interesting, lively biography. Unfortunately, this is the only biography available and it is a lazy, sloppy, snooze. The authors clearly have a Hollywood bio template in mind and then struggle to fit Goddard's life into its narrow confines. Which is a shame since much of what is interesting about Goddard, especially later in life, has little to do with Hollywood. You'll get just as much (if not more) useful information from the Wikipedia entry on Paulette Goddard as you will from this biography. I found myself wanting to read the relevant chapters in biographies of Chaplin and Remarque (and maybe Kahlo/Rivera, etc as well) in an attempt to get a better sense of this intriguing figure: was she really just the vapid, pretty, social climber some have accused her of being -- or were the legendary artists and writers she befriended and married drawn to her for something beyond her looks?...more
So much has been said -- is being said -- about The Goldfinch that I'm wary of echoing the accolades. Not that I disagree. On the contrary: for all thSo much has been said -- is being said -- about The Goldfinch that I'm wary of echoing the accolades. Not that I disagree. On the contrary: for all the glowing reviews and my own elevated expectations The Goldfinch was still far better than I could have expected or hoped. I will be reading this again....more
The latest in my reading series "Books With Titles That Get Me Funny Looks On The Bus" -- all part of an ongoing project to keep my own special brandThe latest in my reading series "Books With Titles That Get Me Funny Looks On The Bus" -- all part of an ongoing project to keep my own special brand of social awkwardness thriving.
Cheeky title aside, this is an interesting look at the various ways in which sexuality informs (and warps) our lives. In particular, it is geared towards readers in committed relationships struggling with the mundane, powerful realities of everyday life that can make trying to remain a sexual being with the person you love so difficult. To quote: "To fall in love with another is to bless him or her with an idea of who he or she should be in our eyes; it is to attempt to incarnate perfection across a limitless range of activities (how to educate the children and what sort of house to buy) to the lowest (where the sofa should go and how to spend Tuesday evening). In love we are therefore never far from the possibility of a painful or irritating betrayal of one of our ideals. Once we are involved in a relationship, there is no longer any such thing as a minor detail."
Botton's strident call for an outright ban of pornography is compelling but will make anyone opposed to censorship deeply uncomfortable. More interesting (and, perhaps, feasible) is his suggestion that we might, like Christian artists during the Renaissance who used sexuality in their paintings and sculptures to make lofty principles more appealing, start creating a new kind of pornography with artistic merit. Throughout the book Botton argues that our society has tried to repress and ignore the nature of sexuality, ensuring the kind of frustrations that come with unrealistic expectations.
At the core of this book is the basic idea that our sexual natures are, more often than not, a source of discomfort, pain, awkwardness, loneliness, disappointment, failure, etc. The list of miseries is long and will be familiar to anyone. Still, sex and our need for it are here to stay. “All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone," the philosopher Pascal famously wrote. Sex is probably the main reason for this. But, as Botton writes in his conclusion, "sex gets us out of the house and out of ourselves." For while sex may be at the root of a great deal of pain and wasted time/energy, it is also the heart of our greatest pleasures -- not only (or even primarily) the act itself, but all the wonders we have created in our efforts to get some. ...more