Lost in the Movies: Lost in the Pages: The books I read, July - December 2013

Lost in the Pages: The books I read, July - December 2013

This is the second time I've posted a list of the last 20 books I've read, complete with snapshots of the covers and samples from the text. The last time was in June, and it covered the same number in only three months. For whatever reason, I've become a much slower reader! Since the spring, I've been reading four books at a time - fiction, nonfiction, film-related, and finally something tied into screenplay ideas I'm working on. The majority of titles below fell into that fourth category - the Kafka- and Grail-themed books, the Lowry novels, Tommyknockers, and the Marlowe novels all bore on story ideas I was working on throughout the year, with disappointing results though the work continues. In the New Year, I'm hoping to just stick to one book at a time. We'll see; my eyes are often bigger than my literary stomach.

"I believe it's Prague," said Odets drily.

"Fine, call it Proggsville, or wait, Progress Falls, that's it. That's our title: 'Miracle At Progress Falls.' The ghost shows him what Progress Falls would be like if he throws himself off that bridge. How many people depend on him, and love him, his girl, his friends..."

Odets didn't interrupt. He was interested despite himself. Capra's brand of integrity was not the worst in Hollywood, even though Odets had already noted a few dodges and fades in the director's teary encomium - Dawson had been over six feet, not a little man at all, and Capra had shown no scruples about altering Dawson's great screenplay "Meet Joe K." almost beyond recognition, copping out of the suicide ending at the last moment. The result had been a travesty, an impossibly uplifting ending to a tragic, bitter story.

Kafka Americana (1999), by Jonathan Lethem & Carter Scholz

The sole purpose of the nighttime interrogations - and here K. received a new explanation of what they meant - was to ensure that those parties whom the gentlemen couldn't stand to see by day were quickly examined under artificial light at night, so the gentlemen would get a chance right after the hearing to forget all that ugliness in their sleep. But K.'s behavior had made a mockery of all the measures. Even ghosts disappear toward morning, but K. had remained there with his hands in his pocket, as though he expected that since he was not going away the entire corridor with all the rooms and gentlemen would go away instead. And this would certainly have happened - he could be sure of this - had it been at all possible, for the gentleman's delicacy of feeling was boundless. Nobody would, for instance, drive K. away, or even tell him what was so obvious, namely, that he should finally go, nobody would do so, even though they probably trembled with excitement while K. was around, and so the morning, their favorite time, was spoiled for them.

The Castle (1926), by Franz Kafka

Finally when he knew he could bare it no longer and would welcome death himself, he opened his eyes and was once again on the bed.

The Giver looked away, as if he could not bear to see what he had done to Jonas. "Forgive me," he said.

Jonas did not want to go back. He didn't want the memories, didn't want the honor, didn't want the wisdom, didn't want the pain. He wanted his childhood again, his scraped knees and ball games. He sat in his dwelling alone, watching through the window, seeing children at play, citizens bicycling home from uneventful days at work, ordinary lives free of anguish because they had been selected, as others before him had, to bear their burden.

But the choice was not his. He returned each day to the Annex room.

The Giver (1993), by Lois Lowry

There is an old proverb from the Middle Ages that a person has a chance at the splendor of God, at the golden world, twice in his life - once early in adolescence and again when he is forty-five or fifty. Parsifal will come back to the Grail castle years later and ask the right question. This time he only blundered into it and can't cope with it. No boy can cope with the Grail experience when it first comes to him. He can't stand it. But he does see it. He is touched, almost fatally, by it. It sometimes destroys him. More often than not it fires him up to a wild, compulsive kind of search. It is the motivation, conscious or unconscious, for a great deal of the rest of his life, for in the Grail castle he has known perfect happiness. He has known that utter, absolute contentment, and beauty, and joy that the Grail castle can give him. Then when he loses it all, he becomes a Grail searcher, an urgent, questing beast, fairly pawing the earth to find again the beauty he viewed so briefly.

He (1974), by Robert A. Johnson

When the bell for rising rang, Kira awoke with a sense that something had changed: she had an awareness of a difference, but had forgotten what the difference was. She sat for a moment on the edge of her bed, thinking. But she could not grasp whatever it was and finally stopped trying. Sometimes, she knew, lost memories and forgotten dreams came back more easily if you put them out of your mind.

Outside, it was stormy. Wind shook the trees and blew a sheet of heavy rain against the building. The hard ground below had turned to mud overnight, and it was clear that Kira would not go to the dyer's cott today. Just as well, she thought; there was much work to do on the robe, and autumn-start, the time of the Gathering, was approaching. Recently Jamison had been stopping by sometimes twice a day to see the progress she had made. He seemed pleased by her work.

Gathering Blue (2000), by Lois Lowry

They have too many needs. We don't want to take care of them.

And finally: We've done it long enough.

Now and then a lone citizen, untouched by trade, would go to the platform and try to speak. They spoke of the history of Village, how each of them there had fled poverty and cruelty and been welcomed at this new place that had taken them in.

The blind man spoke eloquently of the day he had been brought here half dead and been tended for months by the people of Village until, though he was still without sight, it had become his true home. Matty had been wondering whether he, too, would go up and speak. He wanted to, for surely Village had also become his true home, and saved him, but felt a little shy.

Messenger (2004), by Lois Lowry

Holloway renamed the house Foxland because of its abundance of foxes who roamed about the estate, so fond was he of the endangered species. Believing a hunt to be cruel sport, when one was due to run through his property he would hide the foxes in a storm tunnel until the riders were safely out of sight.

While everyone of the manor born was indulging in various whims and fancies, there were those who surrounded themselves with their favorite furred and feathered friends. Morgan had his cows, Mrs. Paul Prybal had her rats and mice, Mona Williams her peacocks strutting around the indoor swimming pool, and Frick his cages full of zoo animals. Mrs. William Holloway, I am told, drove her husband to leave for a tropical island when she filled one of the main rooms in the house with chimpanzees who leaped about, and threw bananas from tree stumps set into the floor of what had originally been a sitting room.

The Mansions of Long Island's Gold Coast (1987), by M. Randall

Miles had just about convinced himself that all of this was possible when in the perfect stillness outside the bedroom window he heard a noise.

A milky mist had rolled in off the ocean, amplifying sounds, including the far-off ringing of a buoy. Through the parted curtains next to his bed Miles squinted into the mist until he was certain that he'd imagined the sound, but then there came another, a footfall on the gravel path, and then the mist gathered itself around a dark shape coming toward him, and finally the mist became his mother, making her way along the grassy edge of the dirt path, carrying her shoes in one hand and concentrating on her footing. The sight so startled Miles that before he could reconcile seeing his mother outside with his belief that she was asleep in the next bedroom, she looked up and stared right at him, and only then did he let the curtains fall back into place.

Empire Falls (2000), by Richard Russo

But it was Ronald Reagan who wanted my family to have all this. Ronald Reagan who arranged to have it paid for. In fact, no president of the United States ever did more for my family. And so it may seem strange if I say that my family accepted Ronald Reagan's every blandishment, yes, but did so the way a child takes a Christmas gift from a detested old uncle, with eyes averted and confused feelings - feelings of covetousness and resentment and entitlement - swirling inside. To my father and mother, liberal-minded people, Ronald Reagan was a sham whose politics were mean-spirited. To me, a young man who wished to imagine his soul cleaner than most, scrubbed by indignation and good works, Ronald Reagan was something more. He was the devil himself, denying me my self-satisfaction, reminding me always of my complicity in his schemes, the complicity of a child so fortunate as to have been born into the blue sky tribe, the tribe Ronald Reagan loved and favored like no other.

Blue Sky Dream (1996), by David Beers

But today, at breakfast, she suddenly noticed something that she had taken for granted until now. As they cleared their plates, tossed their crumpled napkins into the waste container, and smoothed their uniforms in preparation for another day of work, each worker did one other routine, quick thing.

They each took a pill.

Claire knew about the pills. The pill-taking in the community began at about Twelve - or for some children, earlier. Parents observed their children and decided when the time had come. She herself had not been deemed ready for the pills before her Ceremony of Twelve. It hadn't mattered to her. Those of her friends who took them found it a nuisance. But when she was selected Birthmother at the Ceremony, part of her list of instructions had specified: No pills.

Son (2012), by Lois Lowry

I think, too, that it's very possible for a person to become a cineaste without first being a critic. It happened that, for us, it went as I said, but it's not a rule. Rivette and Rohmer made films in 16mm. But if criticism was the first echelon of a vocation, it was not so much a means. It is said: they availed themselves of criticism. No - we were thinking cinema and, at a certain moment, we felt the need to deepen that thought.

Criticism taught us to love Rouch and Eisenstein at the same time. To criticism we owe not excluding one aspect of the cinema in the name of another aspect of the cinema. We owe it also the possibility of making films with more distance and of knowing that if such and such a thing has already been done it is useless doing it again. A young writer writing today knows that Moliere and Shakespeare exist. We are the first cineastes to know that Griffith exists.

"Interview with Jean-Luc Godard" included in Interviews with Film Directors (collected 1967), edited by Andrew Sarris

Anyone can make a movie and get it distributed somewhere online if not in theaters. New theatrical distributors and online distributors are born every day, like stars in a stellar nursery. Distribution and production were the bottlenecks through which the studios used to control moviemaking. Movies were expensive, and only studios had the funds for production. Distribution was limited and controlled by the studios, and nearly impossible for an outsider to penetrate. Digital moviemaking ended this bottleneck in a few milliseconds for both production and now online distribution, where a movie can be discovered by anyone, anywhere.

Soon people will stop looking to their local mall - like teens already have - and go instead to their computer or home entertainment system to find a new movie or television series they've just heard about. With fewer movies, the best of these will eventually make it to the mall too.

Sleepless in Hollywood (2013), by Lynda Obst

Lenin encapsulated this idea in The State and Revolution, which he wrote while reclining on a sofa in the friendly Helsinki police chief's home. The parties of the Second International, he declared, had betrayed Marxism by concentrating on peaceful, legal political methods and by assuming that the 'bourgeoise state' would be retained when socialists eventually came to power. The parliament, army and bureaucracy would be preserved. Lenin predicted that this was a step on the road to further compromises with capitalism; and he suggested that in the age of imperialism it was already clear that 'finance capital' in the imperial countries had learned the tricks of buying off the opposition. The skilled segments of the working class in the advanced economies were paid ever higher wages, and they became less committed to radical social change. Socialist parties sometimes kept up the rhetoric of revolution. The reality, though, was growing collusion between their leaders and the ruling classes.

Comrades! (2007), by Robert Service

"Shit!" she cried, and a bluejay scolded her.

Peter returned, first sniffing and then licking her nose.

"Christ, don't do that, your breath stinks!"

Peter wagged his tail. Anderson sat up. She rubbed her left cheek and saw blood on her palm and fingers. She grunted.

"Nice going," she said, and looked to see what she had tripped over - a fallen piece of tree, most likely, or a rock poking out of the ground. Lots of rock in Maine.

What she saw was a gleam of metal.

The Tommyknockers (1987), by Stephen King

[Peter O'Toole] was said to be near breaking point but stuck with it. His new wife Sian Phillips would turn down work to join him on location and cheer him up. On his return to Britain at the end of a six-month stint he went on a bender and got a year's driving ban.

At least it was more comfortable when the unit moved to Spain where they shot the interiors, the attack on the railway and also recreated the port of Aqaba. O'Toole and Sharif became good pals and indulged in some dedicated partying. O'Toole had been chosen by Lean despite worries about his drinking. He was quite someone to socialize with, the sort of chap who would consume three bottles of wine in order to sleep but be fine for work in the morning.

That's Hollywood (1990), by Peter Van Gelder

-...As the waters of baptism cleanse the soul with the body so do the fires of punishment torture the spirit with the flesh. Every sense of the flesh is tortured and every faculty of the soul therewith: the eyes with impenetrable utter darkness, the nose with noisome odours, the ears with yells and howls and execrations, the taste with foul matter, leprous corruption, nameless suffocating filth, the touch with redhot goads and spikes, with cruel tongues of flame.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), by James Joyce

Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried.

"The Dead", from Dubliners (1914), by James Joyce

S. Modern film criticism tends not to distinguish. People like Raoul Walsh or Howard Hawks don't know what art is. They merely have marvelous techniques, some of them.

B. They have told their stories and they made their films in a good, effective way. That is a duty: effectiveness in telling a story.

S. Yes, that's a very good minimum, but it's only a minimum.

B. But it's difficult.

S. Are there any young film-makers that you particularly like? I hope you don't like Godard?

B. No, no, no.

Ingmar Bergman directs (1972), by John Simon

"All crooks are gamblers, more or less, and all gamblers are superstitious - more or less. I think Jessie Florian was Marriott's lucky piece. As long as he took care of her, nothing would happen to him."

I turned my head and looked for the pink-headed bug. He had tried two corners of the room now and was moving off disconsolately toward a third. I went over and picked him up in my handkerchief and carried him back to the desk.

"Look," I said. "This room is eighteen floors above ground. And this little bug climbs all the way up here just to make a friend. Me. My luck piece." I folded the bug carefully into the soft part of the handkerchief and tucked the handkerchief into my pocket. Randall was pie-eyed. His mouth moved, but nothing came out of it.

Farewell, My Lovely (1940), included in Stories & Early Novels by Raymond Chandler (I read the others in 2012)

To "moralize" was to betray the revolutionary or progressive agenda of the Left - a betrayal of "the cause" by a supposed ally. Those who stereotypically moralized were priests and right-wing defenders of the social order. "Feminist moralism" thus meant that women were, as was said, "making the bed of" or were in bed with the political Right. The effort to draw limits within a progressive political agenda was often perceived as treachery. In pursuing limits - that not everything was permitted in the permissive society - feminists were accused of tacit support of conservative agendas, just as American feminists were accused of coziness with the "moral majority" in their anti-pornography campaigns of the 1980s. Some French feminists in turn accused leftists of a machismo indistinguishable from the same "phallocentric" bourgeois society that leftists claimed they, too, wanted to overturn.

From Revolution to Ethics (2007), by Julian Bourg

Why then was this forbid? Why but to awe,
Why but to keep ye low and ignorant,
His worshippers? He knows that in the day
Ye eat thereof your eyes, that seem so clear
Yet are but dim, shall perfectly be then
Opened and cleared and ye shall be as gods
Knowing both good and evil as they know.
That ye should be as gods since I as Man,
Internal Man, is but proportion meet:
I of brute human, ye of human gods.
So ye shall die perhaps by putting off
Human to put on gods: death to be wished,
Though threatened, which no worse than this can bring!
And what are gods that Man may not become
As they, participating godlike food?

Paradise Lost (1667), by John Milton

They, looking back, all th'eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand. The gate
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms.
Some natural tears they dropped but wiped them soon.
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.
They hand in hand with wand'ring steps and slow
Through Eden took their solitary way.



Paul J. Marasa said...

What fun you must've had reading Chandler—for the first time, I hope? He and Ray Bradbury hit me head-on in my early teens, and I've never recovered.

(By the way, this is not just a heartfelt comment but a New Year's resolution: to visit and comment more on sites I admire. Glad you're still plugging away.)

Joel Bocko said...

Yes and no. Farewell, My Lovely was actually the last novel I read in this book which I started it last year (around the time I reviewed Long Goodbye and Big Sleep - the latter alongside Maltese Falcon); however, when I did first read Chandler it was in the same edition which technically I only finished now!

Thanks - and I feel similarly. I'm trying to set aside at least a few hours every week where I can do nothing BUT visit the sites on my blogroll.

By the way thrilled to see the eBook of Constant Viewer is available - and at such a bargain! I was up to Melies' Voyage to the Moon, I think, when it moved off the site (not sure why it took me so long to begin in earnest reading everything from the beginning, but I'm always a late bloomer).

I look forward to picking up where I left off soon, and supporting your endeavor by purchasing the edition & encouraging my readers to do so as well!

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