Monday, August 19, 2013

Author Look-Alikes, Vol. 18

I give you W. H. Auden and the grandpa from the Gilmore Girls  (Edward Hermann):

Then there’s Ann Patchett and Laura Linney:

Or Sylvia Plath and Peggy from Mad Men (Elizabeth Moss):

Even without gobs of mascara, young Susan Sontag could have given Natalie Wood a run for her money:

And William Styron looks exactly like you'd imagine an aging Piers Morgan:

Friday, August 16, 2013

Feature Film Friday:

It’s been a little over a year since Ray Bradbury passed away, and a full fifty years since this awesome documentary was made. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

See Mexico City! Read a Novel!

“A brief mountain pass took us suddenly to a height from which we saw all of Mexico City stretched out in its volcanic crater below and spewing city smokes and early dusklights. Down to it we zoomed, down Insurgentes Boulevard, straight toward the heart of town at Reforma. Kids played soccer in enormous sad fields and threw up dust. Taxi-drivers overtook us and wanted to know if we wanted girls. No, we didn’t want girls now. Long, ragged adobe slums stretched out on the plain; we saw lonely figures in the dimming alleys. Soon night would come. Then the city roared in and suddenly we were passing crowded cafes and theaters and many lights. Newsboys yelled at us. Mechanics slouched by, barefoot, with wrenches and rags. Mad barefoot Indian drivers cut across us and surrounded us and tooted and made frantic traffic. The noise was incredible. No mufflers are used on Mexican cars. Horns are batted with glee continual. “Whee!” yelled Dean. “Look out!” He staggered the car through the traffic and played with everybody. He drove like an Indian. He got on a circular glorietta drive on Reforma Boulevard and rolled around it with its eight spokes shooting cars at us from all directions, left, right, izquierda, dead ahead, and yelled and jumped with joy. “This is traffic I’ve always dreamed of! Everybody goes!” An ambulance came balling through. American ambulances dart and weave through traffic with siren blowing; the great world-wide Fellahin Indian ambulances merely come through at eighty miles and hour in the city streets, and everybody just has to get out of the way and they don’t pause for anybody or any circumstances and fly straight through. We saw it reeling out of sight on skittering wheels in the breaking –up moil of dense downtown traffic. The drivers were Indians. People, even old ladies, ran for buses that never stopped. Young Mexico City businessmen made bets and ran by squads for buses and athletically jumped them. The bus-drivers were barefoot, sneering and insane and sat low and squat in T-shirts at the low, enormous wheels. Ikons burned over them. The lights in the buses were greenish, and dark faces were lined on wooden benches.
“In downtown Mexico City thousands of hipsters in floppy straw hats and long-lapeled jackets over bare chests padded along the main drag, some of them selling crucifixes and weed in the alleys, some of them kneeling in beat chapels next to Mexican burlesque shows in sheds. Some alleys were rubble, with open sewers, and little doors led to closet-size bars stuck in adobe walls. You had to jump over a ditch to get your drink, and in the bottom of the ditch was the ancient lake of the Aztec. You came out of the bar with your back to the wall and edged back to the street. They served coffee mixed with rum and nutmeg. Mambo blared from everywhere. Hundreds of whores lined themselves along the dark and narrow streets and their sorrowful eyes gleamed at us in the night. We wandered in a frenzy and a dream. We ate beautiful steaks for forty-eight cents in a strange tiled Mexican cafeteria with generations of marimba musicians standing at one immense marimba—also wandering singing guitarists, and old men on corners blowing trumpets. You went by the sour stink of pulque saloons; they gave you a water glass of cactus juice in there, two cents. Nothing stopped; the streets were alive all night. Beggars slept wrapped in advertising posters torn off fences. Whole families of them sat on the sidewalk, playing little flutes and chuckling in the night. Their bare feet stuck out, their dim candles burned, all Mexico was one vast Bohemian camp. On corners old women cut up the boiled heads of cows and wrapped morsels in tortillas and served them with hot sauce on newspaper napkins. This was the great and final wild uninhibited Fellahin-childlike city that we knew we would find at the end of the road. Dean walked through with his arms hanging zombie-like at his sides, his mouth open, his eyes gleaming, and conducted a ragged and holy tour that lasted till dawn in a field with a boy in a straw hat who laughed and chatted with us and wanted to play catch, for nothing ever ended.”

— from On the Road , by Jack Kerouac

Monday, August 12, 2013

"Like looking at Flemish tapestries from the wrong side"

So here’s an idea I’ve been toying with:  I’m one of roughly two million people on earth who speak Slovenian (Sounds like a lot, but that equates to less than 3 hundredths of one percent of the world’s population.) The vast majority of the seven billion other  people on earth have never even heard of Slovenia—and if they have, I’d bet good money that they’ve never picked up a book of Slovene literature  a) because it’s a small country,  b) because it’s only 20 years old, but  c) mainly because most of the Slovene canon remains untranslated.

And while there are a few academics out there who are slowly working their way through a couple of the most important works, the door is wide open for, say, a Slovene-speaking native English speaker, and an English-speaking native Slovene speaker to put their heads together and start translating some stuff.  Mrs. DeMarest and I just happen to fit the bill. So we’ll see…  This would be a years-long project, of course, and a huge commitment of free time, but it might just be something I’d look back on with immense satisfaction.

Anyway, while mulling this over I was reminded of a passage from Don Quixote that rang true to me at the time:
“…it seems to me that translating from one language to another, unless it is from Greek and Latin, the queens of all languages, is like looking at Flemish tapestries from the wrong side, for although the figures are visible, they are covered by threads that obscure them, and cannot be seen with the smoothness and color of the right side”

     From Don Quixote , by Miguel Cervantes

Friday, August 9, 2013

First Line Friday: On the Road

It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these, but today’s first line is, in my opinion, kind of a stinker, even though it leads into one of my favorite books. The first two lines, as a matter of fact, are bits of back story we don’t really need, and that don’t figure in the rest of the novel. But that third line , now, that third line is great. If you ask me, it is the rightful heir to the first line throne. And if I were Kerouac’s editor, I would have lopped off the first two and made that one my opener:
“I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead. With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road. Before that I’d often dreamed of going West to see the country, always vaguely planning and never taking off.”

What do you think? Am I off here? Of course I'm not...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"let fly with the secret pleasure of a bedwetter"

“My bladder was beginning to be insistent, too, and though I was armed with my Policeman’s Friend and would have ordinarily have let fly with the secret pleasure of a bedwetter, I couldn’t see myself pissing down a tube with a lady standing six feet from me.”
    From Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose

The internet is surprisingly short on information about the “Policeman’s Friend” apparatus that Stegner’s narrator is describing above, but I imagine it’s a close cousin of the Stadium Pal "accessory" described by David Sedaris below. Another reason to love curmudeonly ol’ Lyman Ward:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How Mark Twain gave us Thurgood Marshall

Margaret Mitchell and Mark Twain are two authors who are often discussed in the context of racism in literature. Gone With the Wind  and The Adventures of Huck Finn  are two of the most frequently banned books across the U.S.

But while debate rages in school boards across the country, it’s interesting to note that in their personal lives Mitchell and Twain were quite generous to aspiring black professional students. Over a number of years Mitchell secretly funded dozens of African American medical students at Morehouse college and elsewhere, helping to lift up a class of black professionals in the segregated South. 

And while Twain’s philanthropy centered on one student in particular, it may have had an even more powerful impact on society. Warner T. McGuinn, the man whose room and board Twain paid at Yale Law School, graduated #1 in his class and went on to become a force in the early civil rights movement in Maryland and a mentor to Thurgood Marshall. In a letter to the dean of the law school, Twain explained his reasoning for supporting McGuinn:
“I do not believe I would very cheerfully help a white student who would ask for the benevolence of a stranger, but I do not feel so about the other color. We have ground the manhood out of them, and the shame is ours, not theirs, and we should pay for it.”

 Interesting, no?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Thurber gets a reboot

Here’s one I really want to see: James Thurber’s short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is being re-made into a movie this year. The last time this was tried, in 1947, Danny Kaye turned the picture into a screwball comedy only loosely based on the original. Okay, fine, whatever. Thurber was a very humorous writer, and “Mitty” was a slightly campy tale that could certainly be taken that direction.

This time around Ben Stiller acts and directs in a reboot that promises to be much truer to the heart of “Mitty.” I can’t comment on its merits as a true-to-the-story adaptation, but it looks like it’ll deliver far less mad-cap comedy, and far more insight into the secret psyche of the inveterate daydreamer- which is really what the original story was all about.

But don’t take my word for it. Here is a link to the original story, and here is Stiller’s latest trailer:

For comparison, have a look at the 1947 version:

We're definitely getting better at movie trailers, but I also think we’re getting better at this adaptation thing…

Monday, August 5, 2013

Buyer Beware: Vol. 14

We're on vacation until August 6th. Until then, buyer beware: this isn’t  the book you’re looking for…