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May 25, 2012

Baz Luhrmann’s Flashy Great Gatsby Trailer Sets off Internet Backlash

Filed under: film adaptations — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:09 am
By Julie Miller

The first preview of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby has surfaced—two and a half minutes that look just as you may expect if you’re familiar with the often flashy Aussie filmmaker’s work on Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, but that have somehow managed to shock the trailer-watching public in seemingly equal amounts of pleasure and dismay. The frenetic, high-drama preview promises sweeping shots of Jay Gatsby’s West Egg soirées, immaculate set design, and period-perfect costumes—but also what appears to be a hyper-stylized, extended-music-video treatment of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s American classic. The trailer opens to the Kanye West/Jay-Z collaboration “No Church in the Wild” against images of Jazz Age excess that could fit into any rap video: wealthy men and women clinking cocktails in speeding convertibles, free-flowing liquor, women swaying from chandeliers over pulsating party crowds, and ample sexual tension. (So maybe Luhrmann nailed the “excess” aspect in one way or another.)

Praised as “gonzo,” “dazzling,” and visually “spectacular” by preview reviewers, it’s also set off a swift rebuttal in comments sections and on Twitter. (“UGH Baz Lurhmann stop touching things that I like!” Time-magazine columnist James Poniewozik added on the latter.) Ahead, the most outraged (or funniest) responses to Luhrmann’s latest spectacle, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Isla Fisher, and Tobey Maguire. The full-length feature can be seen in all its glory in 3-D when it’s released in theaters on Christmas.

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January 8, 2012

Charles Dickens’s Inner Child

HATS OFF TO DICKENS! The chronicler of Victorian life wrote more than 30 books.

While it’s tempting to see Charles Dickens as a fusion of his heroes and villains, on the great British novelist’s 200th birthday his true gifts should be recognized: a respect for childhood and a willingness to atone for his mistakes.

By Christopher Hitchens Illustration by André Carrilho

Those who study Charles Dickens, or who keep up the great cult of his admiration, had been leading a fairly quiet life until a few years ago. The occasional letter bobs to the surface, or a bit of reminiscence is discovered, or perhaps some fragment of a souvenir from his first or second American tour. The pages of that agreeable little journal The Dickensian remained easy to turn, with little possibility of any great shock. At least since The Invisible Woman, Claire Tomalin’s definitive, 1991 exposure of the other woman in Dickens’s life—the once enigmatic Nelly Ternan—there hasn’t been any scandal or revelation.

And then, in late 2002, The Dickensian carried a little bombshell of a tale: it seemed that in 1862, during Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s visit to London, he had met Dickens. And not only met him but elicited from him the exact admission that we would all have wanted the great man to make. Here is how it goes in En­glish, as summarized by Dostoyevsky in an 1878 letter to a certain Stepan Dimitriyevich Yanovsky. According to this, the two men met at the offices of Dickens’s own personal magazine, All the Year Round. And here’s how the confessional session went:

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December 30, 2011

Books and words: Another year, another apocalypse looming

Chad Harbach: the wonder boy of 2011 Beowulf Sheehan

By Bob Hoover

It’s the custom (or stubborn habit) around newspapers to reflect on the 11 months gone by when December arrives. “Best of” lists occupy the attention of many writers, including this one (see mine here), so their creation does force us to be reflective in a business where reaction usually trumps reflection.

But changes don’t come gift-wrapped in tidy 12-month packages. In the world of American book publishing, 2011 flowed gradually from 2010 without sudden shocks or change, the nature of the passing year shaped by the inevitable progress of movements in the business that started years before.

One image captured the direction of that movement concisely — Daniel Clowes’ cover for the Dec. 5 New Yorker titled “Black Friday.” The cartoon shows a store with shelves filled with T-shirts, caps, bags and figurines of famous authors and a table displaying e-readers. Only a bottom shelf carries a row of print books.

It’s the bookstore of tomorrow, if you can find an actual bookstore (cognoscenti call them “bricks and mortar”) these days. The traditional business model, which is at least 200 years old, centers around new hardcover books prominently displayed in a bricks-and-mortar outlet where shoppers browse looking for familiar names or interesting covers.

That model is slowly slipping away, to be replaced by versions of the one on the New Yorker cover. Eventually, the new plan envisions a small space where only the covers of available books will be displayed along with that small digital square.

You’ll scan the square with your phone, buy the book online and then you’ll choose if you want an ebook or tell the store to print on paper no less, a real book on its copier/binder machine.

Cartoonist Clowes is no great seer. It seems clear he was inspired by an article in another magazine, “The Book on Publishing” by Keith Gessen in the October Vanity Fair.

Mr. Gessen, a young novelist and journalist, tells us he is a close friend of Chad Harbach, the “wonder boy” of 2011 who sold his novel, “The Art of Fielding,” for $665,000 advance to Little, Brown. For a first-time (or anytime) author it’s like getting one of those multimillion-dollar bonuses paid to executives of bailed-out banks.

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December 17, 2011

Christopher Hitchens has died: Fighter, doubter, provocateur

Photos: Christopher Hitchens. Credit: Christian Witkin TwelveBooks

Christopher Hitchens has died at age 62. From around the Web, notes on the death of Hitchens, essayist, provocateur, American:

— By Richard Fausset

David Frum:

A friend of theirs once took Christopher Hitchens and his wife Carol Blue to dinner at Palm Beach’s Everglades Club, notorious for its exclusion of Jews.

“You will behave, won’t you?” Carol anxiously asked Christopher on the way into the club.

No dice. When the headwaiter approached, Christopher demanded: “Do you have a kosher menu?”

Christopher was never a man to back away from a confrontation on behalf of what he considered basic decency. Yet it would be wrong to remember only the confrontational side.

Christopher was also a man of exquisite sensitivity and courtesy, dispensed without regard to age or station. On one of the last occasions I saw him, my wife and I came to drop some food –- lamb tagine -– to sustain a family with more on its mind than cooking. Christopher, though weary and sick, insisted on painfully lifting himself from his chair to perform the rites of hospitality. He might have cancer, but we were still guests -– and as guests, we must have champagne.

Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair:

He was a man of insatiable appetites — for cigarettes, for scotch, for company, for great writing, and, above all, for conversation. That he had an output to equal what he took in was the miracle in the man. You’d be hard-pressed to find a writer who could match the volume of exquisitely crafted columns, essays, articles, and books he produced over the past four decades. …

Christopher was the beau ideal of the public intellectual. You felt as though he was writing to you and to you alone. And as a result many readers felt they knew him. Walking with him down the street in New York or through an airplane terminal was like escorting a movie star through the throngs.

Benjamin Schwarz, the Atlantic:

I met Christopher (never Chris) in 1997. Perry Anderson, a mutual friend, had invited us to debate the wisdom of American intervention in the Balkans. We were, unsurprisingly, on opposing sides — a position that all his friends have experienced, formally or informally.  Hitch’s friends were comrades always; but allies only occasionally — that was a role impossible to hold consistently.

Hitch, an idealist committed to protecting human rights and to putting thugs in their place, embraced a muscular internationalism consistent with the stand he’d taken on the Falklands war (in 1982, Christopher, a then-uncompromising socialist, was at one with Mrs. Thatcher) and that he would take on the two wars against Saddam Hussein. I held to my usual parsimonious view of the national interest, and so our debate fell into a well-worn groove.

Early on I made a smart-sounding point, using a recondite historical analogy, which the audience — largely anti-interventionist — liked. But 10 minutes later, although the argument had moved on, it dawned on me that I’d scored a cheap shot, and I said so, explaining why my facile analogy didn’t hold water. Christopher held me in his gaze, touched his right hand to his chest (one of his characteristic gestures), and gave me an almost imperceptible bow. That was it for us. I had passed the only test that mattered to him, one in which he touchingly, anachronistically conflated intellectual honesty with a decidedly masculine, martial sense of honor. more

October 20, 2011

Q&A: National Book Award Un-Nominee, Lauren Myracle, Felt “Gutted and Ashamed”



From Harper Point Photography.

By Brett Berk

Lauren Myracle is a New York Times best-selling young-adult author. She’s also one of our country’s most frequently “challenged” writers, meaning, her books have appeared at the top of the American Library Association’s list of titles most often cited for removal—banning—from our public libraries’ shelves. In the past week, she hit another milestone: she is the first author to be nominated for the prestigious National Book Award before having that nomination revoked.

The novel in question, Shine (Abrams, 2011), concerns a violent hate crime against a small-town gay youth, the ensuing cover-up by local authorities, and a girl who takes it upon herself to find the truth. We called Myracle for her first interview since this occurred—highlights from our chat:

                                                   …read more

September 26, 2011

July 29, 2011

V.F. Portrait: Maurice Sendak

The most celebrated living creator of picture books, Maurice Sendak has resurfaced, at 83, with Bumble-Ardy. He says he’s demented, but Dave Eggers finds that Sendak’s uncompromising vision still makes perfect sense.

READY TO RUMPUS Maurice Sendak and his German shepherd Herman, named after Melville, photographed at Sendak’s house in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

By Dave Eggers•

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz

Bumble-Ardy is the first book Maurice Sendak has both written and illustrated in 30 years. I called him the other day to talk about it, and we were both surprised it had been that long. “Jesus,” he said. “What have I been doing?” We went through a list. He designed operas here and abroad, illustrated dozens of books—by Tony Kushner and Herman Melville and Shakespeare, among many others—and had a best-seller just a few years ago, in Mommy?, a pop-up book about a boy looking for his mother in a haunted mansion.

But in terms of a book completely his own, Bumble-Ardy is the first since 1981’s Outside Over There. Not that he wants to make a big deal out of it. “People from New York have been calling, to see if I’m still alive. When I answer the phone, you can hear the disappointment in their voice.”

Sendak’s sense of humor is pitch-black and ribald, though this fact, and the baroque essence of his work, is often lost on readers now that his books have become canonical. “A woman came up to me the other day and said, ‘You’re the kiddie-book man!’ I wanted to kill her.” He hates to be thought of as safe or his work as classic, and he won’t tolerate overpraise. “My work is not great, but it’s respectable. I have no false illusions.”

He’s wrong, of course. more

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