Saturday, February 13, 2016

Famous Novelty Pencil

You've heard about famous writers jotting things on bar napkins! Well, her features are obscured but trust me: this is famed author Mary Miller writing on a bar napkin with a giant novelty pencil belonging to Chris Offutt (his torso looming in the background). Yes, it is a giant pencil, but it really works. I saw the whole thing go down.
Photo by Bill Boyle.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Doing the Thing

You know, sometimes I reap writing lessons from ADVENTURE TIME meetings, such as who to punch and what not to punch. Yesterday I got a good one! I had typed up a line of clichéd dialogue for Jake, which Adam called out, and I oh-so-cleverly explained that it was SUPPOSED to be a cliché. I had done it on purpose! Adam replied, "If you're doing the thing, you're also doing the thing." Well! That hit me with a certain brilliant force. I stopped everything to jot it down in one of my famous books of jottings, even as Adam started trying to phrase it in what he thought was a "better" way, but it was too late: I had already jotted. And besides, there was no better way to say it. I kept thinking about it for the rest of the day, kind of chanting it to myself. "If you're doing the thing, you're also doing the thing." For a second it reminded me of Beckett, and then I thought, no, Gertrude Stein.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Going Pretty Good

Well, Chris's new book is so jaw-dropping and fantastically compelling that I read it in one day. I almost never read a book in one day. I think I've read, for example, three more pages of THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY since the last time I mentioned it (October 10, since you're probably keeping track), though I was going along pretty good with that one for a while. So I'm back to the Norman Mailer book about Lee Harvey Oswald sooner than I thought. It contains touching interviews with innocent people who knew him back in Minsk. At the time of the interviews they're going gray and soft and thinking about their youth. One of Oswald's Russian sweethearts loved Deanna Durbin movies. I don't know why that detail stands out. Marina Oswald was interviewed for the book. When she read it - as recounted in the Mailer bio I read - she said, "Tolstoy, he's not!" Ha ha! (Another review: after Marilyn Monroe read THE DEER PARK she said that Mailer was "too impressed by power.") Anyway, Megan sent me the "link" to the whole Warren Commission report, so that's probably healthy.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Good Owl Sound

Walked up to Square Books and bought Chris Offutt's acclaimed new memoir MY FATHER, THE PORNOGRAPHER. Thanks to Chris I will be setting aside this pretty interesting Norman Mailer book about Lee Harvey Oswald because I can't wait to start Chris's book. In fact, I already have. In fact, I'm on page 14. And in fact, there's an owl on page 14. "An owl moaned along the ridge." That's good! Good verb. In all the many books I've read with owls in them, I don't believe any author but Chris has displayed the good sense to have their owl "moan." It gives back all the eeriness of the owl's cry that has been leached out through our tired centuries of "hooting."

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Dr. Theresa

This nice picture of Dr. Theresa comes to us from Jon Langford, who sent it yesterday. He snapped it on Faulkner's lawn that time.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Great Babies of Show Business

You know my cigarette lighter book's publication date has come and gone. It is no use for me to think about cigarette lighters any more! If it ever was. But I read an article by R. Emmet Sweeney which included the phrase "ill-fated cigarette lighter" and I had to know more! So I tweeted at him and he tweeted back at me thusly: He was speaking, of course, of SUSAN SLADE. So I watched it last night and here are my controversial comments, including numerous spoilers. 1. Lloyd Nolan was always an old man. 2. Lloyd Nolan has a funny way of letting his mouth hang open while other actors talk. 3. Connie Stevens's approach to acting is to repeat a word very carefully to make it appear she's thinking: "I... I..." "You... you..." "I wouldn't put... put it that way." She has an "illegitimate" baby that she tries to pass off as her baby brother and she is always saying, "I can't leave my baby... brother! My baby brother!" She (her character, Susan Slade) is remarkably terrible at remembering to pretend her baby is her baby brother. 3. Speaking of the baby, that is a truly great performance by a baby! He always seems to know his motivation. I'd put that baby up against the baby in Altman's version of POPEYE for all-time great performance by a baby. Connie Stevens sings him a lullaby and he reacts by drifting off to sleep! For example. 4. Here is where the lighter comes in, and it's horrific. The baby in the movie is always grabbing a lighter and playing with it. Then, in the true Chekhovian manner, he sets himself on fire! And they show a doll (it's supposed to be the baby) lying on the floor with flames leaping out of it! Terrifying. You're a little relieved because the "baby" is so obviously a doll, but that also makes it scarier! Don't worry, the baby is going to be all right, they tell us, though we never see the baby in the movie again. I suppose I would have been obliged to include this scene in my cigarette lighter book but I'm just as happy that I didn't. 5. Look at this ashtray!
I don't think this poorly captured, blurry frame can get across the ominous thrill of the camera closing in on this tableau as the telephone rings with no one in the house to answer it. Lynchian! And the ashtray almost glows. I was thinking McNeil would love this ashtray.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

I Ruin Everything

Last night we realized LOVE LETTERS was on TCM. But it had already been on for twelve minutes! Aw, that's not so bad, we reasoned. I had been meaning to record it, but I did not. All we knew was that it had Joseph Cotten ("One of my top five!" - Dr. Theresa) and Jennifer Jones in it, the same couple from PORTRAIT OF JENNIE, which Dr. Theresa loves so much that Megan Abbott sent her a lobby card from it. So we missed the first twelve minutes (maybe the first ten, accounting for Robert Osborne's introduction) and then I paused it numerous times because I was cooking dinner and had to go stir this or check that. So at some point I meant to pause it again, but accidentally hit the "2" button... which is just beneath the "pause" button... and our viewing changed to a withered grayish man in an infomerical about mortgages on channel 2! And by the time I got it back on TCM, the movie had advanced considerably - an unintended consequence of my constant pausing, now all undone! - and could not be rewound. We found ourselves suddenly smack dab in a flashback where answers to all the mysterious questions were coming to light! BONK! A shadow on the wall showed a heavy object bonking down on a man's head. In the movie, I mean.