Sunday, December 20, 2009

LiterJerry Matters

Everyone who has read our regular feature on the subject knows how horrible "Literary Matters" are, and how I occasionally attempt to soften and disguise their horrible nature by calling them "LiterJerry Matters" and making sure that most of them in a particular "post" are about the more palatable subject of Jerry Lewis and his relationship to literature. Today's "LiterJerry Matters" are even more palatable than usual, and there are just three of them, so relax. 1) First, I was wrong the other day when I stated flat out that Leslie Caron's autobiography contains no references to Jerry Lewis! I went back to Square Books and checked, just as I promised, and there are a couple in Chapter 20. Ms. Caron testifies that Jerry "had the whole town laughing" for the five days that FUNNY BONES shot in Blackpool, England. She also refers to the "teddy bear ingenuity" (whatever that is!) of Oliver Platt. 2) I thoroughly enjoyed Chris Fujiwara's new book JERRY LEWIS, which is from the University of Illinois Press "Contemporary Film Directors" series. I have been afraid to tell you how much I enjoyed it because I received a free advance copy from the publisher, and now the government demands to be informed of such things! I am scared of the government! But I understand their point. I never receive free copies of books from publishers. This was a real novelty to me. Well, I take that back. For some reason (maybe just because I live in Oxford, MS) I recently received, out of nowhere, a free copy of a book called WILLIAM FAULKNER AND THE SOUTHERN LANDSCAPE. I never cracked it open, so I can't tell you if it's any good. But it's a hardcover, so I put it on the shelf to make visitors think I'm smart. So those are the two free books I have ever received from publishers. Okay, government? Back to Fujiwara: the second part of the book is comprised of a masterful interview with Jerry Lewis, the best I have ever read, in that Fujiwara gets him to open up on the subject of technique, something he often seems unwilling to discuss in depth. In the first part of the book, Fujiwara brilliantly analyzes (among other subjects) the way Lewis plays with concepts of space and time in the cinematic frame. (He even uses a term - "Lewisian space" - we have used on the "blog," though to very different ends; all I'm really talking about is colorful couch pillows, while Fujiwara writes incisively about the way "Lewis's compartmentalized sets facilitate the discovery of inner narratives and secret worlds.") And here is one of my favorite parts: "Fairly long stretches of THE FAMILY JEWELS and HARDLY WORKING and, perhaps, nearly all of ONE MORE TIME are also lacking in humor. One of my premises is that Lewis's work creates an impure, shifting context within which such a lack need not be accounted a flaw." Somehow I find it touching! He is saving Jerry from people who don't find Jerry funny! "So what?" Fujiwara seems to say. I am simplifying. 3) Ace Atkins! I just read WICKED CITY by Ace Atkins. It is set in Alabama! And it is one of those books you can't stop reading at night even when you should be sleeping. It is one of those books that make you feel sad when you notice that the pages are running out, though at the same time you are racing through them like a fiend, desperate (and terrified) to discover what happens next! I see Ace around town all the time, and we often chat about our favorite subjects, which include FANTASY ISLAND, Shields and Yarnell, MAD MEN, Claudia Cardinale (pictured), and Megan Abbott. But why haven't I read his books before? Well, I have read one now and I am very glad. I don't have to tell the government about this, because I paid for Ace's book with my own money, and so what if he and I are friends? If I didn't love the book, I just wouldn't mention it. Okay, goodbye! These were possibly the least painful literary matters ever. But don't get your hopes up! Literary matters will probably remain on the whole just as unbearable as ever.