The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Posts from — April 2009


A sea of bluebells
Hidden where none can find them
Save for you and I.


April 30, 2009   Comments Off on 187

The Great River

It’s almost as if the Ganges ceases to flow
when the bright burning pyre drifts,
embers scatter on the breeze like fireflies,
and chants and prayers fill the air with the drone of human voices,
but it is illusion, for the great river never stops—
the goddess Kali will not pause
even for the saintliest of men.

April 27, 2009   Comments Off on The Great River

Music and Lyrics

Music and Lyrics is more cheesy than any Hugh Grant love story that has come before it, and that’s saying something! Of course, the aging Hugh couldn’t do this on his own. Adding Drew Barrymore to the mix is the essential ingredient that puts the film over the top. She really does have that certain something from Hollywood of another era. Call it class or a style of acting that only she possesses.

The film focuses on the relationship between a former music idol (now a desperate has-been) and an aspiring writer (a hippie chick exploited by her former college prof) as they struggle to compose a song for a reigning pop diva. Weird plot, isn’t it? The movie is so stylized and breezily acted that you think you’re watching something from the Thirties. Though you constantly wonder about your own good taste, Barrymore’s and Grant’s acting is so convincing that you stop caring and simply enjoy what you know is a dollop of semi liquid, plastic cheese that would, otherwise, be indigestible.

The film was panned by most critics (which is understandable since it is so formulaic), though it did have wide audience appeal and grossed over a $145 million in box office receipts.

By the way, there is a great review of the film by Anne Gilbert on, if you want more detail, something I can’t manage at the moment. I’m still wondering how a film this bad can be appealing to me. It’s as if the pinched and vapid Bob Dylan suddenly acquired his young voice and musical sense again, making you forget the past forty years of truly awful music. Hey, that’s an idea. Maybe Barrymore needs to inspire Dylan to greatness again.

April 27, 2009   Comments Off on Music and Lyrics


Too tired to care
Whether death would come that night,
I slept unaware.

April 26, 2009   Comments Off on 186


A motionless wren
A cat slinking through the weeds
Leaves bursting like bombs.

April 25, 2009   Comments Off on 185


By turns soft and harsh
The April wind sloughs off husks
Of newly formed leaves.

April 23, 2009   Comments Off on 184

So Long, See You Tomorrow


When I asked the staff at my local book emporium about favorite novels, one of the clerks, who normally responds only in monosyllables, thought for a long moment and said that his most beloved novel was So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell. Giving him a look of ironic wonderment (because he seemed like he was trying to birth an egg), I said I’d never heard of William Maxwell. He replied that Maxwell was a longtime editor at The New Yorker, where he worked with such writers as Nabokov, Updike, J.D. Salinger, and John Cheever. I was impressed, because editing luminaries like Updike or Salinger would be problematic, at best. I bought the novel on the spot.

I didn’t like the novel at first. It was a jumble of disconnected remembrances with no emotional connection between them. But, of course, I soldiered on, having spent good money on the book. Besides, it was only 144 pages long.

It wasn’t until about a third of the way through the novel that I finally got interested, and by the time I’d reached the end, I was hanging on every word. The kaleidoscopic scenes and dialogue, which at first seemed disparate and unconnected, gradually coalesced into a gestalt of power and drama. I won’t give a synopsis of the plot (which you can find on the web), except to say that it involves the rawest of emotions told in a spare and unique style that earned the novel an American Book Award. Go buy it.

April 20, 2009   Comments Off on So Long, See You Tomorrow


Evil is lossless,
Banal and ordinary
Like last year’s cheap date.

April 19, 2009   Comments Off on 183


Sniffing for my scent,
The round-eyed does watch me pass
With limpid stillness.

April 18, 2009   Comments Off on 182

In Treatment

Once in a while an intelligently written, acted, and directed series comes to television—like The Wire, The Sopranos, Damages, or In Treatment—and you get blown away by it. Because most television and films are trite (formulaic, predictable, vapid, unreal, and sophomoric…add as many pejorative adjectives as you like here…), it always comes as a pleasant surprise to find drama that engages one’s attention from beginning to end, raises real issues, and contributes something to one’s life—in some way teaches you things you didn’t already know. In Treatment is such a series.

Because the lead psychologist is male (Gabriel Byrne with his lovable Irish twang), I sometimes feel as if I’m going through therapy myself (or going through whatever he’s going through). Granted, I do have an overactive imagination, but, in watching the series, I have unearthed issues I didn’t know I had. By the way, that’s what drama is supposed to do. It raises the bar. It probes your psyche. It gives you insights into your own character you may have missed.

The screenshot above shows Byrne with Dianne Wiest, his mentor and personal ball-breaker, who, not always nicely, slashes through his illusions.

April 18, 2009   Comments Off on In Treatment