The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Posts from — July 2010

A Great Unrecorded History (2)

To comment on how things really are is often perceived as dissent and generally results in some form of ostracism. Those who wield power, especially in social situations, don’t like to be reminded of the fact that they are not wearing clothes. As a gay youth, Forster (or should I call him Morgan?) learned this better than anyone and became naturally taciturn to the point of embarrassing others with his infinitude. Only later did he discover a way around this. He could say anything he wanted (except talk about his homosexuality) in the world of fiction. There, and only there, he was free to expose the foibles of the English to his heart’s content. Morgan, therefore, lived two distinctly separate lives—as a cloistered, closeted gay man and as a renowned literary genius—which is what makes E.M. Forster and A Great Unrecorded History so fascinating.

July 28, 2010   Comments Off on A Great Unrecorded History (2)

A Great Unrecorded History (1)

I am reading Wendy Moffat’s literary biography of E.M. Forster (A Great Unrecorded History) on a Kindle for my pc and am enjoying it—not so much for what it reveals about Forster (we all knew he was gay, right?) but by the author’s probing intelligence and terse, sage, and often witty comments. Consider this statement about early influences on the young, fatherless Forster (whom she calls Morgan throughout the biography): “There was the bilingualism of women, their private talk and their careful, vicious, oblique wielding of social power. And there was dream knowledge, a magical, incantatory way to discover what is already known to be true.” All I can say is Wow. I have no idea whether this is true or not. I doubt the author knows herself. But it feels true. More than that, it makes you think.

After reading this and a few other epigrammatic statements, I was intrigued. Moffat had me. It was like reading Richard Ellman for the first time in college. Understanding a famous author better than you thought possible. A transcendental experience.

The way Moffat inserts Forster into the cultural life of Great Britain is also interesting. Of course, Forster had a lover and his friends were gay, but what surprised me was the extent to which modern English literature was written by gay men: Tennyson, Cory, Hopkins, Lefroy, Crowley, Symonds, Carpenter, “Teleny,” Bloxam, Ellis, Oscar Wilde, of course, Housman, Forster, Owen, Lawrence, Ackerley, Isherwood, Spender, Chubb, Auden, and Maugham. Quite a list of famous names. But Moffat doesn’t stop there. She implies that homoeroticism is as English as tea, the BBC, or the Kinks, and that it grows as naturally in English soil as bluebells or stuttering.

By the way, the Kindle for the pc is simple and easy to use, and is a better use of the computer than surfing, chatting, watching movies, or reading news. I’m not tempted to buy the new, portable Kindle from Amazon, however, because of the price. $375? You have to be kidding! I can tell you one thing, though. It’s the end of the bookshop as we know it.

More to come…

July 28, 2010   Comments Off on A Great Unrecorded History (1)

The Ardor

His days are slowing sinking down
In the circuit he traverses
From bed to toilet to armchair
In a room that is not his
In a house that never was
In a hamlet burned
A country disappeared
Whose name is lost
And no one can remember,
And yet he is—so substantial
A dying animal whose instincts are intact
More sane than I will ever be.

What is this is
That he possesses and I do not?
But ardor.

July 26, 2010   Comments Off on The Ardor

Eyes Wide Shut

Floyd Landis recently went on national television to repeat his allegations against Lance Armstrong. As he spoke, his eyes shifted, his voice quavered, he twisted in his chair, and, in general, he expressed himself in the most circuitious way possible as if he were incapable of making a direct statement. This is not the kind of man you would buy a used car or anything else from. Most jurors, I think, would not believe him. But, of course, this does not mean he’s lying.

The purpose of his television appearance was to convict Armstrong in the court of public opinion. Many famous cases–of which this is likely to be one–are argued in front of cameras, as well as in the courtroom. It is now all too obvious that Lance Armstrong has powerful enemies, and despite how “dishonest” Landis appears, they are succeeding in destroying Lance piece by piece. It is not a pretty sight.

July 25, 2010   Comments Off on Eyes Wide Shut

A True Believer

Yesterday I was in a local shop when a middle-aged woman with frilly black hair and rhinestone glasses entered and began chatting with no one in particular. It was obvious she liked the sound of her own voice. After getting another woman’s attention, she declaimed that the idea of evolution was obviously false. “Look around you. Nothing has changed in hundreds of years. It’s all the same.”

The poor woman she had bottonholed agreed.

I was too shocked to laugh. That is the one thing true believers never do—look around them.

July 23, 2010   Comments Off on A True Believer

Perfectly Adequate

Sometimes footballing talent does not morph into a place in the first team. Against the Philadelphia Union—a new team this year who are next to last in the MLS standings—Welbeck and Macheda did not impress. Despite their raw talent and athleticism, they invariably seemed a half step too slow. Why? I wonder. Is it slowness of mind, lack of experience, or do they lack that quality—impossible to define—that separates good players from great ones. It’s sad, but I frankly think they’ll be sold.

Another player of real quality, Obertan, never quite connects with anyone. I don’t know why. He receives the ball with ease, dribbles past people at speed, and then fails to make a telling pass or cross. No doubt he will play first team football somewhere, but not with United (though it must be said that in the second half against the Union’s second team, he did manage to score from a nice pass from Welbeck. Was it enough to change Ferguson’s mind? Who knows?)

Then there was John O’Shea, who seemed in difficulty whenever anyone ran at him. Remember, this is the Philadelphia Union, not Chelsea or Liverpool. I sincerely hope O’Shea gets it back. He’s been such an integral part of the Manchester United setup for years.

There were positives. Smalling looks good, Giggs and Scholes are playing themselves into match fitness, Rafael and his twin Fábio keep getting better, Jonny Evans is solid, and Berbatov is playing with commitment.

Still, as was the case last year, Alex Ferguson needs a forward, a midfielder, and a defender of international pedigree if he is to compete in the Premiership. He bravely says he doesn’t need anyone new in the squad—the players he has are perfectly adequate—but one wonders if the Glazers have not doomed the club to repeat Liverpool’s performance of last year. I sincerely hope not. United do not deserve that fate at the hands of the raiding Americans.

July 22, 2010   Comments Off on Perfectly Adequate

Why not?

One changes the world in an instant by shifting one’s perception of it. We do this all the time, but are not conscious of it. Why not do it consciously?

July 20, 2010   Comments Off on Why not?

L’affaire Lance

In the United States a grand jury is convened in some jurisdictions to determine whether enough evidence exists to proceed with a normal jury trial. It issues subpoenas, examines evidence, and issues indictments. In the case of Lance Armstrong, Jeff Novitzky must convince a group of ordinary citizens there is a strong possibility that Armstrong committed a crime. A grand jury’s proceedings are secret, but because so many individuals are involved, there are often leaks (some of them intentional) of a damaging nature. Greg LeMond, for example, seems to relish talking to the press.

At this point it’s already clear that Armstrong (or those around him) miscalculated in the Floyd Landis affair. It would have been a lot less damaging to have simply given in to Landis’s extortion and paid him off. Lance is not as popular as he once was, and although he can still marshall an impressive amount of support, the public loves watching a hero die as much as they relished his earlier triumphs. It’s human nature, I suppose, but a sad spectacle, nonetheless.

July 20, 2010   Comments Off on L’affaire Lance

The Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer, Roman Polanski’s latest film, is as taut and well structured as Chinatown, though perhaps not as interesting. Chinatown was modern film noir and shocking to watch, as was Rosemary’s Baby in its day. This new film is a political thriller based on a novel. The twists and turns are never unexpected, though one still watches with interest.

Ewan McGregor is the glue that holds it together. Only an actor as gifted as McGregor could make an intelligent fool such as the ghost writer believable. In fact, the entire plot depends on our accepting McGregor’s character at face value and we do. His ride is our ride. His fate is exactly what he deserves.

It is amusing to imagine Polanski editing this film while under house arrest in Switzerland. There are more than a few shots at the political culture of the United States that have a wonderful bite to them. Well done, old man.

July 19, 2010   Comments Off on The Ghost Writer

Upanishads

I’m rereading the Upanishads, Eknath Easwaran’s translation, which I quite like.

As with most religions, its philosophy can be summed up in a few simple sentences: (1) Find an enlightened teacher (one can only learn from One who knows), (2) Practice one-pointed meditation along with the abnegation of senses and the ego, and (3) When the time is right, your Teacher will confer enlightenment upon you. The result is pretty astonishing, because when you become one with Self—the first cause and underlying, unifying, undifferentiated consciousness of the universe—you will escape death by not having to be reborn in another lifetime. Pretty neat, isn’t it?

It’s far from easy, however.

There are thousands of teachers out there, most of them false, and in stopping your senses and destroying your ego through meditation, you are more likely to go mad than become enlightened. Which, of course, is very, very funny.

In my case, there’s no doubt I’m heading for another incarnation. In my next lifetime, I can see myself picking up another copy of the Upanishads and having another go at it. That is, if I don’t find myself reincarnated as a toad.

July 17, 2010   Comments Off on Upanishads