Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The last great American poet?

"I'm really just a nice, middle-class Jewish boy from New Jersey. If you take a swing at me, I'll probably swing right back. I write poetry."

Love it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

from a article ostensibly on the job of US poet Laureate...

but it's this very insightful quote from Matthew Zapruder that deserves amplification as far as I'm concerned. Poetry is one of the last vestiges of freedom in our culture:

In a culture like ours where language has been completely and utterly subordinated to the task of selling people things, how do you create a little freedom? Only in art that isn't designed to sell or convince or sermonize or cajole or urge. Maybe that's poetry, or at least some poetry.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Since my mom seemed to like this one...

For Eden

Most of the time
I don’t understand
a word you say
then again
you’re only two
and I’m only your father
which almost guarantees
I’ll understand you less
in a year from now
and even less in five
or ten;
I’m sitting minding
my own business
an opened book
on my lap and
you appear
sudden as a bird
on a balcony rail
you’re wearing
your baggy grey elephant
costume, floppy trunk
dangling off your forehead,
and you ask me
for a peanut
then pause and tell me
with a look in your eye
I know I’ll come to fear
that next time
you will be a cat
and after that a dog
and you want to know
where my costume is.

Monday, July 21, 2008

More vampires, magic atop bestseller lists & C.R.A.Z.Y.

Apropo of my last post about movies usurping literature as the standard for the arts here is an article which appeared in the papers about the latest phenomenon atop the bestseller lists. To quote myself (Oh I love doing this): And here's another prediction: the fiction bestseller lists will increasingly feature books that have filmic qualities, magic, fantasy, adventure etc.

Now, to completely contradict myself, I watched C.R.A.Z.Y. this weekend. If you grew up in the seventies, do yourself a favour, go out and rent (or borrow, as we did from the library) this movie. It's the best evocation of growing up during that period I've seen on film. It brought back a flood of disturbing memories. It was also an extremely moving (yes, it got under my skin) portrait of teenage angst and alienation, with powerful individual performances, and the added dimension of one young man's struggle with being gay in a homophobic family. This may sound odd, but one aspect that surprised me was how similar the mill-town, middle-class, strictly Roman Catholic upbringing of Quebecois portrayed in the film felt to my own, which was Montreal, Jewish, more upper-middle-class. I guess the seventies were the seventies - blond Lebanese, Pink Floyd and Ziggy Stardust - in Hampstead and Trois Riviere. The film is stylishly shot, and richly layered, once again showing that Quebec films leave Canadian films wanting.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hellboy, I love thee

I have never been completely moved by a movie.
I've been excited, thrilled, scared, even provoked (intellectually) but moved, I mean deeply, mortally, life-alteringly touched? Nope. Don't get me wrong. I like movies. Some have left indelible marks - Apocalypse Now immediately comes to mind, changed the way I think about war, even the human condition. There have been memorable characters and performances, even in mediocre films like Josh Brolin in No Country for Old Men (yes, I thought it was a mediocre film - actually worse, a narrative disaster, and Brolin's performance was more memorable than Javiar Bardem's.) But have I been changed by the experience? This is the question I've been asking myself as my wife and I have recently started making semi-regular trips to the video store to catch up on films we've missed in recent years. I've been mostly disappointed. I've always considered myself an intellectual sort of guy, a cultural elitist if not an outright snob. So, why, suddenly do I realize that when it comes to movies the ones I prefer are technicolor, smash-em-up, bang-em-up thrill rides? The recent spate of Hellboys and Batmans and Hulks and Harry Potters seem to me to represent filmmaking at its apex. And now there is this piece from the National Post which goes some way to explaining why I'm feeling this way. There are certain things that movies do well, violence being one of them, slapstick comedy and melodrama being two more, and certain things movies don't do so well, telling moving stories for example. It's the nature of the medium, a cool one that is incapable of generating the warmth, tone and intimacy required for telling a story that really gets under your skin. But here is the problem, and it's alluded to in the very last quote of the Pauline Kael piece; what happens when movie-culture becomes the very definition and standard of culture in general? An answer: It changes the art being produced across the board. Which seems to be one of the reasons why the Harry Potter books have been such ripping successes. They approximate the film experience in style and content. Unfortunately, books like Harry Potter do poorly at approximating the reading experience ie. as novels they make great films. And then there are Michael Chabon-type novels that attempt to meld popular genre (comics) more suitable for films with literature. In the desire to achieve commercial viability novelists have been trying to reach audiences by encorporating filmic strategies and standards and have abandoned the elements of narrative that make reading literature a uniquely sublime, multi-layered, intimate experience. A vicious circle ensues - with audiences and writers reenforcing these tendencies, and marginalizing everything that does not fit. So here's one safe prediction: The Hulks and Hancocks of this world will continue their ascendency at the box office, as will the Will-Ferrell-type goofball comedies. This is a good thing. Long live Wall-E! And here's another prediction: the fiction bestseller lists will increasingly feature books that have filmic qualities, magic, fantasy, adventure etc. You'll find me at those movies, but I'll be reading other books.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A new 'best' list we can all get behind

Well, it's not exactly a 'best' list - what do you call someone who is the best at being mediocre? The folks at LWOT, one of the best and certainly the most attractively designed literary magazine on the web, are asking you, the Canadian public (and anyone else) to vote on The Most Mediocre Canadian. There's even a blog to go along with the official poll. Hmmm, I've got to think about this one, I mean there are so many to choose from.