DOGGONE EVERYTHING (In Search of Something)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

For all you Tarantino fans who liked his latest movie, history is perhaps not something he should have messed with, and especially not this history. Yes, it's fiction, but as a filmmaker is he exempt from historical truth? Exempt from being responsible with history? It seems some critics do not feel he has the knowledge or sensitivity to be in this realm. (See end of Newsweek and NY Times critique below.) Both critics had good things to say, but in their final assessment were not pleased with the film. His knowledge of pop culture and film is his forte and maybe that's what he should stick to. A rather dicey chance he's taken with this film.  Even though the story is fiction, unfortunately many people do not know the history of this time and might not discern fact from fiction. See quotes below:
"Tarantino's movie may be the latest, if the most extreme, example of a trend that shows just how fragile memory can be—a series of popular World War II films that disproportionately emphasize armed Jewish heroism (Defiance) and German resistance (Valkyrie, White Rose), or elicit sympathy for German moral confusion (The Reader). If so, it may be that our present-day taste for "empowerment," our anxious horror of being represented as "victims"—nowadays there are no victims, only "survivors"—has begun to distort the representation of the past, one in which passive victims, alas, vastly outnumbered those who were able to fight back. "Facts can be so misleading," Hans Landa, the evil SS man, murmurs at one point in Inglourious Basterds. Perhaps, but fantasies are even more misleading. To indulge them at the expense of the truth of history would be the most inglorious bastardization of all."
("'Inglourious Basterds’: When Jews Attack." By Daniel Mendelsohn, Aug 14, 2009.)

And NY Times:

"Cartoon Nazis are not new to the movies, and neither are fascinating fascists, as evidenced by Ralph Fiennes’s Oscar-nominated turn in “Schindler’s List.” Unlike those in “Schindler’s List,” Mr. Tarantino’s Nazis exist in an insistently fictional cinematic space where heroes and villains converge amid a welter of movie allusions. He’s not making a documentary or trying to be Steven Spielberg: Mr. Tarantino is really only serious about his own films, not history. In that sense “Inglourious Basterds,” which takes its title if not its misspellings from an Italian flick in “The Dirty Dozen” vein, is simply another testament to his movie love. The problem is that by making the star attraction of his latest film a most delightful Nazi, one whose smooth talk is as lovingly presented as his murderous violence, Mr. Tarantino has polluted that love. "
("Tarantino Avengers in Nazi Movieland." By MANOHLA DARGIS, Aug. 21, 2009.)

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rachael Ray and Being Childless

Rachael Ray and Being Childless By Choice - The Juggle - WSJ. A reader comment: "Having children is not about fulfilling your personal fantasy for your life. They are not toys. They do not complete you or all the other crap you hear from some people. No human does that and the desperation with which some women approach having a child is proof enough that people are not thinking clearly about what it is to be a parent."

I have been doing searches on Julia Child since I saw the movie Julie&Julia this week. I guess I've picked up another theme via cooking: having children or not having children, by choice or by circumstance. For me, as for others, it was 'circumstances' (namely, TIMING - relationships ending, getting older, less energy, the dictates of biology, not paying attention to the facts of biology), and it has not been easy and is in last decision stages.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Elk Grove Weekend Movie Review; The Three J's - Julia, Julie and Joe

Elk Grove Weekend Movie Review; The Three J's - Julia, Julie and Joe: "Maybe the screen writer is the one to blame, but this movie just irked me so much. Julie seemed so fragile, a girl that you would hate to be married to... to think about it, she is trying to get fame from someone's else's hard work. recreating every recipe and blogging about the experience does not make her to be an instantaneous four star Author. How can you really bypass, years of hard work and dedication unlike many authors out there who writes about politics, social issues, fashion etc... who spent their whole lives researching and reporting. Don't get me wrong, blogging is a great way to share ideas and to flex the noggin muscle, but I think hard work has to come out from other aspects of any endeavor beside just one try."

This is similar to what I've said in previous posts about another 'instant writer' (I say -shaken, not stirred, and pour), so now I don't feel like 'sour grapes' for blogging about it.

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Go Retro!: The Saucy Sex Life of Julia Child

Go Retro!: The Saucy Sex Life of Julia Child

I really enjoyed reading this post, especially as I did wonder about her reaction in the film Julie and Julia to her sister's announcement. I'm not sure, though, that having children or not has anything to do with 'making it' in a profession. One could say then that if you are childless you should be a Superstar because, after all, you don't have kids. Perhaps you would have a better chance at success without kids; that is, if you define success (as it seems this Blogger was), as attaining extraordinary wealth and/or fame.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Borzoi Reader | Authors | Julia Child

Borzoi Reader Authors Julia Child
The Making of...Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The Story of "Mastering" at Knopf by Judith Jones


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Another "Instant" Writer!

This piece appeared in More Magazine, Feb. 2009. It's clear from this write-up that Karen had an array of contacts at her disposal, not to mention incredible concentration. Did she really write for 10 hours? That is unbelievable! Can any writer sit that long at a desk and be creative? Did the novel really all come out in a nice, neat draft easily handed over to an editor and agent? How many writers have a well-known agent take them out to lunch when they have a draft of a novel? Someone had incredible 'pull.' This is not 'sour grapes,' but just to point out how nearly impossible this situation is. This piece misrepresents the reality and hard knocks of this business. I have been writing since I was a child - now about 40 years-- and I have published, but nothing comparable to the scale of The Ivy Chronicles. It is a mythic story: "I think I'll be a writer" and *poof* after 10 hr. days for 3 months at the computer - a Bestseller is born. This is not an uplifting piece, but a disheartening one, for those who have been serious writers (and even trained) for decades and who still have not 'broken out.' I realize that these fairy tales do occur, but they are presented as commonplace. At least tell the truth about how powerful and/or well-connected the 'instant writers' really are. Also, how much work did the editor have to do on the novel to make it work? There's always more to the story, and I realize the 'true story' would not be equal to this "out of breath," exciting tale.

From Entrepreneur to Best-selling Novelist
Elizabeth Gehrman

Karen Quinn:"THE NANNY DIARIES had just come out and I figured, maybe I can write a best-seller too"

Who: Karen Quinn, 53, Miami Beach, Florida
What: Sold her business to write; her first novel was a best seller.
When: In 2001, when she was 45, Karen Quinn was unexpectedly laid off after working for 15 years in advertising at American Express. This didn't cause a financial crisis; her husband was a lawyer at a brokerage firm, and she received a substantial severance package. Still, she says, "I was devastated. I remember thinking, I've had this job for so long. How am I ever going to do anything else?" Then she realized she did have one qualification that could translate into paying work: She had gotten her kids accepted into private schools in Manhattan.

To most parents, that doesn't sound like a major accomplishment. But anyone going through the process in New York City knows that competition for spots is unbelievably tight. "You feel so judged," Quinn says. "I hated the experience. I thought, if I can help people through this and make it better for them, maybe there's a business in it."

She paired up with another mother at her children's school, and together they got the business up and running. But after a couple of years, Quinn could no longer stand the drama and the excess she witnessed. She remembers one woman, a single mother, who hired an actor to pretend to be her husband as she went through the process. "It worked," Quinn says, "but the next fall she had to pretend to go through a divorce." On another occasion, Quinn was helping a little girl cram for an entrance exam when the child held up her hands and said, "Stop! Can't you see I'm only 4?"

Quinn sold her share of the company to her partner and started casting about for another career. She had always fantasized about being a writer, and it occurred to her that she had a lot of juicy material from her school adventures. "The Nanny Diaries had just come out," she says, "And I figured, well, that was a best seller, maybe I can write one too."

She and her husband agreed that she would work on the manuscript for three months before looking for another job. So she sat in front of her computer for 10 hours a day, plugging away on a humorous story about a woman who -- you guessed it -- gets fired from the corporate world and starts a private-school consulting firm. As it happened, a friend of Quinn's had a connection to the Nanny editor, so when Quinn finished a draft, she called her. "The editor had me drop off the book at her company's mail room," Quinn recalls. "There were bins and bins of books --thousands of manuscripts people had sent in that were all being returned with rejection letters. For the first time I thought, maybe I won't get published after all."

The editor initially rejected the manuscript, but she did recommend that Quinn make the main character more likable. It took Quinn another month to do the rewrite. When she finished, she told the good news to her babysitter, who turned out to have hosted playdates for the son of a literary agent. The agent took Quinn to lunch, and before the check arrived, the woman had agreed to represent her. Around the same time, Quinn's husband mentioned the book to one of his acquaintances -- who turned out to have edited the book The Devil Wears Prada. "I sent her the manuscript," Quinn says. "When she e-mailed to say she'd read it, loved it, and wanted to publish it -- it was truly one of the most exciting moments of my life."

Her agent set up an auction for the book, and in September 2004, almost six months after Quinn started writing, the novel sold for a price in the mid six figures. The Ivy Chronicles was released in the spring of 2005 and became an immediate national best seller; Sarah Jessica Parker has signed on to play the lead in a movie version. Quinn, meantime, has published two other novels -- Wife in the Fast Lane and Holly Would Dream -- and signed contracts for two more. "A lot of people didn't believe I could do it at the beginning," she says. "You have to listen to that inner voice that says, yeah, I can. You may end up somewhere you never could have imagined."


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Grisham to Write Spec Screenplay About Four Sailors Who Claim Were Wrongly Convicted

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Half Price Books' earnings, locations have grown by volumes | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Dallas Business News

Half Price Books' earnings, locations have grown by volumes | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Dallas Business News

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From the article: "With the exception of executive vice president Kathy Doyle-Thomas, who has an MBA, there isn't a business degree to be had among the management group."

More power to Half-Price Books, which is always crowded in Cincinnati, OH!


Tuesday, July 07, 2009


A series of vampire novels illuminates the complexities of female adolescent desire.
J'adore The Atlantic, and this piece by Caitlin Flanagan, in particular, about the Twilight books and their effect on young women/girls, but also older women(!) and the significance of this series. I agree with her that it is a throwback to the novels of old (although I think I am a generation or 2 behind her): nary a hint of cell phones, no texting, and only ocassional email references. It does seem mired in another time. I am hooked on these books - on their romanticism; the idea of the hero and the heroine, good & evil, right & wrong. It's almost like a story from generations ago about a chivalrous hero/knight (Edward) and a pining, but intriguing, heroine/princess (Bella). And yes, it helps that Stephenie Meyer has a literature background.

Flanagan, in her best line, and the one to which I relate, writes: "Twilight is fantastic. It’s a page-turner that pops out a lurching, frightening ending I never saw coming. It’s also the first book that seemed at long last to rekindle something of the girl-reader in me. In fact, there were times when the novel—no work of literature, to be sure, no school for style; hugged mainly to the slender chests of very young teenage girls, whose regard for it is on a par with the regard with which just yesterday they held Hannah Montana—stirred something in me so long forgotten that I felt embarrassed by it. Reading the book, I sometimes experienced what I imagine long-married men must feel when they get an unexpected glimpse at pornography: slingshot back to a world of sensation that, through sheer force of will and dutiful acceptance of life’s fortunes, I thought I had subdued."


Stephenie Meyer-Interviews

A link to small sample of audio & print interviews with Meyer, author of Twilight book series.


Monday, July 06, 2009

BookAngst 101: Fine Whine I: An Unpublished Writer’s Rant

BookAngst 101: Fine Whine I: An Unpublished Writer’s Rant: "A VOCATION OF UNHAPPINESS [Courtesy Georges Simenon (1903-1985)]
'Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy.'"

I would agree with this, in part. I would say there is a tendency toward melancholy (moi) more than utter unhappiness or despair. I know a number of authors (all genres), visual artists, and musicians who reside on various points of this line - from easy-going, even happy, to acute anxiety to bouts of depression to bi-polar disorder. I agree that if you can do something else, it would be better for you and your sanity, and also for the public, as it might help raise literacy levels. Too many people who are not really writers (i.e. they just have a friend who's an editor, so figure, what the heck! might as well, or are celebrities, and have someone to write for them or to help them write 24/7) clog up the industry with crap or nonsense & make writers and authors with a deep passion for writing nearly tear their hair out in agony. (I'll discuss one such recent useless book in another post).


Book Review of Isak Dinesen's Winter's Tales

From my July 26, 1993 book review:
If these reviews do not need to be of new books, then I'd like to suggest a collection of short stories, Winter's Tales by Isak Dinesen. Dinesen's fiction was received with enthusiasm by an American public up until her death in 1962; since then, it appears, her work has fallen into a semi-obscurity. Attention was drawn again to her autobiographical writings when Sydney Pollack's Academy Award-winning movie, Out of Africa, hit the theaters in 1985. However, the movie is problematic and has its limitations--Dinesen's life (often portrayed inaccurately in the movie) is made to overshadow her work, an occurrence that is common as well in critical studies of Dinesen. Therefore, interested readers should take a look at her fiction--stories that fit well into today's times (the sign of a classic), because of the interest in ‘otherworldly’ subjects, such as vampires and werewolves, as in the Twilight series, and could be academically categorized under "post-modern."

If you enjoy Carson McCullers' work, you will love Dinesens.' McCullers was a great admirer of Dinesen's stories--both women worked within the Gothic form. For those readers who love a tale, one that is mesmerizing when told aloud, and/or who have an interest in the poetic, freakish, grotesque, or fantastic will find Winter's Tales a satisfying read. Dinesen's stories can be described as realistic with an "other-worldly," historic feel. In this collection, most of her stories are set in some distant past, often in Denmark, her home.

“The Dreaming Child” (one of the best in this collection) revolves around Jens, a spirited, parent-less boy, who comes to live with the wealthy Emilie and Jakob Vandamm, two cousins who married to keep money in the family and, by Emilie's choice, are childless. Jens had been living in a poor district under the care of a bitter and mean-spirited woman, Mrs. Mahler, but he always dreamed of the day when he would "move up" into his "real" home where, (as he told all of his school friends), his parents were aristocrats. Upon first meeting Emilie he says, "Mamma...I am so glad that you have found me. I have waited for you for so long, so long" (169).

The reader knows that Jens is no ordinary child. Dinesen writes, "Jens took possession of the mansion in Bredgade, and brought it to submission, neither by might nor by power, but in the quality of that fascinating and irresistible personage, perhaps the most fascinating and irresistible in the whole world: the dreamer whose dreams come true" (171). The story continues to reveal Jens' powers, however bizarre, that enable him to hold up a mirror to others' selves and reveal the "truth" in their hearts; he uncovers Emilie's long-buried, passionate self and instigates a spiritual change in her life, albeit, one that the rational reader might not see as "real" or "true," but certainly is true for the characters.

(Please give proper credit to this blog & author if quoting any material. Thank you.)


Posted Comment to Utterlyunpublishedauthor Blog

In reply to if anyone had read Out of Africa, I decided to put in my 2 cents:

Anonymous said...
I studied Isak Dinesen(the name under which Karen published), and other 20th C. women and their writings for my PhD. I love her book (not a novel, but actually nonfiction - autobiography) Out of Africa. The movie is 'too Hollywood,' and does not reflect Dinesen's real life. She was unusually courageous - a rebel. I loved reading her letters and also her fantastical stories, such as in her collection, Winter's Tales. Had these stories been published today in the U.S., they may have been even more popular than when she first published them, as they are full of mystical and magical people and happenings - themes that seem popular at this time.(I will look for the review I wrote of WT & post to my blog, "doggone everything." Out of Africa is, imho, literature-elegantly written--and the descriptions are a large part of its beauty. Although some critics may say (simply because Dinesen is "Western") that she is somehow condescending to the native culture(s), I would disagree. She appeared to be a model of assimilation - trying to fit in and be a part of the culture. (btw..I happened upon your Blog & became curious b/c I saw you were in Johannesburg-I have relatives in S.Africa.)
9:15 PM


Saturday, July 04, 2009

Shakespeare: Alive & Well - Shakespeare In Love Review

SHAKESPEARE: Alive and Well!
By Me, Dr. C
Published: July 13, 2004

The packed theater was quiet. Everybody sat in their seats and watched the credits. Hardly a person got up to leave. The movie was Shakespeare in Love, and all of us had come out on a snowy, icy Saturday night to see it.

Because I have been immersed in the world of literature all of my life, and professionally, the past fifteen years, I thought I had a reason to be entranced. And I was for the rest of the evening, and years later. When I got home, I pulled my mother’s frayed 1942 Riverside Shakespeare – complete with her scribbled margin notes and mine – off the shelf.

I noted all of the plays I had read, perused favorite or famous lines I had underlined, and noticed the unmarked plays, primarily history plays, that I had not yet read. Although I could not remember all of my Shakespeare, it did not matter. I was looking at his words with new, appreciative eyes. I, like my students, often viewed Shakespeare as a fussy, boring icon, not as the renegade iconoclast depicted in the film. Shakespeare in Love transformed Shakespeare’s image for me. He now was Joseph Fiennes – sexy, handsome, and romantic.

And why not?

Shakespeare was a popular writer in his day, appealing to all classes. The movie, in many ways, brought Shakespeare back to where he was in the first place - a popular entertainer. It was only when we in the Ivory Tower whisked him away to Academe, analyzed him, wrote exhausting books about him, that his work was regarded as "high art," largely untouchable or unreadable without a scholar’s help.

And why this lofty role for such a poet who left his wife his “second best bed” in his will? Shakespeare in Love, worthy of its multiple Oscars, has brought The Bard back where he needs to be: within the reach of the masses.

As Stephanie Cowell, author of the novel, The Players, states, “Best of all, those people who find this great and long dead writer too scary to open the pages of his books, may be convinced to open them now, as even the highly erroneous portrait of the proud little Mozart in the film Amadeus brought new friends to his music.” I agree. Amadeus had people running out to buy Mozart CD’s, just as Shakespeare in Love has people “brushing up” on their Shakespeare.

Some experts on Shakespeare find all this hoopla appalling. They complain the film is not an accurate, historical depiction, only a fix, a fleeting shot of Shakespeare and nothing more. But, we know very little about Shakespeare’s life, so what’s the problem? Or, they claim, a Hollywood film can not do justice to the genius of Shakespeare’s work. I believe this film has done wonders for Shakespeare, and has given teachers another venue to help make Shakespeare a fun read in the classroom. As Cincinnati Post film critic Craig Kopp wrote, “This film is cool, fun, and exciting – words English teachers have been trying to get students to say about Shakespeare for years” (12-24-98). Shakespeare in Love can shatter students’ dry academic idea of what Shakespeare is. The movie brought his works back to life.

Following my trip to the movie I noticed that Shakespeare, The Bard, was everywhere in local and national newspapers: quotations were featured from his plays, and applied to modern life; innuendoes, puns, and nuances that only Shakespeare connoisseurs or experts could have caught in the film were explained.

Indeed, 15th to 17th C. literature and history has become popularized in newspapers and film in recent years. As director John Madden notes: "We have ended up with one foot in the 16th century and one in the 20th, which is perfect.”

In particular, I am delighted by all this attention to a literary figure that I thought was “dead” in this country. Among some academics, Shakespeare is said to have a better marketing plan than other major poets, such as Milton. To see the theater packed for a movie about Shakespeare, to hear the audience laugh at jokes about Christopher Marlowe, and other literary allusions and puns, was immensely gratifying.

Stoppard, the scriptwriter, also made wonderful puns on the language, and cleverly employed clichés, (“the show must…go on?”), which is exactly in the spirit of Shakespeare. We do not readily understand today a great many of the puns and word play in Shakespeare’s plays, unfortunately, because of how the English language and certain word uses have changed. The footnotes to his plays show the changes, although some of the word play transcends cultural context anyway. I have had students read Hamlet without the footnotes, and they were pleasantly surprised at how much they understood.

The film’s high attendance also shows there’s a real desire in our culture for myth, romance, and poetry. Those longing for real art in the theater flocked to the film. Shakespeare in Love beautifully inter-mingles past and present, art and life. We see these brilliant intersections in such moments in the film as during the performance of Romeo and Juliet. After Viola is married, she and Will meet and he says “You are married,” then the camera swings around and we realize they are in front of an audience. This was truly exquisite. It perfectly portrayed Shakespeare’s ability (and great art’s ability) to capture and convey the rapture and pain of real life.

That scene gripped my heart. In many ways, Stoppard’s movie is a defense of art—not ideological expression or temporarily stimulating novelty—but real art, a defense we desperately need in this day and age. Perhaps my students, as I did, will see this intersection that will spark their curiosity, and leave them starry-eyed, running off to read Romeo and Juliet.

A friend of mine told me he came home from the movie so excited about Shakespeare that he ran to his basement, dug around, and pulled out all the Shakespeare essays he’d written in college. And he read them all. A man in the theater sitting next to me started a conversation. Did I know what Twelfth Night was about? He had never heard of it. Did it really entail – as Shakespeare in Love told us -- a shipwreck and a character named Viola? Yes and yes. I gave him a brief synopsis of the play. So, I’m convinced Stoppard is a genius. Not a Shakespeare, necessarily, but pretty darn good. He’s learned a great deal from the master, and he’s paid real and respectful attention, as the film displays, which is a lot more than you can say for just about any playwright/filmmaker these days.

Stoppard, like Shakespeare, shows us how art and life mirror each other: how music, poetry, and exquisite words (as Hamlet said, “Words, words, words”) are essential to life, to love and passion, that makes the movie rich and meaningful. Will and Viola are playful; they tease and laugh with each other in and out of bed, on and off stage. The music of the dance, the drama, the nightingale, and the lark connected them. Life can be a romantic adventure, and not separate from what might be termed, “real” life. We can see, through the film, that we too can be on an imaginative journey. When you are with someone who can create magic in life with you, that’s irreplaceable.

Loving someone is also about responsibility-- hardship and death do intervene. Indeed, as the film expresses, the knowledge of these facts, these darker realities, mean we need deeper, creative connections with each other. I have always known the importance of living it, but experiencing and holding onto wonder in daily life is not an easy feat. We are distracted by other mundane events so that magic seems like a trick to get us off track.

Shakespeare in Love makes us believe in the power of art and life, that Shakespeare’s words are not cobwebbed, but fresh and transformative.

(Please give proper credit to this blog & author if quoting any material. Thank you.)Labels: Entertainment, Literature

Thursday, January 17, 2008

More Plagiarism

I have neglected this Blog for nearly a year. Time is flying. How depressing. I was looking up an agent when I came across someone she represents and ended up on that author's Blog. I was appalled to read about yet another plagiarism case. This blogger/author writes under the entry title, A rose by any other still someone else's damn rose (Jan. 13th, 2008 at 8:11 PM ): "All week, I've been watching the news unfold about the Cassie Edwards plagiarism scandal. For those of you who haven't heard of it, you can get the details by going HERE and HERE. Long story short, she's an author who was first accused of copying passages from various research texts, and pasting them slightly paraphrased but uncredited into her novels. Then most recently, it seems she may have copied whole passages from a 1930 Pulitzer-winning novel into one of her books. / My reaction, as a reader and a writer, is to be both sad and angry."

To me it is yet one more case that makes it increasingly tougher for us writers/authors to write and not be scrutinized. These cases are creating a murky atmosphere, and causing all prose to be scrutinized and suspicious. It happens with students and professors also. There are so many cases of plagiarism that one nearly has to start from the premise that the student is guilty of 'lifting' material. (It is harder to catch the material that is purchased.) This is sad - that it has come to the point that 'stealing' is somehow normalized. I wonder if it is happening more among younger people, as they seem to not understand clearly the rules surrounding originality, and how to give proper credit to sources (citing material not your own). Intellectual property laws exist for reason.