Tagged: movies

Mark Miller collaborates with Clive Barker–and you can contribute to developing the film!

Mark Miller is a guy to keep an eye on.

Right now he’s seeking funds for a horror film he’s in the process of developing…and he’s working with material vetted by one of the Grandmasters of dark fantasy, Clive Barker.

Monsieur Barker has put his stamp of approval on “The Sickness”—I get the feeling he’s acting as a mentor to Mark, recognizing him as a guy with a tremendous amount of potential.

Here’s a link to the site Mark has set up to raise funds for his movie.

You’ll see from his pitch, this lad has a lot on the ball.

Contributors receive a mench on Clive’s blog…and score valuable karmic brownie points with the Big Guy upstairs.

G’wan…drop a few bucks the kid’s way.

Show your support for a talented film-maker with a bright, shining future…

Staring down the TBR pile

“I…am…not…afraid…of…you.”

Standing before a tower of unread books, feeling a bit queasy but also defiant.  These are books that have bedeviled me for months, years, decades.  Tomes I know will be excellent, enlightening, life-enhancing…as soon as I find time to read them.  Others are volumes I read many moons ago and want to revisit.  Some big, fat, brain-building Pynchon titles, a few of the early Cormac McCarthys; works I read when I was young, stupid and trying to impress everybody.  Now when I read them, I’ll be a helluva lot more worldly, slightly smarter and apt to grasp more than I did during that initial encounter.  Can you really comprehend the magnitude of Gravity’s Rainbow or Marcel Proust’s convoluted, gorgeous prose at nineteen or twenty?

Never in hell.  I’m convinced human beings don’t start developing adult-sized brains until they’ve turned thirty and have popped at least one kid.  A teenager reading War and Peace is like handing a mandrill an iPad. Seriously.

This past week I was visiting The Big City and had occasion (okay, I lurked) to listen while a couple of teenage girls discussed their school reading assignments.

“This book,” one said, stabbing a livid finger at Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, “ought to be banned.”

“Did you read The Englishman’s Boy?”

“Only the chapter I had to.”

“Me too! Catcher in the Rye sucked too. What’s the big deal? The Outsiders--”

“That was half decent.”

“It was o-kay. But the main guy is such a whiner…”

And so on.  Book club night at the Stephen Hawking residence it was not.

What were those gals doing, hanging out in a book store?  Waiting for the rain to subside?  I wonder what sort of books they actually liked?

* * * * *

I must do something about my To Be Read pile. Make that piles.  It’s getting scary.  We’re running out of space.  Books are double-stacked on the shelves, some even (gasp!) relegated to the floor.  Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, essays…good God, things have gotten completely out of hand.  I catch my wife looking at me, her expression cagy: pondering involuntary commitment? What are the legal hurdles?  How much can she get for all these fucking books?

And now that I’m hooked up to the library system through the internet, I can log on and troll for more books, secure them free, via inter-library loans.  If three weeks pass and I need more time, I can renew the tomes in question with a few taps on my keyboard.

Sweet.

Or perhaps not.  It’s like having after hours access to the world’s biggest bookstore.  I get messages as soon as another book is ready for pickup at my local branch.  Can’t wait to get down there, scoop it up and bear it home…

Understand, I already have dozens, scores of books—wonderful books, classic books—waiting to be read but I’m still ordering more.  Isn’t that weird?  Isn’t that, well, nuts?

It’s called bibliophilia, folks, and I’ve got it bad.

I’m a collector on the verge of becoming a hoarder.  When I find a good bookstore, especially a good used book store, my hands get clammy, my stomach churns and I feel light-headed, like I’m suffering from some kind of sugar deficit. I kid you not. I’ve heard junkies say similar things when they find themselves in the vicinity of dope or paraphernalia. A feeling of anticipation that leaves you weak in the knees.

Have to say, when I visited my last big box book barn I didn’t experience anything like that.  The “New Release” shelves didn’t turn my crank at all—the majority of the fiction seemed to be geared toward women, and particularly stupid ones at that. The most dreadful shite. Spotted a number of offerings in the history section, including David McCullough’s bio of Truman, but the prices scared me off. After all my browsing, over an hour in the store, I came away with one thin volume, a beautiful little Penguin edition of Stefan Zweig’s novella Chess.  That’s it.

Pitiful, ain’t it?

But, of course, it isn’t just books.  I’m no longer part of the desired demographic, and that goes for music, movies, television, you name it.  I’m an old fogie with a critical brain and a handle on his spending.  Not exact a walking advertisement for consumerism.

No, the ones the advertisers, viral marketers et al are after are the 16-25 bunch, the gamers and mall crowd, armed with credit cards and completely lacking impulse control.  Unmarried, no kids, disposable income, too much time on their hands. The morons that have kept Michael Bay, JJ Abrams and Bill Gates filthy rich and reduced the popular arts to public urinals.  Thanks, kids!

We have them to thank for the current state of publishing/bookselling.  The explosion of graphic novels, the flood of zombies and vampires and knock-off fantasy and franchise novels, and media tie-ins…can you say dumbing down?  That extended period I spent in the big box store was most educational.  It told me that in their efforts to cater to their sought after demographic, traditional publishers won’t just go for the lowest common denominator, they are willing, nay eager, to debase the language, alienate their traditional clientele and reduce an art form to mere commodity.  The rot is evident in every genre—what little “literary” fiction out there is getting harder to find, forced off the shelves by establishments that offer whole sections devoted to the excremental writing of James Patterson, Jody Picoult and the like.

I turn on commercial radio, flip through the TV channels during a rare hotel visit, check on-line movie listings for anything that might look promising and I feel old.  Nothing in the entertainment world speaks to me these days.  I don’t look forward to the summer movies or check to see who made the Oscar shortlist.  Ignore the bestseller lists, rarely buy a magazine or new book…and we’re the last family I know of who still don’t have cable TV.

I’ve been a reader all my life.  Forty years with my nose in books.  Books have always offered me comfort and consolation.  In childhood, they were a security blanket, helping me escape the depredations of reality.  As I got older, they became my primary sources of learning, as well as steering me down spiritual/mystical paths I might otherwise have missed. Without books, I would not be the person I am today.  I would be one of them:  mall zombies, semi-literates, half-simian.

All this might go a long way toward explaining that ever-growing TBR pile. I never stop seeking out new Masters, new teachers; men and women who can perform alchemy with the printed word, transmuting it into something more than mere sentences on a page.

A casual scan of the pictures reveals not too many of the books are of recent vintage.  Most picked up from thrift shops, secondhand places or on-line purchases; heavily discounted, showing the effects of their time in remainder bins or battered about in the mail.

New and old enthusiasms:  Samuel Beckett, Walter Kirn, Ken Kalfus, Richard Powers, Robert Stone, Raymond Queneau, Roberto Bolano, Fernando Pessoa, J.M.G. Le Clezio, Denis Johnson, Tom McCarthy, Terence McKenna, Georges Perec, Jorge Luis Borges, Gert Ledig, W.G. Sebald…and that’s just scratching the surface. These Jpegs hardly do my TBR pile justice.  It goes on and on…

When am I going to find time to read the gorgeous edition of Don Quixote Sherron picked up for me at least five years ago (translation by Edith Grossman)?  How about the three volumes by the incomparable Louis Ferdinand Celine that are only an arm’s length away from where I sit, typing these words?  Will I ever tackle Madame Bovary, War and Peace or the 1,000+ pages of The Collected Short Stories of J.G. Ballard?

Not as long as I keep adding to that pile.

How many titles are on the “Wishlist” I’ve kept in the same steno pad for the past twenty years?  Two hundred?  Three hundred?  The roster constantly revised; one title acquired and crossed off, three others added…

I’m a sick man.  Addicted to the printed word.  Always seeking out the best of the best, authors who present fresh perspectives, re-ignite the language, push the envelope thematically and stylistically.  Just when I think I’m making headway, someone mentions Ben Okri or Joseph McElroy.  How could I have missed them?  Fabulous, unprecedented talents, my collection incomplete without them.

The kind of authors no longer being published by the trads and, thus, increasingly unfamiliar to today’s readers.

Creators capable of composing work that ennobles us as a species, presenting an alternative to the superficiality of the processed, plastic universe the corporate types are peddling, the reassuring sameness one is sure to find there.  Our souls would be impoverished without these artistes, our “culture” reduced to inanity and tiresome cant.  A nightmare I hope never to endure, a history I pray we avoid.

Photos by Sherron Burns

Happy Third Anniversary!

Well, who would’ve guessed this blog would last as long as it has.  Or that this strange site would draw the kind of traffic it does, the responses (good, bad and incoherent).

I’ve met some smart, funny, terrific people, thanks to “Beautiful Desolation”, and it’s always a particular thrill to read a comment or receive an e-mail from one of you.  Writing is a lonely business and those missives, brief as they are, remind me why I keep putting pen to paper, year after year after year.   And let’s have a rousing cheer for the internet, without which none of this would be possible.  I mean, jeez, from halfway around the world you can wave or send regards or blow a kiss…or a raspberry (whatever floats your boat).

I spent perhaps an unhealthy amount of time trying to come up with ways to say “thanks” for your support and patronage for the past three years.  There are a good number of you who take great pains to keep in touch and pass the word to other folks out there who are fed up with the tepid fare offered by traditional publishing sources:  the books and magazines we buy and yawn our way through.

For the past six months or so the e-Reader crowd have been coming by in droves.  Welcome, welcome.  Dive right in and enjoy my stories, poems and radio dramas.  There are dozens of offerings on this site, hundreds of thousands of words.  Works that will astonish, amaze or, at least, entertain.  And it’s all FREE.  Download it, peruse it on your Kindles and iPads and Sonys (what the hell, a book is a book) and God bless ya.

I have to say there are certain, ah, special circumstances that give this anniversary more significance.

The impending release of my novel So Dark the Night is a super-big deal around Casa Burns.  The cover nears completion and then it’s a case of loading the book onto Lightning Source’s template, crossing our fingers…and zipping it off.  Looks like a late-April release.  Will give you a peek at the cover soon–it’s a beauty.  Wait’ll you see it, kids, it’ll knock your socks off.  Christ, I love this book.  It’s the best thing I’ve ever written and I’m practically vibrating in anticipation.

2010 marks my 25th year as a professional writer.  That’s a helluva long time, a helluva lot of words on paper.  Too many to ponder without suffering some kind of brain seizure.  So we’ve got the third anniversary of the blog, my silver anniversary as an author and a new book coming out.  That’s gotta call for something a little something extra, a bonus item or two…

How about an hour of free music?  This is music I recorded with my iMac’s Garageband software.  Space tunes, all instrumentals, totally trippy and out there.  Some of my friends have downloaded these oddities on to their iPods or their computer hard drives.  Go for it.  Knock yourselves out.  And above all else, enjoy the music.  With my compliments and thanks.

I call my project Soundtrack For a Science Fiction Film Never Made and if you’d like to give it a listen, pop over to my “Audio” page, scroll down, past the spoken word section and you’re sure to find it.

Ah, but I’m not done.

I also want to unveil my new blog, Cinema Arrete.  After literature, film is my great passion and for ages I’ve wanted a site where I could talk about some of my favorites and steer people toward flicks that aren’t on prominent display at their neighborhood movie store.  I think that with places like YouTube now renting movies, there might be an increased demand and a wider assortment of movies to choose from–after all, cyberspace is like an endless virtual store and titles are always in stock.  It might be the perfect time to re-introduce film fans to the work of auteurs like Henri-Georges Clouzot and Carl Theodor Dreyer.

But it’s not just a one-way street.  I want cinephiles to steer me toward works and creative individuals that I’ve missed or neglected for some reason.  I want to re-watch classic movies, research them and write essays based on my impressions and speculations.  Sometimes I’ll re-examine a work and discover I’ve been dead wrong and will be forced to backtrack.  The downside of being an honest critic is that you have to learn to like the taste of crow.

My refusal to bestow any respect on CGI fests like “Avatar” and the latest comic book adaptation will enrage those of you who (shudder) go to movies purely for fun, for the eye candy and escapist fluff.  Sorry, if that’s the sum total of your aesthetic, Cinema Arete likely isn’t for you.

Pop over, give it a look-see and let me know what you think.

Okay, that’s enough for now.  I’m feeling kind of misty-eyed at the moment and it might be that extra shot or two of scotch I’ve had.  Or it could be an indication of emotions lurking closer to the surface than usual as I ponder this blog and what it has meant for my writing.  Most importantly, it’s given me access to you, o wise and discerning readers, a venue to display my odd wares.

Thanks so much for spending some of your precious time here.  Visiting and browsing this…repository of my poor words.

“They’re tearing down Baker Street!”

Well, cinephiles, the news isn’t good.  An article penned by Neil Smith for the BBC website previews some of the big releases and most-hyped films of 2010 and it’s enough to make any serious film-goer weep in despair.

“The prevailing trend, ” Mr. Smith concludes gloomily, “is towards established film titles from yesteryear given a hi-tech makeover.”

So we can expect more updates and reinventions, the character names familiar but the faces different, with a budget rumoured at around a hundred mill.  Let’s see, just off the top of my head I recall movies based on “The Dukes of Hazzard”, “Get Smart”, “The Avengers”,  “Miami Vice”, “Bewitched”, “Charlie’s Angels”, “Starsky & Hutch”; in terms of remakes there’s “War of the Worlds” and “Day the Earth Stood Still”, “3:10 to Yuma”, “The Pink Panther”, “The Longest Yard” and, coming soon to your theater, a nastier rebooting of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise.  We have sequels and prequels…and even the great Ray Harryhausen isn’t immune to pale imitation:  the new “Clash of The Titans”, helmed by Luc Besson protege Louis Leterrier, premieres in Canada in March.

And it would be negligent of me not to mention the highly anticipated “A  Team” movie, which promises to be even better than the original series.

Sweet Jesus.

I’ve written previously of my absolute loathing for JJ Abrams’ take on “Star Trek”.  I thought it utterly vapid, not to mention incoherent.  “Star Trek XI” barely bothered paying lip service to the original, JJ resorting to bottom-fishing Leonard Nimoy in a vain attempt to lend the abomination some small measure of legitimacy (he failed).  The mega-success of that film bewilders me–is the government putting something in the drinking water to make us dumb?  Was that crazy guy  standing behind me at Tramp’s Records down in Regina right and the H1N1 vaccine is a plot by Barack Obama to enslave our minds?

Let us not forget (I certainly can’t), the top grossing film in 2009 was, wait for it…”The Transformers”.

And (the good news just keeps coming) if the present trend continues, Jimmy Cameron will easily top his “Titanic” tally, “Avatar” already pulling in over a billion bucks from people who like their movies big, loud, pretty and predictable.

I get a monstrous headache when I ponder what all of this bodes for the future of film.  Have we reached the creosote at the bottom of the barrel or–

Holy fuck, the Rock as a hockey enforcer and (ulp) tooth fairy?  You gotta wonder what the pitch was like for that one.  And if the guy who gave it the green light was over-medicated that day.  Maybe it was a total whim, a desperate writer, his ideas shot down one by one, goes for broke and tosses out the first stupid thing that comes to mind.  “There’s a hockey goon, see, and he’s somehow cursed and has to take over as tooth fairy…”

But what’s a budding screen writer supposed to do?  Nobody’s buying “high concept” these days and who wants to wait around three or five or ten years to get funding through some indie?  Fuck that.  Everyone knows a writer’s life blood is development dough.  Milk that tit dry, baby!  And all but the terminally moronic have heard the news:  producers and film execs aren’t looking for anything original or different and any agent who wants to keep his “A List” contacts isn’t going to champion a script that’s literate, low-key, thoughtful and utterly lacking explosions and eye-catching CGI effects.

Not when there are old ideas still to be resurrected, a rich vein of nostalgia to be ruthlessly exploited.  By wunderkinds like Abrams and Zack Snyder and Michael Bay.  Comic book fans and video game junkies.  They don’t read anything that doesn’t come with colour illustrations. Not the sort who are interested in niceties like character development and well-rendered, believable dialogue, silences that speak volumes.

And apparently neither are you.

Yeah, you.

You’ve seen many of the films I’ve just named, haven’t you?  And when the end credits rolled, you didn’t feel the slightest bit enlightened or ennobled by anything you’d just seen in the preceding 104 minutes.  You know what you’re doing, don’t you?  You’re padding the box office receipts of garbage films, encouraging the Hollywood mill to churn out yet more garbage.  Charmless, superficial, derivative drek.  Berke Breathed, that old curmudgeon, wrote about the sensawunda that is missing from films these days and I couldn’t agree more.  Two hundred million bucks worth of state of the art special effects don’t amount to a hill of horseshit if your story is thin, trite and cliched.  Sorry, Mr. Cameron.

But most film-goers (apparently) couldn’t care less.  So what if “Cloverfield” was just a tarted up “Godzilla” flick?   Big deal if “300” is historically inaccurate.  They lined up in the driving rain for an hour to see “Star Trek” and will happily, uncomplainingly plunk down forty or fifty bucks when the “special ultimate limited edition” of “Avatar” is released this summer, with hours of bonus footage and deleted scenes and alternate endings and–

Okay, sorry I’m coming across so smug and morally superior.  After all, Mr. Trekkie here just had to see “XI”, didn’t he, even if it was only to confirm it was as bad as I feared (actually, it was far worse).

But that was an aberration.  Something completely out of character for me.  Usually I resist the blandishments of the ads and trailers and ignore the well-meaning twits who say “well, I thought it was different from the usual stuff”.  People inured to the eye candy and mindless, adolescent shite that pollutes theatres and the “New release” section of local movie stores, reducing a once-great art form to utter pap.

The “Star Trek” movie was merely confirmation of what I already knew.  I don’t fit the demographic of contemporary film-goers.  I have pubic hair and a real job; a life.  I left that movie feeling like I’d been swindled by a particularly graceless and inept con man.  The plot was ridiculous, it made no sense and, again, it made gazillions.  I just don’t get it.  These films, the remakes and sequels that show up week after week, are completely devoid of personality and any nuances or dashes of fine detail are entirely computer generated.  What’s the appeal, folks?  Why are you so averse to films that make you think?

Fuck the new “Sherlock Holmes” film, even if Guy Ritchie is directing.  Especially if Guy Ritchie is directing.  Here’s a guy with some talent (“Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch”), participating in the utter rubbishing of one of the great characters in English literature.  I’m a fan of the stories, I’m a huge fan of Jeremy Brett’s sublime interpretation of the master detective and I will not be seeing this new version.  Transforming the cerebral sleuth into an action hero is an act of artistic heresy.  For his crimes against the canon, Ritchie should be burned atop a pile of Madonna albums.

Okay, Mr./Ms. Average film-goer, here’s what I want you to do.  I want you to repeat after me:

I am hereby declaring myself immune to hype and vital marketing campaigns; I will sneer at the latest franchise film, scoff at the laughably glowing reviews it receives from idigdumbmovies.com or KCLR Radio Topeka.

“The #1 Movie of the Summer!”

“The motion picture event of the year!”

“The Best Movie Ever!”

Sorry, we’ve hear that before, haven’t we?

It’s been many years since I’ve been the slightest bit interested in partaking of the latest “must see” film.  I avoid the new stuff, instead plunge into the stacks, the “catalogue” movies.  Making forays into Saskatoon and pillaging their main library.  Finding films and checking them off my list.  Old noir, classics of every genre, every era.  The kind of titles that are gradually being weeded out of local rental shops to make space for 50 copies of “Spiderman 6” or an entire wall devoted to the “Laverne & Shirley:  The Movie”.   And I use the wonders of technology, go on-line and track down the movies I’ve heard about, yearned to see for years, decades:  Murnau and Fellini and Dreyer and Clouzot; foreign and silent films, cult curios, visual melodies and meditations assembled and spliced from the zeitgeist.

It’s hard to turn up Monte Hellman films these days (try it sometime)…good Lord, someone’s selling some old Herzog flicks on eBay…and here’s my hero, Orson Welles, snippets from “Filming Othello” broadcast on YouTube .  I watch them all and then seek out the Micheál Macliammóir film diary Welles alludes too.  It’s wonderful , as well.

Recently I secured a copy of the remastered Criterion edition of “M”.  And it’s high time I watched my VHS copy of King Vidor’s “The Crowd” again…

There is more craft, thought and artfulness put into either of those efforts than any flick released in the past ten years.  Maybe longer.  Isn’t that something?  And they’re both at least 80 years old.

The auteurs like Lang and Vidor have died off or grown old.  That image I have of Kurosawa, lying in his coffin, one of his longtime collaborators putting flowers between his toes to hide the bits blackened by frostbite.  From the years spent outside, stalking about cold sets, making sure everything was exactly right.  Now that’s an artist.

The new kids have it easy.  They don’t even have to go outside.  Green screen the actors and add in the sets, backdrops post-production.  Perk up the tits on the leading lady while you’re at it, will ya, boys?  The present breed write with laptops, instead of their hearts and souls.  One eye on the box office, ever eager to please their corporate masters.  Up to and including shooting a new ending for their labour of love, should a test audience of retards grade it too low…

Stardate 29.04.09

star-trekWell, I couldn’t let an opportunity go by without referencing the upcoming Star Trek movie.  The franchise is hanging on this one, boys and girls; the Next Generation sputtered out after the woeful “Nemesis” and nothing that followed appealed to anyone other than hardcore fans.  A drastic re-tooling was in order.  That’s why the guys in suits chose J.J. Abrams to carry the torch.  A guaranteed crowd-pleaser.  Hell, that Lost show made buckets of money–as a gun for hire he comes with a pretty high rep.

Abrams has been around awhile, longer than I realized.  And he hasn’t always been a golden goose either.  He receives a brief mention in Richard E. Grant’s film diary With Nails.  Grant runs into him at some Hollywood gathering and  with his acute perceptiveness, describes J.J. and his cronies thus:  “Meet a twenty-four-year old screenwriter called J.J. who wrote ‘Regarding Henry’, has a three-picture deal, and talks real fast, as do his friends, all of whom seem young, ruthless and rich.”

Hmmm… “ruthless and rich”.  Not “gifted” or “witty” or “intelligent”.  Ruthless and rich. And “Regarding Henry”?  Remember that turkey?

kirkBut all will be forgiven if J.J. can revitalize the old gal, make it contemporary without abandoning the campiness and charm of the original show; I’m a retro nut and I’m worried the writers (one of them the “genius” behind “Transformers: The Movie”), will bury the story under CGI, comic book level dialogue and stock characterizations, while bending as far as possible to meet the abysmally low expectations of the fan boys/girls.

End of rant.

Now, as you’ve likely guessed, since my last post a couple of weeks back I’ve been working, plugging away on new material and prepping old stuff for revision.  Beginning to gear up…there’s something about the summer that gets my creative energies revved up to full throttle.  I can’t explain it.  While the rest of my family is off traveling or out at the beach, I’m up in my office, sweating buckets, scribbling like mad.

With the coming of warmer weather this month, something clicked into place and I’ve been at it for long stretches, working on–well, I can’t say yet.  You know me.  Like to play it close to the vest.  Might show it to Sherron later on this week but until then–shtum.

So I’ve been working hard and every so often scrambling down the stairs to watch a period of hockey–it’s the Stanley Cup playoffs, doncha know–before rushing back upstairs to work some more and then back downstairs to check the score, watch highlights, never missing Don Cherry…

cherry

I’ve been a Boston Bruins fan for nigh on forty years–oh, yes, my children, the big, bad Bruins and I go wayyy back.  Watching old footage of Bobby Orr still brings tears to my eyes.  And this year…well, the boys had a terrific regular season and then they destroyed the Habs in four straight games.  I hardly dare wish for anything else.  Must not tempt the hockey Gods to turn on the B’s like some blind Greek guy with a taste for older women…

It’s a pleasure to watch players like Marc Savard and I love that Lucic kid.  Wideman is an under-appreciated talent and Tim Thomas has been good when called upon.  But if that idjit Phil Kessel doesn’t stop with the lookit-me-dangle-all-by-myself-I’m-Jason-bleedin’-Spezza lone man dashes up the ice (which, inevitably lead to odd man rushes the other way), I’m going to end up kicking the front of my television set in.

Sorry, had to get that off my chest.  It’s just that one commentator described Kessel as the Bruins’ best player during the Montreal series and I just about swallowed my beer mug.

kesselOkay, I admit it, I picked New Jersey and San Jose to make the final this year.  Tells you what I know.  Yeah, and now watch Kessel go on to win the fucking Conn Smythe Trophy.

Okay, besides  work and the odd period of hockey, I’ve also somehow managed to squeeze in a fair amount of reading, lotsa music and even a movie or two.  Part of that whole getting-some-balance-in-my-life thing I’ve been working toward.  With mixed results (hey, but at least I’m trying!).

Read John Fante’s 1939 novel Ask the Dust and absolutely loved it.  Set in 1930’s Los Angeles, the story of Arturo Bandini, aspiring novelist, come West to seek his fame and fortune.  I described the book elsewhere as a cross between Nathanial West (Day of the Locust) and Knut Hamsun (Hunger).  I photocopied  two pages and glued them into a “Book of Commonplace” I keep of favorite quotes and excerpts.  I also hand-copied these sentences:

Over the city spread a white murkiness like fog.  But it was not the fog:  it was the desert heat, the great blasts from the Mojave and Santa Ana, the pale white fingers of the wasteland, ever reaching out to claim its captured child.

fanteHere’s a piece from Salon.com that talks about  about Mr. Fante’s life and work.   Definitely a book–and an author–worthy of rediscovery.

In terms of movies, Sherron and I puzzled our way through David Lynch’s ultra-weird “Mulholland Drive” and I’m nearly done watching the second and final season on the 1967 TV series, “The Invaders”.  Fun to slam down one or two episodes with a stiff glass of scotch after a hard day of writing.  That’s my method for stress relief (patent pending)…

Lots of time in my office means lots of tunes playing too…and, as of yesterday, that includes Bob Dylan’s latest, Together Through Life.  Not sure what I think of the new one yet.  Maybe give it a few more listens before I decide.  It lacks a cut with the mythic, spiritual power of something like “Man in the Long Black Coat” or, from  Time out of Mind, the searing and entrancing “Highlands” (all sixteen-and-half minutes of it).  Some good songs, especially “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'”, “My Wife’s Hometown” and “It’s All Good” and I like the Tex-Mex flavor but I wouldn’t count Together Through Life in the front rank of Dylan’s body of work.  Not by a long shot.

godPlenty of instrumental, ambient stuff pouring out of my speakers:  Explosions in the Sky, God is an Astronaut, the soundtrack of “Mysterious Skin” (Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie collaborating).  Old Tangerine Dream (“Atem”), Mogwai and NIN’s “Ghosts I-IV”.

The perfect accompaniment; the music transports me to a place beyond physical laws and temporal constraints.  In this undetermined location I can work without distraction, removed from obligations and duties.  That door over there opens on nothing, the backdrop outside my window cunningly executed but, upon close inspection, reveals imperfections, chips in the paint and swirls left by careless brush strokes–

The artifice holding, for now, but I keep the door closed and the blinds mostly drawn.  To maintain the necessary illusion, preserve it through a combination of higher physics, prayer, alchemy and the judicious use of duct tape, when all else fails…

door

DOORWAYS…a horror magazine with a difference

Regular readers know that I think very little of the contemporary horror scene.  It has become the province of the worst sort of hack–I believe in one post I referred to them as “purveyors of shit”.

Zombies proliferate, not to mention necrophiliac sex, rape, the ugliest sort of revenge fantasies, misogyny…really, really vicious and mindless stuff (and that goes for film and fiction).

But recently I saw a publication at a newsstand that seemed to go against the grain and I wanted to give it a plug. Doorways, A Journal of Horror and the Paranormal is a classy offering, great layout, decent illos and authors who don’t dip their pen in offal and their brains in sheepshit before commencing work.

Here’s a link to their site–editor Brian Yount says a new issue is due out any day and I urge folks to get out there and support a magazine that presents the field of horror with some class and dignity, attracting authors with real style and talent. Clive Barker’s handsome mug adorns the copy I spotted and if Clive thought enough of these people to contribute, that’s good enough for me.

Doorways…this is one to watch for and support with your hard-earned shekels.

Good luck to Brian and the gang!