Wednesday, February 26, 2020

What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg

A little of the film SUNSET BOULEVARD, a little Damon Runyon, a little MISS LONELYHEARTS: a stunning book about Hollywood, and the American rags to riches process.

The music took the old sweet melodies and twisted them like hairpins.

It was right in the groove that Hollywood had been geared for, slick, swift and clever. What Kit calls the Golden Rut.

...if he don't like the fifty bucks, he can crap in his hat, pull it over his head and call it curls.

'He ran around behind the bleachers so he should beat the camera,' Mrs. Glickstein explained.

from Schulberg's Afterword, about the uproar the book caused in the industry, BS's father to Louis Mayer: "For Christ's sake, Louie, he's the only novelist who ever came from Hollywood. Where the hell are you going to deport him, Catalina Island?"

Monday, February 24, 2020

Prater Violet by Christopher Isherwood

This joins the list of the most perfect short novels I've ever read.

The rest of that list:

  • Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald 
  • Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald 
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  • Panama by Thomas McGuane
  • Poor George by Penelope Fox
  • Old Filth by Jane Gardham
  • The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
  • The Following Story by Nooteboom

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Samuel Beckett: A Biography by Deirdre Blair

ubi nihil vales: where you are worth nothing, you should want nothing. - Geulinex

Beckett described himself as "a young man with the itch to make and nothing to say."

O che sciagura d'essere senza coglioni - What a misfortune to be without balls! - the Eunuch in Voltaire's Candide

And if you do not understand it, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is because you are too decadent to receive it…Here form is content, content is form. You complain that this stuff is not written in Englsih. It is not written at all. It is not to be read, or rather it is not only to be read. It is to be looked at and listened to. His writing is not about something: It is that something itself ... When the sense is sleep the words go to sleep. When the sense is dancing, the words dance. (Beckett on Joyce's FINNEGANS WAKE, from Beckket's essay in Our Exagmination Round his Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress (1929).

For Beckett [Jules] Renard was man who had found the secret of the perfect approach to life: how to live completely within himself, to examine himself minutely, to write about this examination and yet to inhabit the outer world with tranquility and contentment.

Beckett student valentine to Beckett: "S-. B-CK-TT: I wish he would explain his explanations. -BYRON

Beckett to Walter Lowenfels: "Walter, all I want to do is sit on my ass and fart and think of Dante."

"She had never been born entirely." -JUNG (keystone for Beckett's womb fixation)

"Better a bougie [catheter] than a burst bladder. (SB on publishing a book despite setbacks)

Man is doomed to failure, for he can never commit or abandon himself completely to his inner voice.

"To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now."

More than once he repeated his dictum that his work was a matter of simple, fundamental sounds, and that the actors should not look for meaning but should concentrate on what he intended them to do.

"I couldn't have done it otherwise. Gone on, I mean. I could not have gone through the awful wretched mess of life without having left a stain upon the silence."


Gnome by Samuel Beckett

Spend the years of learning squandering
Courage for the years of wandering
Through a world politely turning
From the loutishness of learning

Cascando by Samuel Beckett

why not merely the despaired of
occasion of

is it not better abort than be barren

the hours after you are gone are so leaden
they will always start dragging too soon
the grapples clawing blindly the bed of want
bringing up the bones the old loves
sockets filled once with eyes like yours
all always is it better too soon than never
the black want splashing their faces
saying again nine days never floated the loved
nor nine months
nor nine lives

saying again
if you do not teach me I shall not learn
saying again there is a last
even of last times
last times of begging
last times of loving
of knowing not knowing pretending
a last even of last times of saying
if you do not love me I shall not be loved
if I do not love you I shall not love

the churn of stale words in the heart again
love love love thud of the old plunger
pestling the unalterable
whey of words

terrified again
of not loving
of loving and not you
of being loved and not by you
of knowing not knowing pretending

I and all the others that will love you
if they love you

unless they love you

"From the only poet to a shining whore" by Samuel Beckett

for Henry Crowder to sing

Rahab of the holy battlements,
bright dripping shaft
in the bright bright patient
pearl-brow dawn-dusk lover of the sun.

Puttanina mia!
You hid them happy in the high flax,
pale before the fords
of Jordan, and the dry red waters,
and you lowered a pledge
of scarlet hemp.

Oh radiant, oh angry, oh Beatrice,
she foul with the victory
of the bloodless fingers
and proud, and you, Beatrice, mother, sister, daughter,
fierce pale flame
of doubt, and God’s sorrow,
and my sorrow.

The Amalgamation Polka by Stephen Wright

Friday, February 07, 2020

The Sun and Her Stars by Donna Rifkind

from The Sun and Her Stars: "Salka chose instead to adorn her house with people... There was a feeling of abundance here, but the extravagance was emotional rather than material..."

A valuable and graceful book that rescues Salka Viertel from being mostly famous as a minor character in Greta Garbo's life. Rifkind firmly establishes Viertel's unique place in history as someone who singlehandedly comforted a generation of European emigrees who made their way to Los Angeles in the 1930s to escape fascism and the murdering Nazis. The grace and richness of Rifkind's use of secondary sources is astounding, as she uses the words (from correspondence and memoirs, novels and films) of the dozens of distinguished writers, artists, actors who found a home in her home, to richly animate the life of the mind her house became for this embattled homeless group. Irwin Shaw, Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann, Christopher Isherwood, Arnold Schoenberg, Billy Wilder are but a few.

For just one example, the following from the novel Prater Violet by Christopher Isherwood, about his character Friedrich Bergmann, based on Salka Viertel's husband Bertholdt: "The face was the face of an emperor, but the eyes were the dark mocking eyes of his slave." Or the title of this review, which Rifkind uses to describe Viertel's last view of Berlin when she left:  "Beware, o wanderer, the road is walking too," from a poem by Rilke, another Viertel acquaintance.

Rifkind, with verve, density and grace, makes what could have been an exercise in esoteric filmography into a gripping cultural history of a singular woman and her courage in a terrible time. Highest recommendation!

"See the black souls of the Jews fly away" p 131

Salka's son Peter's novel The Canyon. always mud, heavy and brown, that was the water's brother.

director Rouben Mamoulian, who used a metronome to time Garbo's movements in Queen Christina ("I have been memorizing the room")

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