Over the years, Cinecultist has spent some very enjoyable hours wandering around that part of the village connected by the L train, Williamsburg. Recently, we hung out with author (and our friend) Jami Attenberg and discussed her nabe, which is featured prominently in Jami's new book, The Kept Man, for an article on Metromix. Be sure to click through to the excellent accompanying slide show featuring more of our interview and wonderful photographs by Jori Klein.
Cinecultist didn't include this in our article, because it was more a feature than a review, but we really liked this book. The story—about a former nightlife girl married to a big shot artist who has been in a coma for six years—is one that lingers. Jami has a great observational eye, she sees things with her prose in interesting ways. Also, Jarvis isn't a wholly sympathetic protagonist. She's the kind of girl that knows she has an effect on men, and struggles with wanting their friendship and yet also wanting them to want her. She's complicated, and in a good way. Jami mentioned that there's been some interest in perhaps turning the book into a movie, which we'd love to see. Williamsburg circa 2005, just the big waves of gentrification hit, would make for a good movie setting.
Jami will be reading from her book a bunch of times over the next few weeks, so if you can attend one in New York or further afield, we highly recommend you do.
Not dead. Promise. While we know it's one of the cardinal sins of blogging to let said blogging diminish to such a meager frequency it only consists of brief check in posts, that's what has happened to CC.
In lieu of lame apologies, some bullet points of what's been tickling our fancy lately:
* We bought a copy of the new translation of War and Peace put out by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky which the Times and the New York Review of Books have been raving about. Cinecultist promised our friend Adriane we'd set up a schedule of reading so we could discuss it, but apparently we'll not be able to beat the Bill Keller reading pace. Damn dude, you devoured 1273 pages (including summaries and appendixes) in a week, while also running the NYT? Impressive.
* Sometimes for giggles, Cinecultist tries to horrify the salespeople at Kim's on Saint Marks' with our DVD purchases. Unfortunately they're a pretty jaded bunch, but we thought we'd at least get an eyebrow raise when CC put Ratatouille and the Special Collector's Edition of Flashdance on the counter last Saturday. No dice. Both DVDs come with some nice extra features though. On Ratatouille, which is just as charming as it was in the theaters, you can enjoy a hilarious short about the history of rats as narrated by Remy and Emile. Flashdance also includes an extra disc of six classic toe-tapping, nose-blowing audio tracks. In fact as we type right now, CC is bopping along to "What a Feeling." Don't be surprised to see us decked out in leg warmers and t-shirts with the neck cut out shortly.
* If you aren't enjoying Gossip Girl on The CW already, Cinecultist suggests adding it to the DVR sched. It's surprisingly geeky and fun. Case in point, last week when the young Dan (Penn Badgley) wanted some tips when wooing experienced Serena (Blake Lively) he rented I Am Curious Yellow! References to kinky, experimental Swedish cinema from the '60s in a teen-sploitation soap? Awesome.
Janet Malcolm continues to be one of Cinecultist's journalism heroes. She's 73 and she used OMG in the kicker from her NYRB article on Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe. How utterly awesome is that? It just goes to show that at no matter what age, a really fine cultural critic has their finger on the pulse and the most common colloquialisms at their disposal.
"Interestingly, the models Shipley and Schwalbe choose to illustrate their section "How to Write a Perfect Email" were written by twelve-year-olds. The really young, evidently, don't need the help the rest of us do; like Blakean innocents, they are untouched by email's evil. Their harmless chatter ("OMG! I was playing yesterday, when this really CUTE boy rode up on his bike") is reminiscent of the notes we used to pass in class, which are, come to think of it, the precursors of email: hastily written, instantly delivered and replied to, and, if intercepted by the wrong person, mortifying. As the really young become merely young it will be interesting to see what happens. Will their childish babbling evolve into decent writing? Does writing a lot lead to writing well? Even (OMG!) on email?"
A shot of the crowd at Potter Place outside the Scholastic Store in Soho on Friday afternoon.
It seemed as though hundreds of thousands of people in New York last night were struck down with Pottermania. Cinecultist had it bad too. At around 6 pm, we went down to Soho to check out the scene outside the Scholastic store. It was Pottermonium. Kids and adults in Hogwarts costume, face painting, decorations and a buzz of energy as everyone counted down the hours to the release of the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Cinecultist and our friends intended to spend the midnight hour at the giant Union Square Barnes and Noble party, so we swung by to pick up orange wristbands, for those who hadn't prepaid but intended to purchase the book after 12:01 am.
Unfortunately when CC returned at around 10 pm after a bite to eat, we discovered a mad scene outside the 17th street entrance. Only those with yellow prepaid wristbands seemed to be getting into the already packed bookstore. CC and Lisa headed instead over to the smaller independent children's bookstore Books of Wonder on 18th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue. Also a rockin' Potter party, at least Books of Wonder had a shorter line to pay and was giving out gratis cupcakes in their adorable Cupcake Cafe. CC and Lisa rested with some caffeine laden drinks and took in the crowd, a nice mix of kids and adults, all palpably excited about the approaching midnight hour. Books of Wonder also had a cast of college-aged students dressed as the main characters from the books. The very blond boy dressed as Draco gave us quite the once over and then declared us "Muggles" in a very contemptuous tone as he passed by. The verisimilitude was adorable.
At 10 seconds to midnight, the crowd began counting down and as the clock struck the hour everyone cheered. Quickly the Potter actors climbed on furniture and began announcing (with bad English accents still intact) the numbers by Hogwarts House who could move to the back of the store for their books. CC was placed in the Ravenclaw house and at number 88, our turn came up quite quickly. Granted, we paid the ridiculous $34.99 plus tax full price for this 759 page sucker but as we walked past the still massive and unmoving line outside B&N on the way home at 12:30 pm, CC wasn't sorry. We were still able to get an hour of reading in last night and as of now are well-past the halfway mark in the book.
No spoilers we promise, just that Cinecultist is enjoying J.K. Rowling's final foray into the tale of the Boy Who Lived. Hopefully we'll recover from this contagious case of the Deathly Hallows sometime tomorrow afternoon. CC's always been a fast reader.
Cinecultist hearts Haruki Murakami, and we recently finished reading his new novel After Dark about the subterranean world of late night Tokyo. Interestingly, Murakami has two characters reference in conversation two wonderful movies, Alphaville and Love Story. Even more interesting our heroine, Mari, a college student with a mysterious sleeping sister, knows a little something about Godard, while Takahashi, a law student/musician who befriends Mari, has a terrible memory for plot. How could you forget the end of Love Story? "Love means never having to say you're sorry," and other such platitudes. Duh, it's practically movie gospel. The moral of the story then is: watch lots of movies and later, understand subtext in gorgeous, brilliant modern literature. We always knew this cinema studies stuff would come in handy for something.
"Mari says, "You know, I've been wanting to ask you. Why do you call your hotel Alphaville?"
"Hmm, I wonder. The boss probably named it. All love hos have these crazy names. I mean, they're just for men and women to come and do their stuff. all you need is a bed and a bathtub. Nobody gives a damn about the name as long as it sounds like a love ho. Why do you ask?
"Alphaville is the title of one of my favorite movies. Jean-Luc Godard."
"Never heard of it."
"Yeah, it's really old. From the sixties."
"That's maybe where they got it. I'll ask the boss next time I see him. What does it mean, though—"Alphaville"?
"It's the name of an imaginary city of the near future," Mari says. "Somewhere in the Milky Way."
"Oh, science fiction. Like Star Wars?"
"No, it's not all like Star Wars. No special effects, no action. It's more conceptual. Black-and-white, lots of dialogue, they show it in art theaters..."
"Whaddya mean, 'conceptual'?"
"Well, for example, if you cry in Alphaville, they arrest you and execute you in public."
"'Cause in Alphaville, you're not allowed to have deep feelings. So there's nothing like love. No contradictions, on irony. They do everything according to numerical formulas."
Kaoru wrinkles her brow. "'Irony'?"
"Irony means taking an objective or inverted view of oneself or of someone belonging to oneself and discovering oddness in that."
Kaoru thinks for a moment about Mari's explanation. "I don't really get it," she says. "But tell me: is there sex in this Alphaville place?"
"Yes, there is sex in Alphaville."
"Sex that doesn't need love or irony."
Kaoru gives a hearty laugh. "So, come to think of it, Alphaville may be the perfect name for a love ho."
Takahashi asks her, "Have you ever seen Love Story? it's an old movie."
Mari shakes her head.
"They had it on TV the other day. It's pretty good. Ryan O'Neal is the only son of an old-money family, but in college he marries a girl from a poor Italian family and gets disowned. They even stop paying his tuition. The two manage to scrape by and keep up their studies until he graduates from Harvard Law School with honors and joins a big law firm."
Takahaski pauses to take a breath. Then he goes on:
"The way Ryan O'Neal does it, living in poverty can be kind of elegant—wearing a thick white sweater, throwing snowballs with Ali MacGraw, Francis Lai's sentimental music playing in the background. But something tells me I wouldn't fit the part. For me, poverty would be just plain poverty. I probably couldn't even get the snow to pile up for me like that."
Mari is still thinking about something.
Takahaski continues: "So after Ryan O'Neal has slaved away to become a lawyer, they never give the audience any idea what kind of work he does. All we know is he joins this top law firm and pulls in a salary that would make anybody envious. He lives in a fancy Manhattan high-rise with a doorman out front, join a WASP sports club, and plays squash with his yuppie friends. That's all we know."
Takahaski drinks his water.
"So what happens after that?" Mari asks.
Takahashi looks upward, recalling the plot. "Happy ending. The two live happily ever after. Love conquers all. It's like: we used to be miserable, but now everything's great. They drive a shiny new Jaguar, he plays squash, and sometimes in winter they throw snowballs. Meanwhile, the father who disowned Ryan O'Neal comes down with diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and Ménière's disease and dies a lonely, miserable death."
"I don't get it. What's so good about a story like that?"
Takahashi cocks his head. "Hmm, what did I like about it? I can't remember. I had stuff to do, so I didn't watch the last part very closely..."