Friday, May 25, 2007

Betterer Neverer Than Later

Still molar-floatingly busy with The Great Matter, so posts remain far between and few. When I cast my bloodshot eye over previous post drafts, they seem worlds away. Some are have been abandoned so long they've waned and waxed from being vaguely timely to tangentially relevant to sadly irrelevant right through to bafflingly prescient and vitally current. Never mind them though, here's something of no relevance or timeliness whatsoever, but it's the very fact that it's a million miles away from most of my working thoughts, and I just want to type it out and feel the names 'neath my digits.

Here's David Denby's latest movie review in the New Yorker, which is nearly as good as this. I'm not usually too keen on reductivist rules of thumb, but "What Does An Actor Want?" seems a fun way of looking at actor's careers, particularly as it's homophonous with the slavish Stanislavksy Method's view of actors' characterisations.

I'm not an enormous fan of David Denby's work in the New Yorker. He's by no means a bad writer, it just seems like he could be writing anywhere, and there he is arrayed alongside the likes of Adam Gopnik, Sy Hersch and the frankly godlike Anthony Lane, whose collected reviews Nobody's Perfect I have placed on a pedestal plinth as a prize and reward for finishing The Great Matter, should I ever do so.

Cooing at Lane's collected goodness reminds me I still have John Bayley's The Power of Delight to wade into. I tried before and sort of slid off its glacis - it was clearly very very good, but I had to bring my A-Game, and A-Game I had not. All I can remember of it off the top of my head is a bit about Tolstoy's use of detail, which absolutely nailed for me how great writers use character detail in ways that make the characters and world seem larger in every dimension while poor writers narrow down their characters and their world with every new specific. Oh wait, here it is:
At their best, Tolstoy’s details strike us neither as selected for a particular purpose nor accumulated at random, but as a sign of a vast organism in progress, like the multiplicity of wrinkles on a moving elephant’s back.
As the words crystallised into focus on my mind's page, I realised that the page is the wrong size for the book. So I must have read them in James Wood's review in the LRB. Wood is another Must-Read Merchant. I'm still trying to digest Wood's The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel. I've read it through twice and re-dipped heavily to only limited avail, but it's quite possible that I'm just not bright enough to get what he's on about. Oh, and I still haven't touched his novel The Book Against God, although if I'm going to read a critic/writer's novel, I fear I'll just end up re-reading the Olympian James Meek's The People's Act Of Love, or track down his McFarlane Boils The Sea. I love James Meek. I love everything he's written. His Guardian pieces on Rail privatisation, the SA80 debacle, his LRB review piece on the London Underground. I once, as an exercise, tried to adapt his The Brown Pint of Courage. Utter failure, as I couldn't bring myself to cut a line.

Anyway, I'm in love with the notion that the LRB's James Wood is actually one and the same as Smirking Snarlmeister-General actor James Woods, and who cannot picture him dashing off these feuilletons in the breaks between shooting scenes of Shark or, since we're fancifulfilling, Oliver Stone's Salvador or James Carpenter's vampire thingy.

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