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Charles Portis True Grit OverlookBrother From Another Planet John Sayles

Two great tastes that taste great together…

A quick round-up post:  my life in coffee spoons.

  • I recently watched John Sayles’s cult classic, Brother From Another Planet on Netflix.  Joe Morton is fantastic, and there’s something so strangely nostalgic about seeing the old New York City of the 1970s and 80s.  The dirty, downcast, dangerous city that made Griffin Dunne afraid for his life.  The city of Sesame Street and Lo Pan.  The city you used to have to escape from, like the Thunderdome.  I lived for a while in Morningside Heights, and ah yes, on more than one occasion I was one of those dopey white kids who strayed from the Columbia campus and walked at a brisk clip, whistling nervously, in what I hoped was the direction of home.  No one ever bothered me.   Anyway, BFAP is short on plot and budget but long on style, character, and smarts.  The goofy barfight choreography alone is worth the price of admission.
  • I’ve been listening to Charles Portis’s novel True Grit on CD, read by Donna Tartt.  The book was recently reissued by Overlook Press, with a gorgeous cover and an essay by Tartt.  It is, as Tartt points out, a masterpiece.  I was struck in particular by how sad it is, and by how much it made me nostalgic for another dingy, unpleasant past–the Old West, in this case.  I have zero reason to nostalgize the American Southwest, and the nostalgia I feel is strangely impersonal, or maybe impartial.  It’s as if I feel nostalgia on behalf of the characters–as if Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn are so real to me that I mourn their younger years for them.  It’s one of the stranger reactions I’ve ever had to a book, and also one of the stronger ones.  I came away feeling that Mattie Ross had her best years as a child, that she never fit into the adult world (or she fit too well into its stereotypes), and that even though she lived to old age, a large part of her life was over when she came home from the hunt for her father’s killer.  The hunt itself is so alive, so purposeful and directed–and what’s left after it’s done?  Mattie’s father is still dead, and she has to grow up and find her own way in the world, and Rooster Cogburn is no help with that.  It’s a brilliant, brilliant book, and I recommend Tartt’s reading of it.  (She does accents.)
  • In completely other news, the Internet has been recasting popular movies and television  shows (and now books!) with people of color.  I love this.  You can find a list of many sample recasting jobs here.
  • Leaping away again, I continue to post semi-regularly at Reading Local Portland.  One recent highlight:  a reading at Powell’s bookstore by Nick Flynn.
  • And in a final segue, I’ve been working on a lightning talk for the last week–who knew five minutes’ worth of monologue could take so.  Bloody.  Long.  To prepare?  Not I.  The fault is mine; the topic is “the future of publishing,” with an emphasis on the digital.  Well done, me.  Of course, I’m working on this in the midst of the iPad release and the Amazon/Macmillan kerfuffle, and everything is feeling very WAIT WAIT HOLD ON WHILE I TYPE THAT UP.  It’s also feeling very much like Amazon is perhaps not the best and greatest thing for authors, publishers, and booksellers.  I’m frustrated with Amazon, and growing more and more determined to spend my money with local bookstores.  Which I just did, ordering a copy of True Grit.  Thus closing the circle of my post, almost.  Ta da.

Seriously, buy local.  Read local.  It matters.

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