What Happens When I Read

Catching up on that reading. Laird Barron’s “Occultation and Other Stories” is quite good. Should you find that you like scary stories, then I highly recommend this book of them. I like his prose, his use of vocabulary, and there’s a bit of a sense of humor, if not a little bit of a sense of the ridiculous, to some of the stories as well, as illustrated by the title story, “Occultation”, which will, none the less, scare you.

I was reading some of this last night before setting it aside to watch some television, as I’d been reading for hours and could no longer focus on the pages. I started watching a film, which I realized I would have to finish watching today, and then decided to begin watching a documentary series, produced by CNN, about the 1960’s, aptly titled, “The Sixties.” It is available on The Netflix instant. The first episode was quite good, if not enlightening. I know that I will finish the series and then, watch the one about “The Seventies,” even though I said that I was done with my study of the seventies, apparently, I am not. I very much enjoy learning things. I think that I got hooked on documentaries during those times when I’ve not been able to read. I tend toward cultural and historical type documentaries. I’ve read biographies and auto-biographies, memoirs, since I was a girl, along with the fiction. I think that as a writer, I’ve found some other creative types to be fascinating at times. How do they do it? Georgia O’Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz, or the courage and resilience of Frida Kahlo, or Katharine Hepburn wearing pants when women did not wear pants and doing exactly as she damn well pleased, or the struggles and immense talent of Nina Simone. I’ve read two biographies about Jack Kerouac. I watch travel shows sometimes too. The ways in which the artist/writer/musician, reporter, event, story, the way these things weave together in the world, creating history while we are present, is fascinating to me. I’ve been known to become enthralled with a subject. So, I started watching that documentary series. Then I picked up a magazine, after the first episode, because I’m behind on my magazine reading too.

With trepidation, I read an article by director William Friedkin, about a real exorcism that he witnessed and filmed. I’ve not ever seen the film “The Exorcist”, in its entirety, and I’ve no plans to. To each their own, you go right ahead. ( I’ve since watched it, I wrote a review if it that got deleted and I may or may not rewrite. It’s a disgusting movie, as in gross and grossly unappealing, however it manages to be frightening on some level in spite of itself.) I am not, however, at all unfamiliar with Friedkin’s work. I’ve long said that the car chase in “To Live and Die in L.A.” is, in my opinion, the best movie car chase of all time. We own copies of both “The French Connection”, a seventies classic, ( though in my opinion, kind of overrated), I am something of a Roy Scheider fan, and “To Live and Die in L.A.” ( The car chase in The Seven Ups is quite excellent as well, that was directed by Philip D’Antoni, who was the producer on Bullitt, directed by Peter Yates, and Friedkin’s The French Connection.) I’ve even seen the version of “To Live and Die in L.A.” with the alternate ending, where Chance and Vukovich survive and get sent to Alaska, which is really terrible. Vukovich going to see Ruth at the end of the original is far more fitting. I think the latest of his, Friedkin’s, that I watched was “Killer Joe”, which, frankly, I thought was awful, over acted, if not reaching, but, I admit that it may not have been the story itself and a matter of the casting. There are some actors who get to a point where no matter what part they’re playing, you only see them onscreen, the actor, they lose their ability to become the role and make you forget that you’re watching a movie. In other words: What was the character’s name? I don’t know, it was Gina Gershon. So, I think that putting Thomas Hayden Church, Matthew McConaughey, Gina Gershon, and Emile Hersch, in the same movie, well, I don’t remember what any of the character’s names were. But I’m digressing, point was, I’m not unfamiliar with the work of Friedkin. This article in Vanity Fair, is kind of scary. It’s kind of scary because he takes this film of this real exorcism to various brain experts, mental and physical, and none of them are really willing to reassure him that ghosts don’t exist. So, whether this was written as an entertainment piece or not, it still gave me the heebie-geebies a bit. You can read it, here.

I also read, in the same issue of Vanity Fair, a wonderful interview of the singer, Adele. You may have heard of her. I like her attitude, her moxie, her grit. I think she’s refreshing. I also like that she is actually a singer, a talent, with a great big voice. She isn’t up there shaking her thing to get you to buy her records. She’s producing good work and kicking everyone’s ass because she’s that good. The interview addresses some of that. She’s only twenty-eight years old. My gawd. You know, sometimes you read things and you see some of the places where you screwed things up your own self. I tend to be in awe of great singers. I think it is that when I was younger, a child, the one talent that I would have wished for would have been to be able to really sing, and then to play the piano along with it, because that’s undeniable, when someone can sing. When you hear Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston, Carrie Underwood ( yes, this Carrie Underwood), or Adele, sing , you don’t say, “Oh, well, that girl can’t even sing.” My favorite song of hers, that I’ve heard, so far, is probably, “One and Only.” But, really, in terms of having a grip on doing things her way, because it’s her life, great big kudos to her for that. So, I think Adele, who talks about actually, literally, writing while drunk, something that I, recently sober for a few months now, thought was a quite nice, honest, moment, because if you drink and you write, that shit happens, she seems pretty amazing, and you can check that interview out here.

I’m also reading more of Dorothy Parker’s work, as well as reading about her. I want to get the biography on her, penned by Marion Meade, titled “What Fresh Hell is This?”, which was Parker’s frequent response whenever the doorbell rang in her apartment. What I’ve got is “The Portable Dorothy Parker” edited by Meade, who provides the introduction. Parker had no confidence in herself as a writer and considered the work a means to an end. She began as a writer at Vogue magazine and then Vanity Fair, both Conde Nast publications, before going on to work at The New Yorker, where her acid wit and satirical style of cutting to the quick of things, while often being quite subtle or droll, set the tone for their smart, observant, “casuals”, one that they try to maintain to this day. Parker was one of the co-writers of the original script of the film, “A Star is Born”, in 1937, which is about to undergo its fourth remake. I think it says something about a work when it holds up that well over that great a distance of time. It’s a classic tale, it is timeless, her star rises, his fades. Parker, however, who was making a staggering five thousand dollars a week at the height to the Great Depression, loathed Hollywood. The pretension was generally more than she could stomach, she said, “The only ism that Hollywood believes in, is plagiarism.” Which I found to be rather astutely funny as I’d just read, in another book, that George Romero straight-up admitted that he stole the idea for “Night of the Living Dead” from the story “I Am Legend” written by author Richard Matheson. I’ve long been a fan of Dorothy Parker, again, the attitude, the wit, the smarts, and couldn’t keep from picking this up, adding it to my reading stack, after being reminded of “A Star is Born”, while listening to a Streisand song the other day. Streisand was once asked how it was that she was able to hold a note for so long, her answer, “Because I want to.” So, this little round of reading has all worked itself together quite nicely for me.

I am, also, still editing “GRAIN”, the story collection. In the midst of that, I ran “The Slick Furies” through the wash another time, made a few more minor corrections, and I am still pleased with that book. It’s a pretty cool feeling to be reading your own work, editing it, and thinking, this is good. I’m really loving doing all this right now. It is a wonderful feeling to be feeling like I’m finding my groove with this writer life.

TS



Categories: Adele, book, Books, Books I'm reading, Classics, Culture, documentaries, Dorothy Parker, editing, faith, Fiction, Film, films, freedom, great movies, Great Songs, greatness, Halloween, Hollywood, horror, humor, icon, Iconic, Laird Barron, life, Literature, living, Posted by Teri Skultety, Resilience and The Modern Woman, transcendence, transformation, wrangle

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