30 abril 2009
29 abril 2009
still if bird or devil!
By that heaven that bends above us—by
that God we both adore,
Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if
within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the
angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom
the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“The Philosophy of Composition” is a lovely little essay, but, as Poe himself admitted, it’s a bit of jiggery-pokery, too.
Read all in The New Yorker
27 abril 2009
«The monstrous homogenization of our world has now almost destroyed the map, any map, by making every place on it exactly like every other place, and leaving no blanks….As in the Mandelbrot fractal set, the enormously large and the infinitesimally small are exactly the same, and the same leads always to the same again; there is no other; there is no escape, because there is nowhere else.
In reinventing the world of intense, unreproducible, local knowledge, seemingly by a denial or evasion of current reality, fantasists are perhaps trying to assert and explore a larger reality than we now allow ourselves. They are trying to restore the sense - to regain the knowledge - that there is somewhere else, anywhere else, where other people may live another kind of life.
The literature of imagination, even when tragic, is reassuring, not necessarily in the sense of offering nostalgic comfort, but because it offers a world large enough to contain alternatives and therefore offers hope.»
Ursula K. Le Guin's website
With luck, a novelist can beget new lives, but he is also obliged to commemorate lives that cannot be saved. Back in Lisbon, after the war, Lobo Antunes worked at a hospital that treated children with cancer. The experience provoked a metaphysical rage; he found himself railing against a God who permitted such agony. He watched as a five-year-old boy with leukemia screamed for morphine. When the child died, two orderlies arrived with a stretcher, but the wasted body was so small that they chose to bundle it in a sheet. A foot slumped free of the shroud and dangled ineffectually in the air. Lobo Antunes decided, he said in a recent interview, “to write for that foot.”
Read all of it in The New Yorker
Ilustração de André Carrilho
24 abril 2009
ROME –, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, said Saturday that even though she is about to turn 100, her mind is sharper than it was she when she was 20.
Levi Montalcini, who also serves as a senator for life in Italy, celebrates her 100th birthday on Wednesday, and she spoke at a ceremony held in her honor by the European Brain Research Institute.
She shared the 1986 Nobel Prize for Medicine with for discovering mechanisms that regulate the growth of cells and organs.
"At 100, I have a mind that is superior — thanks to experience — than when I was 20," she told the party, complete with a large cake for her.
The Turin-born Levi Montalcini recounted how the anti-Jewish laws of the 1930s under Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime forced her to quit university and do research in an improvised laboratory in her bedroom at home.
"Above all, don't fear difficult moments," she said. "The best comes from them."
"I should thank Mussolini for having declared me to be of an inferior race. This led me to the joy of working, not any more unfortunately, in university institutes but in a bedroom," the scientist said.
Her white hair elegantly coifed and wearing a smart navy blue seat, she raised a glass of sparkling wine in a toast to her long life.
AP via Yahoo News
23 abril 2009
We’ve known for a while that Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro’s eagerly-awaited adaptation of the Lord Of The Rings prequel, The Hobbit, would comprise two movies, due in December 2011 and 2012. But the make-up of those two movies has been up for debate… until now.
We spoke exclusively to both Del Toro and Jackson for our birthday issue, and they told us the latest, which is…
“We’ve decided to have The Hobbit span the two movies, including the White Council and the comings and goings of Gandalf to Dol Guldur,” says Del Toro.
“We decided it would be a mistake to try to cram everything into one movie,” adds Jackson. “The essential brief was to do The Hobbit, and it allows us to make The Hobbit in a little more style, if you like, of the [LOTR] trilogy.”
So there you go. The second film will not, as had previously been suggested, a film that will bridge the 60-year gap between The Hobbit and the start of Fellowship Of The Ring.
21 abril 2009
(and this thanx to Poison Ivy)
#1. Desenrascanço (Portuguese)
To pull a MacGyver.
This is the art of slapping together a solution to a problem at the last minute, with no advanced planning, and no resources. It's the coat hanger you use to fish your car keys out of the toilet, the emergency mustache you hastily construct out of pubic hair.
What's interesting about desenrascanço (literally "to disentangle" yourself out of a bad situation), the Portuguese word for these last-minute solutions, is what is says about their culture.
Where most of us were taught the Boy Scout slogan "be prepared," and are constantly hassled if we don't plan every little thing ahead, the Portuguese value just the opposite.
Coming up with frantic, last-minute improvisations that somehow work is considered one of the most valued skills there; they even teach it in universities, and in the armed forces. They believe this ability to slap together haphazard solutions has been key to their survival over the centuries.
Don't laugh. At one time they managed to build an empire stretching from Brazil to the Philippines this way.
Fuck preparation. They have desenrascanço.
20 abril 2009
His agent Margaret Hanbury said the author had been ill "for several years" and had died on Sunday morning.
Despite being referred to as a science fiction writer, Jim Ballard said his books were instead "picturing the psychology of the future".
His most acclaimed novel was Empire of the Sun, based on his childhood in a Japanese prison camp in China.
I remember a lot of the casual brutality and beatings-up that went on
The author of 15 novels and scores of short stories, Ballard grew up amongst the expatriate community in Shanghai.
During World War II, at the age of 12, he was interned for three years in a camp run by the Japanese along with his parents and younger sister.
He later moved to Britain and in the early 1960s became a full-time writer.
Ballard built up a passionate readership, particularly after Empire of The Sun, a fictionalised account of his childhood, was made into a film by Steven Spielberg.
He said of his experiences: "I have - I won't say happy - not unpleasant memories of the camp. I remember a lot of the casual brutality and beatings-up that went on, but at the same time we children were playing a hundred and one games all the time!"
His friend and fellow author, Iain Sinclair, said Ballard had developed into a major literary figure.
"He was one of the first to take up the whole idea of ecological catastrophe. He was fascinated by celebrity early on, the cult of the star and suicides of cars, motorways, edgelands of cities.
"All of these things he was one of the first to create almost a philosophy of. And I think as time has gone on, he's become a major, major figure."
Director David Cronenberg brought Ballard's infamous book about the sexual desires stimulated by car crashes to the screen in the film Crash.
He had a love of the ordinary and surreal at the same time. He was extraordinary and remarkable
The film caused a media stir, adding to Ballard's reputation for courting controversy.
In later years he wrote other acclaimed novels such as Super-Cannes and Millennium People.
Hephzibah Anderson, former fiction editor at the Daily Mail and books columnist for the Observer, said Ballard's work had anticipated life as it was now.
"If you look at the start of his career, he began writing science fiction stories and we was regarded as very avant garde.
"And there was a kind of violence lurking beneath the texture of these novels. And they've come to seem less and less futuristic and you know it's as if we're embodying, we're living in now a kind of Ballardian world."
Meanwhile, Ballard's publishers HarperCollins have cancelled the publication of his final book.
Conversations, which chronicled Ballard's discussions with his oncologist Professor Jonathan Waxman, was due to be published in September.
However, the author became too ill to work on the title and the book was abandoned.
One of the things that has always fascinated me about Viggo Mortensen is the way he does ambiguity. The way he can look cruel and gentle at the same time. The way he can embrace extremes of danger and empathy.
In Good his ambiguity excels itself. He's a Nazi you can't hate because you understand him. You warm to him, even. He's vulnerable, he's vain. He has been gradually seduced into the Nazi movement. He couldn't help himself.
Before we meet, in London, I see him in the street, outside the Charlotte Street Hotel. He's crouched over his phone. He's wearing the navy and red football shirt of his team, San Lorenzo, from Argentina. He grew up there. "So these are my heroes. The one group of people or thing I support unconditionally. They can do no wrong," he says with a half-smile and sits down in the cosy-chaired library. His hair is long. His eyes are piercing, kind. Full of fun, full of melancholy.
"I don't like people who get into fights about football - or anything else. But I share the passion of the fans for this team, that's for sure."
You notice straightaway that he embraces passion and distance at the same time. Emotions that would normally contradict each other sit happily within him.
He's sucking on a straw that sits in a pot of greenish herbs. He tells me it's maté, a South American tea. He grew up in Venezuela and Argentina, where his father, also Viggo, ran chicken farms. He speaks fluent Spanish (and Danish). His parents divorced when he was 11. He moved back to New York City, where he was born, with his mother, Grace, and two younger brothers. Later on he travelled to Copenhagen, needing to unravel his Danish roots.
He worked in flower markets in Copenhagen and bars in New York before deciding on a career in acting. His first job was in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo, and it ended up on the cutting-room floor. He was first seen in Peter Weir's Witness and then as a brutal naval officer in GI Jane. He was first really noticed as Gwyneth Paltrow's lover in A Perfect Murder and became properly famous for Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings.
His peripatetic early existence has influenced him hugely. He likes to be everywhere, even though it can get a little exhausting. Hence the stimulant tea.
I study him. His cheekbones are high, jaw chiselled, eyes sparkling. Some lines, but more from expression than age. He doesn't look 50. He lives in America's northwest, near the Canadian border, in a forest. Does he really feel he belongs anywhere or everywhere?
"Yes, that is a consequence of travelling. A positive consequence. And it helps me as an actor, because at the heart of my job is to look at the world from points of view sometimes quite different from my own. That make-believe world comes naturally to children - 'I am Wolverine, I am Batman'. But as adults we have to research it."
And research it he does. When he played a mute in Darkly Moon, he didn't speak for weeks. He would call up his son and just breathe down the phone. When he was in A Perfect Murder, opposite Gwyneth Paltrow, where he played a conman artist, he painted all the pictures in the artist's studio himself. He studied the origin of each of the 43 Russian gang tattoos that were put on to his body for Eastern Promises. His body told his story.
He can be impassioned about acting, or writing, or painting, or his music. Or equally distanced from all of his artistic and creative outlets.
He is equally at home in the edgy world of Cronenberg's A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, for which he was Oscar nominated, and blockbusters like The Lord of the Rings.
In Good, an adaptation of CP Taylor's play, he plays a German literature professor in the 1930s under personal stress. He's written a novel advocating compassionate euthanasia and has an extremely sick elderly mother. "Imagine being a German. This is a job description. Most of the books you see in my library on the movie were ones I found. They were either in German or they are early editions of Proust. It's a good library. We went to a lot of book stores. I listened to a lot of music that they would have listened to. A lot of Mahler. I spent a lot of time in Germany just looking at people."
His character in Good first of all wants nothing to do with the party. Then they flatter him because the Führer himself has read the book. "He's maddening at times. He goes from being very passive and stumbling, and thinking it doesn't seem a big deal, until finally he's got the uniform on and denial kicks in. It's an accumulation of all of these compromises. He can't run away from it any more and then he crumbles. And at the root of it he has been seduced by flattery."
There is an eyebrow-raising moment where he is in a full Gestapo uniform; his girlfriend is so turned on that she instantly performs oral sex.
"Because she is seduced by power and its trappings. That's her aphrodisiac," he says.
Have you ever been seduced by power or flattery? "I think in a fairly harmless way. Perhaps where a director might have helped me realise I could do something and I needed encouragement. But certainly as well I might have strayed away from a path without realising it and my friends might have said: 'Hey, wake up, look what you're doing.' This character was easy to relate to. It's very intimate. It's about an ordinary person."
I tell him I was frustrated by the inconclusive ending of Good, and he's pleased about that. He tells me it's not your normal Nazi story. It's not The Reader. "You know, real life doesn't just suddenly resolve itself. You have to keep working at it. Democracy, marriage, friendship. You can't just say she's my best friend. That's not a given, it's a process."
Are you good at working at things like that? Do you work on relationships? "I don't always. When there is conflict it's good to step away, even for five minutes, because you could say terrible things that you can't take back, so it's best to walk away," he says, only half-convincingly. If I am sucked in and don't walk away I become very destructive, I tell him. "Me too," he says. "I say things that are personal, that I don't really mean, because if somebody hurts you, you want to hurt them instinctively, go for something you know is going to really upset them."
The eyes flash anger, empathy, hurt. He sucks on his little straw. He tells me that it has the same effect as coffee, but without the comedown, and offers to let me try it. It tastes bitter but comes with a warm rush. He doesn't mind that I've left a lipstick mark.
Do you have to have the last word in an argument? "Only if I get really incensed. It usually has to do with fairness, or if I feel I've been cornered or misrepresented, then I will lash out. It's good to have the presence of mind to say: 'Can I call you back? Let me take a break and go for a walk.' Always better."
Do you have a girlfriend at the moment? "Well, even if I did I wouldn't talk about it," he says, but half-heartedly. No, he doesn't want to talk about anything that will get him into trouble, but at the same time he has a need to explain himself. "It doesn't really have anything to do with the job I am doing." No, but it has to do with what we have just been talking about. "Yes, of course that's true. But if you want to take care of another person, then you don't go round blabbing about them. I like the fact that the character in Good mostly tries to do his best. And generally that's what I do. I try to avoid conflict. I don't want people to be unhappy. That's why Halder, the character, is ripe for seduction. He's good at giving out all this energy of trying to keep everybody happy, and he's not getting anything in return."
Is that how you feel? "Yes, I try to keep too many plates spinning to satisfy everyone's needs, and if you are not careful you get burnt out and really stressed. You end up saying and doing things that you later regret."
Mortensen is a person who always wants to do everything and please everybody. "When I was in New Zealand working on The Lord of the Rings, there was a saying: 'One job at a time and each job a success.' I have tried actively to reduce my tendency to do everything. I cannot be so stretched."
It's a hard habit to break. He tells me he's always reading five books at a time, and part of his way of getting into the character of John Halder was to play a lot of music. He found an old Japanese piano where they were filming. So they would finish a day's shooting and instead of looking at the script for the next day, "I would just go and play and think about what we had done, where we were going. The music became as important as everything else. It was fluid and focused, with this dark undercurrent. We ended up recording it."
He will release his music as a CD. And he admits: "I did take some pictures and write a bit as well." I tell him that I've enjoyed his poems. They are wincingly emotional and embrace the minutiae of relationships, cruelty and longing. He's not particularly good at taking the compliment, and he changes the subject. He says: "I like where I live because it's in the forest, away from everything."
I read a story that when he was a child he went to hide in the forest and fell asleep under a tree and a dog came and found him. His mother retold the story that he was not asleep but he was screaming. "Yes, I was crying." It was interesting that he got contentment and abandonment confused. He smiles. "Well, I don't really know which it was, but I was always running away. I did that a lot. Another time when I was a child, about two-and-a-half, I crawled out of bed and across the road and crawled into someone's house on a Sunday morning. I was in the kitchen playing with all the pots and pans, and they called my parents, who had been calling the police. I think they said: 'You are missing someone, and he is here playing with our kitchen knives.'"
Viggo was a strange child. "As long as I can remember, when I was a little kid I have always been conscious that we are here for a limited period. Not really fearing death at all, but as a little boy I did resent it. I thought it was unfair because there are so many things to do and adventures to have. And as an adult you realise you can never read all the good books. You can't even see all the good plays or movies or travel to all the places you want to see. It's impossible. I don't resent my mortality any more; I'm just conscious of it. Life is short and there's a fine line, you know. You can be too frantic and desperate, but you can also be too lazy."
Or maybe just too tired. "Yes. It's nice to say: 'I'm going to cancel that appointment because I'm in the middle of a good book,' or 'I'm with a friend and they need to talk, so I'm not going to run off.' There are times when I've taken on too much, and you can only do one thing well."
You wonder where it comes from, this desire to please everybody, do everything, see everything, feel everything. It's strange that as a child he felt so conscious of mortality. "I don't know why I felt that but I felt that strongly, to the point of asking out loud when I was little: 'Whose idea was that? Why can't I make up the rules about how long I want to be around?' But you know, it doesn't work out that way, and that's what makes life special. Moments you have with a person you get along with really well. Things you see that are of great beauty. A change of light, a sunset, a sunrise. Things you may never see again. You grasp those moments. You don't see a bear in the wild and walk on, thinking: Oh, I'll see another bear. You just wait and watch."
Do you have animals where you live? "I have a horse [from the equine movie Hidalgo]. I met him and we got along well and I wanted to keep seeing that horse, so I bought him. He's fat and happy and lazy. And I used to have a dog, but she passed away. She was a very good friend and an interesting being. There's a book where I have a story about her demise, which is sad but funny."
Typical of Mortensen: he sees death as sad and funny. "I like cats, too. Some people who like dogs don't like cats, but I'm not like that."
What else makes him happy? "Any time I'm outdoors, whether it's in a desert or a sea or the forest. I like the elements - whatever the weather is, I don't feel that any moment is wasted at all. Even if I'm doing nothing. Especially if I'm doing nothing. When I'm out in nature it can be an inspiration. If I am going through a rough period, if I just go out for a walk, on some level everything is all right because I'm here, do you know what I mean?"
He pauses as if he really wants to know the answer. "Too much thinking, too much distraction. Responsibility. Things that are not to do with being in the moment."
Connection is important to him. Growing up, he didn't have friends - perhaps because they moved around such a lot. But it was as if he relied too early and too long on his imagination. He needs constant grounding.
He has a son, Henry, now 18, with whom he is very close. "We've never had any terrible conflicts. We've been friends for a long time and still are." He says he is also friends with his ex-wife and mother of his child, the punk singer Exene Cervenka from the group X.
"It worked out well. He always knew, no matter what, that we both loved him and cared for him, and that all we were interested in was that he should be happy and what he had to say was important to us. Neither of us tried to impose on him by saying: 'You need to do this or be that way.' We tried to set good examples, but he's definitely his own person, very strong in a lot of ways; a very good writer and musician, but also clever about maths and science."
You can tell by his poetry that Viggo is no stranger to the complicated relationship, although he's usually cagey about the specifics. He is said to have gone out with artist Lola Schnabel, Julian Schnabel's daughter, and Spanish singer Christina Rosenvinge.
"I like love to be felt equally - it rarely is, though. There are moments. When it happens it's incredible. It's like the sun breaking through the clouds, but it's a process. As soon as it's going well you think: 'We've cracked it.' It's not going to stay that way. That person that you love so much and understands you so well, suddenly the next day they say something and you think: 'They don't really know me well at all.'"
And is that most important to you - to be known by somebody? That somebody really gets you? "I am cautious about it, but when I connect strongly I want to be honest with that person, risky as it is, and I want them to be honest with me..."
Do you prefer to be the person who takes that risk? "Yes, many times. But I am happy, and it is rare that if I feel that way about them they show that they really do also. That is wonderful. That makes everything in life better. Everybody in life needs encouragement."
He's smiling now and takes more tea. "It's very good for digestion. I also like chocolate. I eat a lot of chocolate. I like them really dark, really tasty."
I tell him that I would be very happy to sit there all day, drink tea and eat chocolate with him, but I have a plane to catch. He's suddenly concerned that I don't have reading material, so he dashes up to his hotel room to get me a book of poems, El Dorado, by Dorothy Porter. "I think you will like this. She's a woman poet from Australia." He also presents me with two large chocolate squares, one wrapped in pink paper that has a handwritten "Venezuela" on it, and another in orange paper that has a handwritten "Indonesia".
I am not sure whether he handwrapped them himself or whether they came from a hand-wrapped chocolate shop. I imagine him travelling the world with a suitcase of wrapped chocolates.
I wonder if Eastern Promises changed anything for him. He got an Oscar nomination for playing Nikolai, a Russian gangster, and is remembered for being naked in a sauna. It won him a whole new league of female fans. "I think Cronenberg should have been nominated for awards for both A History of Violence and Eastern Promises," he says, dismissing the praise for himself. "My only disappointment was that he didn't get more attention."
He wonders if Cronenberg will win Oscars for something else, not necessarily as great as his previous work, but because it's his moment - "like Scorsese did, and like John Wayne did for True Grit, which I hear they're remaking". Do you want to be in it? "Ooh, I'm not sure. I don't remember all the characters. But Tommy Lee Jones could be in it - he's a good horseman."
What's coming up next for him? "Cormac McCarthy's The Road is coming out later this year. It's about a man and his son. They don't always get along, but there's unconditional love there. And I've got a book that I'm putting out, and I'm going to do a play in Madrid called Purgatorio, or Purgatory. It's about the eternal struggle of relationships, how to forgive people for the horrible things they have done. It's in Spanish, so that will be fun. I'm terrified, but that's probably a good thing."
Can he forgive people? "There are certain things that are said and done and I can forgive, but for my own good I can't associate with that person any more. 'I don't trust you, but
I can forgive you.' I can do that. Because some things you can't take back. Some things that have been said, they hurt, they linger. That's in everybody's life."
He looks at me momentarily. The hurt. The joy. And the fun. All at once in his eyes. As he turns away I see that his football shirt has been signed by a player called The Frog, who wrote: "Thank you for being simple," which I ask him to explain. Is he thanking you for being a half-wit? He laughs. "I think he means thank you for being real. He was a childhood hero of mine. A great player. Kept it simple." Simple is the last thing you would ever think of Mortensen. He's very complicated, but also very real.
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“He could have written me anything and he comes up with this. If that’s what he thinks of me, well, then I’m not for him and he’s not for me.”
Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe may have been made for each other, in another life.
The problem was that beneath the surface of complementary desires there lurked psychological monsters just waiting to destroy the liaison.
As many have discovered, it is much harder to control the physical sexual impulse than it is to harness the intellectual creative one.
To paraphrase Monroe’s final, uncompleted film, something had to give.
Jeffrey Meyers’s new book The Genius And The Goddess offers an intriguing insight into his playwright friend’s fascination with the actress and charts the trajectory of a relationship doomed to self-destruct.
Then he was regarded as his country’s foremost playwright, a celebrated chronicler of contem–porary America who dissected the American Dream with the skill of a surgeon in plays such as All My Sons and Death Of A Salesman.
Monroe was an insecure model and actress, having had small parts in films such as The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve as well as bit parts in trivial comedies.
She was desperately attempting to improve her game through acting lessons and a dutiful reading programme.
They swiftly became friends and Monroe supposedly gushed to her drama coach Natasha Lytess (who was herself infatuated with her pupil): “It was like running into a tree! You know, like a cool drink when you’ve got a fever. You see my toe, this toe? Well he sat and held my toe and we just looked into each other’s eyes almost all evening.”
The starlet and the playwright exchanged letters and phone calls for some months but Miller’s marriage to college sweetheart Mary Slattery prevented any serious involvement.
His marriage had been in trouble for years but his shyness and moral code prevented him from having adulterous dalliances. However, he clearly envisaged a time when he and Monroe might be together.
The time came five years later when Miller heard that Marilyn had moved to New York City.
He obtained her phone number from a friend and they began secretly dating in 1955. In the intervening half decade, Monroe had risen from aspiring starlet to world famous movie star and their respective positions had altered drama––tic–ally. They married in secret that –summer but it lasted only five tempestuous years.
When they divorced in 1961 –neither was the same person they had been when they married.
To understand the issues at stake one has to look at their respective characters, forged in childhood.
Although Miller’s father had lost everything in The Depression he grew up in a secure, upper-middle class family.
His father Isidore, a Polish emigre, had been a successful garment manufacturer and his mother Augusta (Gussy) enjoyed the fruits of her husband’s labours while berating him for his “demeaning” profession.
Miller’s intellectual condescension was learnt at his mother’s knee.
Monroe’s mother was a paranoid schizophrenic who spent most of her adult life shuttling around institutions.
The illegitimate Monroe was farmed out to various foster homes and ageing relatives until she made the break by marrying a neighbour’s son, James Dougherty, largely to avoid being returned to an orphanage.
Four years later she left to pursue a career as a model and movie actress.
Her combination of naivety, aspiration and sexuality was a magnet for unscrupulous, powerful men who used her and sexually abused her before discarding her.
But her early experiences on the Hollywood casting couch taught her that her body was her best weapon and she flaunted it.
Miller found this combination of innocence and sexual allure irresistible. “He had sex on his mind constantly,” wrote film director Elia Kazan. “He was starved of sexual release.”
Riddled with guilt, Miller embarked on an affair with Monroe but found it difficult to be thrust into the limelight and the centre of press attention, simultaneously getting a divorce on the grounds of infidelity and conducting an affair with Monroe.
He never really recovered from the shock of the attention which continued throughout their marriage and some time afterwards.
Monroe, on the other hand, was already practised in the arts of media manipulation.
Always ready with a soundbite or quip to entertain reporters and newspaper readers, she loved the constant attention, which seemed to nourish her eternal hunger for acclaim and approval.
But the cost to both of them was greater than they could have imagined. Miller became increasingly self-conscious and it leaked into his work which became pompous and sanctimonious.
Monroe’s fragile personality started to crack and she turned to drugs and alcohol to help assuage her demons.
Miller responded to a question years later on whether he had foreseen the problems that would destroy his marriage and Monroe.
“If I had been sophisticated enough I would have seen them. But I was not. I loved her.”
Monroe was more aggressive in her response to their unlikely liaison. “If I were nothing but a dumb blonde he wouldn’t have married me.”
The bilious Truman Capote, whom Monroe had befriended when she came to New York, returned her friendship in typically treacherous fashion.
Upon hearing of her marriage to Miller he declared that it would be the “Death Of A Playwright”.
Capote was only half right. The marriage between the vulnerable Beauty and the intellectual Beast precipitated the creative death of one and the actual death of the other.
During the difficult making of The Prince And The Showgirl, in which Monroe clashed with the director and co-star Laurence Olivier, Miller found himself in the demeaning role of the “diva’s servant”, ministering to his wife’s increasingly hysterical demands and attempting to stop her descent into addiction.
As Norman Mailer put it, Miller slid from his position as America’s greatest playwright to “the most talented slave in the world”.
By the time The Misfits was due to be made the marriage was in meltdown.
The elements involved came together like the strands of a Greek tragedy.
Clark Gable was dying. Montgomery Clift was, as Monroe put it: “The only person I know who is in worse shape than I am.”
Director John Huston was in a more brutal mood than ever and Miller was desperate to reclaim his literary crown.
Monroe, her personality and inner psychology in tatters, was a mess. The result is one of the saddest American movies ever made, an accidental collision of collapsing egos and self-flagellation.
Although Miller had written the screenplay as a gift to his wife he made the terrible mistake of mining her life and persona for her role.
Monroe was intelligent enough to understand this and deeply unhappy about his perception of her.
“He was supposed to be writing this for me,” she said at the time. “He could have written me anything and he comes up with this. If that’s what he thinks of me, well, then I’m not for him and he’s not for me.”
The film that was designed to bring them closer together drove them apart for good. Miller instituted divorce proceedings in January 1961.
For the playwright it was an act of survival. “If I hadn’t done this,” he said, “I would be dead.”
He lived. She died by her own hand barely 18 months afterwards.
18 abril 2009
17 abril 2009
The days of judging a book by its cover are drawing to a close. Publishers have finally tapped into the MTV generation, and now it is possible to make your literary choices in advance online by watching a sequence of rapid-fire images accompanied by a thumping score, big flashing words and, if you're lucky, a deep-voiced American talking about 'one man' and 'his quest to find meaning in a world gone mad'. Yes: there are now trailers for books and soon, according to Steve Osgoode, director of online marketing at HarperCollins Canada, they will be everywhere.
Turning literature into moving pictures is a risky business. So how does one go about representing a 400-page tome with delicate themes and complex characterisation in a 40-second video?
'It's a challenge,' admits Osgoode, who launched HarperCollins's internet-based 'book trailer' programme earlier in the year. 'Trailers work better for some titles than others, books that have really powerful and broad images associated with them.'
It is true that most of the book trailers so far are trying to sell titles such as Dark Destiny and Wild Rain - many of them produced by the American company Circle of Seven. But Osgoode's division has broken new ground by trailering high-profile works such as scientist Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers and Gautam Malkani's Londonstani, one of the biggest literary debuts of the year.
'We wanted to capture the spirit of Londonstani without imposing the look of characters or anything like that on the reader. We weren't looking to create a cinematic version of the book.' The trailer consists of vibrant images of west London cut to a drum'n'bass soundtrack, and is clearly directed at an audience unfamiliar with the gritty streets of Hounslow. 'Gautam was delighted with it,' says Osgoode. 'Book orders all round have increased dramatically just based on the trailers.' They can be downloaded, and are also being tested out on cable TV and in Toronto cinemas.
Author Patrick Neate is sceptical. 'It's a noble effort but I'm not convinced it will work. Showing the Londonstani trailer in the cinema is OK, but on the internet it's slow to load and doesn't seem very well distributed. The thing that interests me more is what this says about publishing and the digital world. The book industry is always a decade behind. This seems to be a case of people saying, "There must be something we can do with the internet, so what is it?"'
If a trailer were made for one of Neate's novels, he says he'd question whether the marketing money could have been spent better elsewhere - buying table space in a bookshop, for instance. 'I'm sure something big is going to happen with publishing and the internet, but this ain't it.'
Ian McEwan is more positive. 'I haven't seen a book trailer yet but it doesn't surprise me that they exist. If someone made a trailer for one of my books with intelligence and honesty and wit, I'd have no objection.'
'I think I speak for all writers,' adds Malcolm Gladwell, 'when I say that I am delighted by marketing efforts of any sort.'
St. George's Day
Roald Dahl's Birthday
Eath Day (very hobbit-like, IMHO)
Google Logos Collection (official and unofficial :)