Saturday, September 29, 2012


So, director Rian Johnson is now a big fat three-for-three. I loved Brick, The Brothers Bloom, and, now this, a dark, chilling, perfectly executed time-travel thriller. I won't say much about the story since it's worth knowing as little as possible, but what Johnson seems to get right in all his movies--besides performances, cinematography, score--is that all his works are character-based with strong emotional cores. This film is both literally and figuratively about cycles of violence, about loops.

I also really loved the structure of this film, the way its third act in no way resembles its first act, how it becomes like something from John Ford, a film that is both about violence and disdainful of it. Great movie. My favorite, so far, of 2012.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gone Girl

I am really burying the lead on this one, but I've had some very good news this past week, while I was on vacation. My novel, "The Girl With a Clock For a Heart," has been sold to William Morrow in New York City (much more on this subject later). Needless to say, I was feeling very good about myself. Then I read this brilliant thriller by Gillian Flynn and all I could feel was jealousy. This book is so good: a tale of a very twisted, sick marriage told through the perspectives of the husband and wife. Not only is it a genuine page-turner but it is also a great satire about the times we live in now. And it's funny. And it's not remotely nice, which can be a good thing in a thriller. This is a poisonous, feel-bad book about poisonous (sometimes literally) people.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Poetry Monday

A new online magazine launched this morning, and two of my Hitchcock Sonnets--"Secret Agent," and "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Doris Day version)--are included. It's a beautifully designed magazine that you can read as a PDF. Check it out here: Nib Magazine.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Off to Bermuda for a week. Bermuda is apparently a place with absolute no movie connections, except that I think The Deep was partly filmed there. Anyway, I won't be thinking about movies, I'll be thinking about Dark and Stormy's and trying to remember to keep my scooter on the left side of the road.

Film Frames Friday

Monday, September 10, 2012

Poetry Monday

Here's a treat for Bill Murray/modern poetry fans. Bill reads (and very well, not surprisingly) two of Wallace Stevens' poems: "The Planet on the Table," and "A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts."  Watch it here on Youtube. Or just read one of the poems below, using your internal Bill Murray voice.

The Rabbit as King of the Ghosts

The difficulty to think at the end of day,
When the shapeless shadow covers the sun
And nothing is left except light on your fur?

There was the cat slopping its milk all day,
Fat cat, red tongue, green mind, white milk
And August the most peaceful month.

To be, in the grass, in the peacefullest time,
Without that monument of cat, 
The cat forgotten on the moon;

And to feel that the light is a rabbit-light
In which everything is meant for you
And nothing need be explained;

Then there is nothing to think of. It comes of itself;
And east rushes west and west rushes down,
No matter. The grass is full

And full of yourself. The trees around are for you,
The whole of the wideness of night is for you,
A self that touches all edges,

You become a self that fills the four corners of night.
The red cat hides away in the fur-light
And there you are humped high, humped up,

You are humped higher and higher, black as stone?
You sit with your head like a carving in space
And the little green cat is a bug in the grass.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Clemmie (1958)

Another of John D. MacDonald's infidelity novels, and like the other two, Cancel All Our Vows and The Deceivers, this one is excellent. 

The book's milieu is classic Updike/Cheever country. A happily married suburban businessman is left alone for the summer, his English wife bringing their children back to the home country to meet relatives. He meets a young Bohemian girl who lives in a loft in the city (and off of a trust fund). There's lots of drinking and lots of sex and things turn sour a la Fatal Attraction. It's a long book but doesn't feel it. JDM manages to turn this crime-free tale into a tale of high suspense. It's dated, of course, in its free-wheeling attitudes toward extra-marital activity, and it's almost comical the number of times the main character gets behind the wheel completely sloshed, but, ultimately, it's a heartfelt well-written novel without gimmickry.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"I pay in blood but not my own"

No one would ever mistake me for a music critic, or even a Dylanologist, but having listened to Bob Dylan's 35th studio album my gut reaction is that it's easily his best album since 1997's Time Out of Mind. The lyrics--by far the darkest, most violent of his career--are chilling. And yes, he penned a fourteen minute song about the Titanic, including references to Leonardo DiCaprio. It's pretty great but my initial favorites are "Pay in Blood," "Soon After Midnight," "Scarlet Town," and the Lennon tribute "Roll on John."


Possibly the saddest book I've ever read. And it's not a tragedy, at least not in the sense that the protagonist, through a fault or a flaw, comes to a dismal end. No, it's just a book that recounts (in perfect prose) the unimportant life of a mediocre English professor at a midwest University.

William Stoner is the only son of a farmer who falls in love with literature and becomes a tenured assistant professor. He marries an unstable woman who, deep down, despises him, and he endures many day-to-day indignities at work and home. There are sequences in this novel that filled me with a kind of rage, especially the way in which the chairman of his department turns against Stoner, and the way in which his wife works at turning their only daughter against his father.

There is a small movement to revive the reputation of this 1965 novel. It's currently in print in a lovely New York Review Books edition. It's well worth reading, despite how painful it is at times. By the book's end the protagonist has taken on a certain amount of grace. I found it very moving.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Poetry Monday

My friend and mentor David Barber, poetry editor at The Atlantic, finally gave in to the winds of change and acknowledged that there was such a thing as the internet. He now has a website, with a sampling of his excellent poetry.

The website also happened to be designed by my very talented wife Charlene. How's that for synergy.