‘The decor had to become a character for me’: On ‘The Age of Innocence’

Twenty-nine years after its release, few Scorsese fans regard The Age of Innocence as an anomaly, a head-scratching attempt to out-Merchant Ivory the competition. And it’s true: I counted more bluehairs in my September ’93 audience than in, say, the screening for Cape Fear. But from its sudden fades and Ophuls-indebted tracking shots to theContinue reading “‘The decor had to become a character for me’: On ‘The Age of Innocence’”

‘My Policeman’ offers bucketloads of gay misery

On progress Malcolm X said: “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made.” Depictions of queerness onscreen still don’t reflect the complexity of queerContinue reading “‘My Policeman’ offers bucketloads of gay misery”

October reading

At my library, this weekend doubling as an early voting site, a pair of Cuban-American women in their seventies muttered darkly and gasped on seeing our “Cubanos Con Biden” poster. Because even septuagenarian Cuban-American women understand social media, they whipped out their phones as if at a sighting of blue-eyed ground-doves. For two hours weContinue reading “October reading”

‘Oh know your own heart…’

Influenced by D.H. Lawrence’s free verse as much as by the Christina Rossetti of “Goblin Market,” Stevie Smith found an a midcentury audience for acerbic poetic chronicles of a complacent society accustomed to snobbery as a shield against postwar deprivations. Her work is best discovered young when her quirks look like a respite from theContinue reading “‘Oh know your own heart…’”

‘I have heard the key’

Viggo Mortensen reading The Waste Land? Sign me up, bro. Aragon would know of despair, of rats crawling on their slimy bellies; certainly he could taste “the awful daring of a moment’s surrender.” I must thank Anthony Lane for the discovery. His fine essay on the centenary of T.S. Eliot’s insistently influential poem ranks amongContinue reading “‘I have heard the key’”

Laying down the tracks for the next attempt at a stolen election

In The Storm Is Here: An American Crucible, Luke Mogelson at first irritated me: almost two hundred pages of interviews with crypto-Jew haters, Trumpists, anti-vaxxers, lockdown protestors, fluoride deniers, devotees of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and sundry charlatans and sheep, with maybe fifty pages about BLM and anti-fascists. Mogelson doesn’t make funContinue reading “Laying down the tracks for the next attempt at a stolen election”

September reading

I’ll have more to say next month when I finish A Place of Greater Safety, but I did finish Fludd quick enough to report on my experiences with the late author of Wolf Hall. Compact and acerbic, Fludd might’ve come from the typewriter of Muriel Spark had Spark cared more about sex than the suggestionContinue reading “September reading”

“I can, look, sink myself into you, glacierlike…”

After the Holocaust became widely known, Paul Celan wrote: “Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss. But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech.” His isContinue reading ““I can, look, sink myself into you, glacierlike…””

I’ve got interviews!

In the middle of my journey I’ve turned into a reporter. A weakness for New Age mush failing to obscure a talent for flattering divas-in-need and divas-to-be, Narada Michael Walden has flitted from the Mahavishnu Orchestra to a drumming stint in Journey while working with Aretha, Whitney, and Mariah Carey in between. I spoke toContinue reading “I’ve got interviews!”

‘A symbol of resistance locally in my state’

Good. Far from the trenches in states like Florida and Texas, organizations in deep-blue New York are stepping into the fray by directly lending 25,000 books to non-residents since spring, including thousands of students living under the bans. The Brooklyn Public Library’s “Books Unbanned” program provides access to its eBook collection and learning databases forContinue reading “‘A symbol of resistance locally in my state’”

In ‘God’s Country,’ Thandiwe Newton fights the power

To live in Montana in the winter, I’m told, is bad enough; to live through a Montana winter as a single Black woman might break the toughest spirit. As Sandra, Thandiwe Newton projects a stoicism that barely conceals her rage. She chews on the probability that she was an affirmative action hire, especially when herContinue reading “In ‘God’s Country,’ Thandiwe Newton fights the power”