The EwingsBy Michael O’Hara(Random House; $6.95)I came to bury Caesar, not to praise him, and was wrong on both counts. This is John O'Hara's last finished novel but not the last of the finished work that he left; and there's no point in pretending that he didn't know his job. That job is of some interest in American literary history.Through most of his career, even those who disliked O'Hara's work conceded that he was a sharp social historian, a ruthless investigator of sexual mores and a connoisseur of cultural data.
The first shot: in the middle of the vast Panavision-Technicolor screen, a closeup of two flowers, in soft focus. It looks like Red Desert revisited. There are distant buzzes on the sound track. The camera moves lowly over a greensward with figures on it, still misty and gentle. Then--wham!--we cut to a roadway, the buzzes turn into roars, and cars are whizzing at us. It's a racing picture! Those opening ten seconds of Winning are a sketch of the changes in American culture in the past decade or so.
The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Meby Lillian Gish with Ann Pinchot(Prentice-Hall; $7.95)The Studioby John Gregory Dunne(Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $5.95) For a long time, there have been rumors that Lillian Gish was writing an autobiography centered on D. W. Griffith. Ten years ago when I was in book publishing, I tried to get the manuscript and was told by Miss Gish that it did not yet exist. Now the book is published, and anyone with the smallest interest in films can be glad.No one would reasonably expect it to be literature of any kind, and it isn't.
Max Ophuls’ Lola Montes was made in 1955, in France and Bavaria, and, except for some festival showings, is now seen here for the first time in unmutilated form. (A butchered, dubbed version was released in 1959.) This is an important event both because of what the film is and is not, and because of what it crystallizes in critical approaches. Lola Montes was Ophuls’ last work; he died in 1957. He was a German Jew, born Max Oppenheimer, who changed his name because his family objected to his becoming an actor.
Stop-Timeby Frank Conroy(Viking; $5.95) Frank Conroy's first book, Stop-time, is an autobiography, published at the age of 31. His life, though somewhat unconventional, has not been highly extraordinary or unusually exciting, and it has certainly not been celebrated; yet his account of it is extraordinary and exciting, and it will, I hope, become celebrated.When a writer's first book is a novel, it is often an autobiographical act of vindication. He wants to show the world how it has undervalued him, how his parents or teachers or girls or employers did not see his sensitivity and worth.
Bonnie and Clyde Warner Brothers "I have a bad memory for facts," Stendhal once wrote, and Flaubert said later that "everything the artist invents is true." I don't mean to imply that Arthur Penn, the director of Bonnie and Clyde, or Robert Benton and David Newman, its writers, have anything like that kind of stature, but the principles hold up.
Death Kitby Susan Sontag (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $5.75). One critic (R. W. Flint) called Susan Sontag's first novel, The Benefactor, "a Marius the Epicurean for the 1960's." I concur, although not for Flint's reasons. For me, the resemblance is that Miss Sontag's novel, like Marius, is a product of literary and philosophic cultivation, not of art. The Benefactor is a skillful amalgam of a number of continental sources in fiction and thought--two of the prominent ones, seemingly, are Hesse and Artaud--and it contains a good deal of well-fashioned writing.
End of the Game by Julio Cortazar(Pantheon, $5.95) This collection of Julio Cortazar's stories is the first book of his that I have read, but I think I am not out of chronological order. His two novels, The Winners and Hopscotch, translated and published here in 1965 and 1966, were, I infer from book jackets, written after he wrote three volumes of stories. This latest book to be translated here is drawn from those three earliest books.Some of these fifteen stories justify some of the high praise I have read of Cortazar. They are quickly and credibly complex, mysterious, sad, and bizarre.
What makes movies a great popular art form is that certain artists can, at moments in their lives, reach out and unify the audience—educated and uneducated—in a shared response. The tragedy in the history of movies is that those who have this capacity are usually prevented from doing so. The mass audience gets its big empty movies full of meaningless action; the arthouse audience gets its studies of small action and large inaction loaded with meaning. Almost everyone who cares about movies knows that Orson Welles is such an artist.
Two for the Road and Accident—very chic, clever, skillful and with the very latest in color and time-and-memory techniques—give us the La Notte view of marriage. Boredom, desperation, resignation. Both Frederic Raphael, who wrote Two for the Road as an original screenplay for Stanely Donen, and Harold Pinter, who adapted the Nicholas Mosley novel Accident for Joseph Losey, get a laugh with the same gag: men so self-centered that they don't remember the existence of their own daughters—Caroline in one, Francesa in the other. Great minds travel in the same TV channel?