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?
The Myth of the Machine by Lewis Mumford(Harcourt, Brace and World; $8.95) Here comes Lewis Mumford again, sailing majestically down the river of time. Having illuminated the history of architecture and the phenomenon of cities (among other subjects) on previous voyages, he makes the journey once again out of different scholarly and humane concerns. Let him describe his new book himself.
The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder (Harper & Row; $6.95) Thornton Wilder's career is one of the oddest in American letters. After the publication of his first two novels in the twenties, he was accepted by the most demanding critics as a serious figure. In the same breath Edmund Wilson spoke of "Hemingway, Wilder, Fitzgerald" or, a dozen years later, of "Hemingway, Dos Passos, Faulkner, Wilder." The incongruity of those groupings today is almost comment enough.
In Cold Bloodby Truman Capote(Random House; $5.95) Here is a readable, generally interesting book about four murders in Kansas in 1959. If the author were John Doe, literary consideration could well end there. One might perhaps add that some of the writing is overripe, much of the detail is extraneous "color," some of the handling of material injudicious, and that a 343-page true-crime chronicle which does little more than recount a crime is inflated. Beyond that, however, the treatment, the style, the result would preclude extensive criticism.
"Movies have now gone past the phase of prose narrative and are coming nearer and nearer to poetry. I am trying to free my work from certain constrictions--a story with a beginning, a development, an ending. It should be more like a poem, with metre and cadence." Thus Federico Fellini, in a recent New Yorker article by Lillian Ross, speaking about his latest film, Juliet of the Spirits. What he describes is not a new impulse in filmmaking; it has been felt by (among others) such varied directors as Vigo, Ozu, and Godard.