The great popular artists have an instinctive relationship with the audience. That was true of Maurice Sendak, who died on Tuesday at the age of 83. He followed his gut. He kowtowed to no one. He knew that when pop culture really matters, it’s grounded in personal experience—in something the artist feels so strongly that other people cannot help but feel it too. Sendak had been involved with more than 50 children’s books by the time he became a national sensation in 1963 with Where the Wild Things Are.
“A Captivity No Novelist Could Invent” is the headline on Janet Maslin’s recent review of Jaycee Dugard’s new memoir, A Stolen Life. Dugard, as many will know, is the California girl who was kidnapped at age eleven on her way to school in June 1991. For the next eighteen years, she was imprisoned in a backyard by Phillip and Nancy Garrido, forced to act as Phillip’s sex slave; she bore him two daughters, the first when she was only fourteen. Her story is horrific almost beyond imagination. Almost.
A hearty congratulations to our own Katherine Marsh, whose book The Night Tourist, was just named a finalist for an Edgar, the awards given out annually by the Mystery Writers of America. The Night Tourist, a modern take on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, tells the fantastic story of Jack, a 14-year-old boy searching the underworld of New York City for the spirit of his dead mother. You can check it out--and buy it!--here. --Peter Scoblic
Violence is scary. Violence is sexy. Violence is wrong. Violence is righteous. Violence is a problem. Violence is the solution. Befitting its title, David Cronenberg's film A History of Violence comprises all these definitions and more. Just released on video, the film opens with a pulpy paean to small-town murderousness, as two drifters check out of a dusty, rural motel. The air of lazy depravity is palpable; bad acts are hinted at--"I had a little trouble with the maid," one man tells the other--before they are revealed.
Jack and Hank are professors at a small college in rural Oregon, and they are best friends. Jack is sleeping with Hank's wife, Edith. Hank seems to know this and seems not to mind. In part this is because he wants to sleep with Jack's wife, Terry, who is also Edith's best friend. Not only does Jack not mind, he goes out of his way to push Terry into Hank's arms. Ah, academic life. Not that anyone much enjoys themselves.
Reds is both an accurate and a possibly misleading title. It's accurate because the two leading characters devote much of what we see of their lives to Communist activities. It's possibly misleading because the focus is on the people, not the activities. This is not, in essence or intent, a political work; it is biographical. Solanas's Hour of the Furnaces, Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers, Wajda's Man of Marble are political films, which posit and explore political questions, then strongly support particular action about them: Reds is a patently different order of work.