Paul

James Wolcott reviews Martin Amis's "Lionel Asbo: State of England."

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Taking Risks

A Christmas Tale -- IFC Films Wendy and Lucy -- Oscilloscope Pictures Every director needs at least some courage, but Arnaud Desplechin has quite a lot. With his new film, A Christmas Tale, he bravely took on a trite form, hoping that he could vitalize it. He succeeds. He also gave the picture a title that risks the corny, apparently sure that it would come to seem ironic. Eventually it even transcends irony. Born in Roubaix, an industrial city in northern France, Desplechin, with coauthor Emmanuel Bourdieu, sets his story there.

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The Misreader

Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine By Harold Bloom (Riverhead Books, 256 pp., $24.95) I.   There are certain writers, such as Garry Wills and John Updike, who seem to aspire to a state of continuous publication, as if their readership were constantly reviewing them for tenure. Harold Bloom has been among their number since 1990, when he aimed The Book of J at a general readership. It is admirable to want to write criticism for someone other than one's colleagues and graduate students, and Bloom's intelligence, erudition, and charm have made him America's best-known man of letters.

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With Honors, Alek Keshishian's movie about four Harvard roommates who learn charity and humility by taking in a homeless man closed recently after an aborted run. I wish it had done better; for Keshishian and I were college classmates, and he appears to have borrowed his plot from my life. In the movie, a cuddly bum named Simon (played by Joe Pesci) finds the only copy of an honors thesis written by Monty, a Harvard senior, and trades it back for food and lodgings.

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Lives Of The Saints

Understanding the Beatles and Beatlemania.

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Torture

… I was arrested on May 11, 1970, in Sao Paulo, on my way to dinner with a young lady I had recently met… She had been arrested several days previously and violently tortured and taken to Operacion Bandeirantes… With four armed policemen we went to OBAN headquarters. During the journey [one] ordered the young lady to show me her hands so that I 'could have an idea of what awaited me.' They… were handcuffed… greatly swollen and covered with dark purple hematomas.

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Reed Whittemore reviews The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics, in this article from the November 7, 1969 issue of the magazine.

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The Murderous Motor

Complete figures dealing with automobile accidents in 1925 have recently been made public. They reveal that safety on the highway, or the present lack of it, may now fairly be reckoned as one of the major problems of the day. Last year more than 22,000 persons were killed in or by automobiles, and something like three quarters of a million injured. The number of dead is almost half as large as the list of fatalities during the nineteen months of America’s participation in the Great War. In 60 percent of the cases, the person killed was a pedestrian struck by a car.

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