Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Easter books, movies and revelations

Two great things happened over the Easter break (with all due respect to the religious amongst us) and one was heading off to see 'The Squid & the Whale' and the other was commencing 'Too brief a treat - The letters of Truman Capote'.

Yes in terms of Capote I am coming to him late and inspired by the recent film but that is surely what films, literature and good journalism and commentary should be about; reminding all of us that we are not the first to walk this well worn world, we will not be the last and we will never be the brightest.

In terms of the film, it is said to be the real life recollections of writer/director, Noah Baumbach, and the period where his highly intellectual New York parents of the 1980s decided to split up, attempting to share custody of Noah and his brother and, basically, fucking it all up in the process.

As someone who never experienced divorce first hand (although I suppose there's still time to D. I. My - do it myself) I have often felt minimal sympathy for families who went through this upheaval. In all honesty I guess, in the scheme of life, I thought that worse things could happen to people (torture, disability, famine - the biblical stuff).

Looking at this film however, with all its quirks, keenly observed characters (painfully so - remind me never to go away for a weekend with Mr Baumbach), wry wit and fantastically ugly NYC 80s outfits, I really gained an insight into the confused world of a child where the parents are divorcing. Children, at the end of the day, inhabit their own tiny universe and, those of us who are lucky enough, will evolve as we get older and realise that we are but a tiny speck. In the meantime, though, whether a child is starving in Sudan or getting tennis lessons in Brooklyn, their world is small, made up of mum and dad, the kids at school if they get to attend such an institution and the things they see in the bathroom mirror. This film, in my humble opinion, gets to the heart of just how unsettling the breakdown of a family can be, even if it uses semen spread on library books to do it.


Now there's a segue. Library books I mean, not semen. I am a huge believer in the power of the public library. They should be defended strenuously and all the funds that currently go towards huge sporting events like ... ooops I feel a soapbox coming on ... suffice to say I think books, reading and (subsequently) libraries are the cornerstone of an intelligent, evolving, aware community. My local library kindly handed over the Gerald Clarke edited book, 'Too Brief a Treat' to me recently. Clarke wrote the biography that the recent Capote film was based on. I began reading the book last night and had to force myself to put it down so I'd sleep but found myself awake and thinking about it again by 2am. The letters sing from the pages. Capote was a mad butterfly. He loves all his correspondents and soaks them in terms of endearments that vary from "Precious baby" to "Lovely you". Besides all this, however, the book is full of mentions of other writers, other books and other things that just MUST be followed up by the reader.

That's the great thing about the public library. Low personal wealth or exposure to a University need not be an obstacle. With modern technology most libraries are on line - you hear or read about a book you want or an author you'd like to know more about, you type in that information on the library website - they almost always have the book or can order it for you and, low and behold, they even email you when it's ready to be picked up. Seriously, if they could just read it aloud to me now or do my work while I hunker down with a cuppa and my next hardcover, they'd have completely nailed my version of the heaven. Vote 1 for public libraries!


Finally, in an earlier instalment, I mentioned William Shawn, the ex-Editor of 'The New Yorker' magazine. He popped up again recently in the edition of 'Vanity Fair' with the whinging, underfed (oops, must get that soapbox back out to the shed where it belongs) Terri Hatcher on the cover. In a sweeping article about the utterly crazy and completely decadent and glamorous UK theatre critic, Kenneth Tynan, we are once again exposed to the beautiful, generous, classy and indulgent nature of this amazing man. I repeat, as before, if you ever get a chance to find out more about him ...


Blogger Dreamweaver said...

Wonderful writing Contessa!

5:51 pm  

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