Dedicated to classics and hits.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Billy Bathgate (1989) by E.L. Doctorow

Image result for nicole kidman billy bathgate
Nude Nicole Kidman in the terrible failure movie version of Billy Bathgate, the 1989 novel written by E.L. Doctorow.
Book Review
Billy Bathgate (1989)
 by E.L. Doctorow

  When a good book begets a terrible movie, what influence does that bad film have on the reputation of the book?  Presumably, a terrible movie version will never help the long term reputation of the underlying book, it can only not impact the reputation of the book or negatively impact the reputation of the book.  Billy Bathgate, published in 1989, was out in theaters in November of 1991, where it was a HUGE HUGE bomb:  Budget: 48 million Box Office Revenue: 15 million.

   Huge bomb. If the file came out in November of 1991, and the book was published in 1989, the film rights had either been pre-sold or were sold immediately after it was published.  Billy Bathgate the book was a price winner, so it is fair to say that in November of 1991, it was still in paperback- in fact- it's safe to say that a "movie edition" of the paperback was in stores.  So the movie comes out, and it's terrible- that surely must hurt the reputation of the book- because the film is named the same as the book, and many people who never heard of the book now know ONLY that it is a terrible movie.

  Billy Bathgate is a fun, but by no means world-beating piece of historical fiction, about the titular character, who is a young boy coming of age in picturesque early twentieth century New York City.  It's often categorized as a "post modern historical novel" (by Wikipedia, no less.)  I have no idea why this book would be called post modern.  What Billy Bathgate is, is a historical novel, written in 1989, by an author with two decade long track record of matching critical with popular success.  Does that combination somehow render him post-modern?  Honestly, I asked google about it, but couldn't come up with an easy answer.


Thursday, June 08, 2017

A disaffection (1989) by James Kelman

A disaffection (1989)
by James Kelman

   It's almost like a joke to complain about the over-representation of sexless white males in the precincts of "serious" literature.  This book is one example.  A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, featuring a literal 40 year old virgin as a narrator, is another recent title which fits this description.   I'm not a reader obsessed or repressed with sexual matter, but it seems to me that these sexless, white-male narrators are the fore-runners of the "Beta Male."

   Scottish author James Kelman represents Glasgow on the world literary scene, and Glasgow stands for post-industrial urban decline (see the Glasgow Effect).  He write in Glaswegian brogue, not as hard to understand as the dialect of Irving Welch, but noticeable.  Patrick Doyle narrates A disaffection, he is a school teacher from a working class family, and the guy can not get laid.  CAN NOT get laid.  The book is about that problem, and Doyle's (sad) efforts to end it.

  Sad 40 year old virgin, that is A disaffection by James Kelman.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Like Life (1990) by Lorrie Moore

Book Review
Like Life (1990)
by Lorrie Moore

  It's the 90's, people!  I was born in 1976, and by 1990 I was starting high school and reading the kind of books you would expect a precocious teenager in the Bay Area to read:  Mostly the Beats, the French existentialists,  Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson and "new" journalism.  I read... the New Yorker, my parents had a subscription. I never read the fiction in the New Yorker- I still don't- I'm just not a huge short story guy (Like Life is a collection of short stories) and it appears that my sentiments were shared by the editors of the 1001 Books project.  Fewer than ten titles in the 1001 Books list to date have been short story collections.   Lorrie Moore may be it, now that I think about it.

  I think, personally, that people are going to be revisiting the time immediately before the digital/computer/cell phone revolution of the past decade.  In Like Life, Moore is writing about "now" (several of her stories appear to be set in the near future, where global warming and climate change lurk in the back ground.  But, I can already say that I am tired of sad white folks.  Whether they be English, American or Australian, Scottish, Irish, Canadian or South African.  Rich or poor, living now or in the past, I am tired of them and their problems.   Boo hoo, I say.

  In a sense, that is also my demographic, but it's like, I don't want to read endless fiction about sad yuppies (or sad working class) Americans living in LA or New York, or, as some of the characters in this book are, the Midwest.  In fact, I think Moore is here as a representative of fiction written by Midwestern authors, so in that sense, maybe she is someone I should be reading carefully.  Perhaps she is a muse of the Reagan Democrats and Trump voters of Wisconsin and Michigan. 

Blog Archive