Nobody is still reeling over the news that the release of Herman Rosenblat's Holocaust memoir, Angel at the Fence, has been canceled. There have been so many lying memoirists attempting to publish their forgeries and fibs in the last few years, it seems like anyone who follows literary news, casually or closely, is positively deadened to the unmasking of a fraud author by this point. So why does this keep happening?
When The New Republic broke the story last week, it's safe to say it was only a matter of time before Rosenblat came clean or something big came to light. Like James Frey before him, the man had charmed Oprah, not to mention readers of Chicken Soup for the Soul and countless romantics with his story: he claimed he met his wife as a child imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. She, disguised as a Christian farm girl, tossed apples over the camp's fence to him. Years later, they met, and realized how closely their histories had been intwined. Hope flourished. People believed.
People, yes, including the two that helped float his charming tale of love that conquers all into mainstream consciousness: Rosenblat's agent Angela Hurst, and his editor at Berekely, Natalee Rosenstein. "He was in so many magazines and books and on âOprah.' It did not seem like it would not be true," Hurst told the Times' Mokoto Rich on Sunday. Hurst's willingness to buy into a story Rosenblat concocted to win a newspaper contest -- and later, as he lamely excused it, to "make good in this world" -- even had Rich, who often covers this beat, throwing up her hands in understandable frustration throughout her account of the scandal. "This latest literary hoax is likely to trigger yet more questions as to why the publishing industry has such a poor track record of fact-checking," she wrote.
Repercussions and movie deals aside, this is truly the crux of the matter. So we have often asked ourselves, as other past incidents have played themselves out, why, indeed, the publishing industry hasn't gotten better at this, when they manage to put so much energy into buying celebrity-fueled essay collections and hyping debuts that probably shouldn't have hit shelves before a few more rounds of edits. Memoirs, particularly ones that feature the writer overcoming great, universally specific, insurmountable odds, are an attractive sell for both struggling publishers and striving writers. The driving urge to find the perfect book that will essentially launch itself, to nudge it along without properly questioning what's beneath it, is a bit like taking an smart kid with a lot of potential and disastrous social skills and forcing them to skip a few grades. You hope that, in the end, their narrative will play out in a way that benefits everyone. But with so much at stake, is that a worthwhile risk?
While publishing houses do have to push and publicize buzzy, hype-packaged books in order to print the ones that might actually matter in a quieter, more organic way, it's endlessly saddening to us that the authors who seem to receive all the flurried, breathless, OMFG can you believe it re-capped press, long long long after their books have been pulled or rebranded as a novel. Years after they've destroyed their careers or tried to transcend it, the ones who have lied and deceived everyone from their publisher to their eager readers are still being talked about, instead of the deserving writers who tell their stories accurately, or know they can't be labeled as anything but fiction inspired by life.
So, the liars: they may not be getting positive attention, but in our current publishing environment, bsh plz. It still means a great deal.
And man, that shit is effed.
"Wartime Lies" [TNR]
"False Memoir of Holocaust Is Canceled" [NYT]
It's indie rock magic in the making: Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard and She & Him's Zooey Deschanel are totes engaged!
We were just watching the first season of The O.C. over Christmas vacay, and swears, it's like Seth and Summer all over again, except these guys are for real (hope springs anew). Okay, so, first, he's moving into her place. Then, as we imagine it, she'll design the perfect cool-girl-with-a-country-vibe wedding dress for herself. Which, in turn, will launch a line of effortless wedding dresses that will make Katy Perry weakintheknees with envy, sorry, Katertots. Ben will dedicate an entire solo album to her that he'll debut at the wedding, but because their love somehow transcends cliches, it will actually be great. (Please, please, please.) Chris Walla will become an online minister and officiate! Aw. M. Ward and the bassist from AFI Zooey was supposedly involved with will both barge in during the middle of the ceremony and declare passionate love for Zooey, just like that one time on that show on the CW, or something, you know which one we mean. They will both lose, and fight over Jenny Lewis instead, who, of course, will be a bridesmaid. Chocolate cupcakes with turquoise icing will be served. Everyone will dance their hearts out to the new Animal Collective. Nine months later, the most adorbs indie rock spawn will be born. Twins, probably. Who will start a successful band while still in the womb. Our heart can't take it. Those crazy kids! Good luck, you two.
In the animated first-person investigative documentary Waltz with Bashir, which opened last week, Ari Folman uncovers, through interviews with friends, fellow-soldiers and journalists, a repressed memory of his own proximity to, and his country's complicity in, a massacre of Palestinian civilians during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
That the movie's animated has been the subject of most critical attention; with most people agree that the stylization makes war a dreamscape, a realm of the subconscious (so, too, does the synth-pop, post-punk and techno soundtrack of original, 80s-vintage and recorded songs). I find a effective too, for one very specific reason.
It's the most deliciously esoteric book club of all, and it's happening inside these very tubes, on the New Yorker's estimable Book Bench blog, of all places! We're kind of -- okay, very -- excited. (Sidenote: could this be one of the schemes Remmy cooked up for page views?) Writer Ligaya Mishan explains that she and her fellow Book Bench contributors have made a collective New Year's resolution to read Roberto BolaÃ±o's acclaimed novel 2666, which also happens to be a "nine-hundred-page behemoth." And, in a NANOWRIMO-ish move, they've asked for the help and support of their fellow bloggers/readers/New Yorker obsessives. Because that's what you do when a resolution is almost as daunting in theory as it is in reality:
Please join us in assaying this intimidating volume. Keep a reader's log of observations as you go along, and e-mail us updates on your progress—your mood swings from exhilaration to exhaustion, voraciousness to ennui, hopelessness to renewed fervor, etc. We in turn will confide our dark nights of the soul as we wrestle with BolaÃ±o. And perhaps together we will reach illumination.The recommendation to use the paperback edition is good, but you know what would be even better than an e-mailed reader's log, Book Benchers? A comments section. It's missing from your blog, and sorely needed, particularly on a feeback-required project like this.
Come on, Facebook sluts! Get Friending! And Frenemy-ing! Ready that pointer finger, because Facebook is about to become even more of a competition-fueled, Livefeed shitshow: Google apparently has some sort of frightening patent pending on a technology that will be able to rank the most influential people on social networking sites. This would be achieved by tracking things like profile views, how often people post things on friends' walls and how many clicks someone can get on posted notes or YouTube clips -- kinda like the old Gawker model, except you'd be paid in Internet popularity instead of cash.
Which, really, we're sooo shocked. In November, there was a little uproar over that month's issue of Portfolio, featuring American Apparel CEO Dov Charney as its subject and cover boy -- in a strangely awkward, polo-shirt clad, Burt-Reynolds-on-a-bearskin-rug-esque pose, no less -- rather than a hard-hitting story on the financial crisis. The Observer was confused at the time, and now they've found that the Charney cover wasn't much of a newstand hit. Not even close.
Which, in turn, had us wondering whether the business title will be playing a featured role in Si Newhouse's rather unpleasant sounding "January surprise" this year. Things aren't looking good. On ever so many levels.
"Portfolio's Dov Charney Issue Not a Hit on the Newstand" [Media Mob]
"It Could Get Condé Nasty" [NYP]
There was an attempt-to-be-even-handed story about Caroline Kennedy in the Saturday Times, and it looks like the would-be golden Senator for New York has been building her 'tude and verbal ammo while hiding herself from the press. How dare the daily liberal paper of record throw in a scene-setting question during what was billed by the Times as an "extensive, sit-down discussion"?
With several weeks to go before Mr. Paterson makes his decision, she is doling out glimpses of her political beliefs and private life. But when asked Saturday morning to describe the moment she decided to seek the Senate seat, Ms. Kennedy seemed irritated by the question and said she couldn't recall.
"Have you guys ever thought about writing for, like, a woman's magazine or something?" she asked the reporters. "I thought you were the crack political team."
We can't remember the last time something along the lines of the Times' The Reckoning series appeared in, say, Allure. But we guess this means Kennedy won't be appearing on the cover of Vogue in a well-tailored pantsuit anytime soon. The only thing that could be worse would be getting her to agree and then standing up Anna Wintour, like Hillary before her. Now might not be the best time to piss off the lady mags.
Reviews of Movies We Haven't Seen, banking on the predictability of the holiday-movie industrial complex, and also our own tendency to review movies before seeing them. So let's see how we did. Here, I, who wrote the one on Defiance, compare my preview to my actual response.]
Starring as it does Dan Craig, the almost-too-good-to-be-true story of the Bielski brothers — Soviet Jews who after the Nazi invasion of Russia established a partisan group, carrying out raids from a kibbutz-like forest community — plays like 135 minutes of the moment in Munich where the blond-haired, blue-eyed Bond tells the world: "Don't fuck with the Jews."In fact...
Oh, man, he rides a white horse and everything. But I want to talk about something else, actually.
So this is Based on a True Story, thus naturally the first shot is newsreel footage of Hitler, merging into more scratched, grainy black-and-white footage of Nazis carrying out atrocities during the invasion of Russia. All well and good, I suppose — by now it's a given that we're supposed to care about movies like this (many of them directed by Ed Zwick) because it has some relation to history.
But at some point you start to notice that the celluloid is a bit too perfectly distressed, that the massacre is a bit too local and too perfect. And then we see a Nazi pointing his gun; cut to a peasant falling down dead. (Or is it a peasant falling dead; cut to a Nazi with a smoking gun? Sorry, I forget.) Eventually, of course, colors bleed into this black and white faux-newsreel footage, cuts become more frequent and fluid, and we're clearly in a staged Nazi raid on a village.
I am particularly offended — like, actually personally offended, because I am a 24-year-old virgin and live in my mom's basement and care too much about these things — by the presence of an action movie shot-reverse shot in the midst of what we're supposed to read as a newsreel.
Did it not occur to Zwick, as he was shooting this from multiple angles and cutting the shots together into a fluid, exciting, audience-working pattern, that he was staging it in a way that couldn't possibly bear any resemblance to actual news footage? Nah, it probably did.
This is, at least, from the layperson's perspective, an offensive bit of manipulation; coming from a more academic place, I offer that this cavalier ahistorical mimicry of film grammar is a violation of whatever code of film ethics one might subscribe to.
At the very best it's lazy or unthinking, at worst this action-movie cut and newsreel-like stock is a merging of two styles of film rhetoric that are mutually exclusive: fiction shaped for effect and reaction, and truth starkly presented for its moral urgency. So, um, bullshit.
Is about YouTube Backstreet Boy tributes to Jordangela.
Reviews of Movies We Haven't Seen, banking on the predictability of the holiday-movie industrial complex, and also our own tendency to review movies before seeing them. So let's see how we did. Here, Henry Stewary, who wrote the one on Revolutionary Road, compares his preview to his actual response.]
Uberscreencouple Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet reunite for the first time since Titanic to scream, weep and break chairs — because all the 90s romantics have become disillusioned 00s cynics. Mendes had only made half a good movie in his hitherto three-movie career, but this adaptation of the Richard Yates classic should boost his reputation (outside of prestige-picture-producer circles, anyway, where it's already sound). As the film concerns marrieds disenchanted with the American Dream: Suburbia Edition — the only thing American Beauty sort of did well — Mendes nails the emotional hysteria. The film's great virtue, though, is Roger Deakins' sumptuous widescreen composition.In fact...
Sam Mendes quashes any lingering doubts as to his directorial integrity: Revolutionary Road is a stinker for which I should never have gotten my hopes up. One of its most maddening aspects is something I couldn't have foreseen, because it's not part of the trailer: Thomas Newman's Serious and Wistful score, on its knees for an Academy Award. Groaning strings and plaintively echoing piano chords add up to instructive intrusion, frequently undermining (or, stifling) Deakins' rich compositions.
But the excessive and godawful music hints at a deeper problem facing Mendes: that, despite all the shouting, the red-rimmed eyes, the furious seething and spitting, Revolutionary Road is a largely emotionless film, too often a hurried, Hollywood-slick vision of malicious marital misery. Even its sexy sex scenes (as opposed to its sad ones) are devoid of sensuality. Save for DiCaprio and Winslet's final fight — truly puckish casting, that — none of the scenes have any bite, though the actors are fine. (Kathy Bates, also from Titanic, is great in a supporting role.)
The culprit is Justin Haythe's script. Painstakingly, to the point of painfully, faithful to Richard Yates' source novel, except as far as Frank Wheeler's ultimate fate, the screenplay streamlines the key scenes into an efficient narrative but sacrifices all insight as a result. The filmmakers' tightly focused rush leaves no time to establish the suburbs as credibly oppressive (seem fine to me), no time to let the audience wonder whether the Wheelers are truly extraordinary suburbanites (they're clearly not) or whether their dreams of expatriation are idealist but noble or brash and shallow (they're the latter). A gorgeous and empty Cliff's Notes literary adaptation, Revolutionary Road is this year's Atonement.
The characters in Richard Yates' novel seem superficially stereotypical, whether they were when the book was published or it only seems that way now. But he made them real with vivid and sympathetic psychological portraits, as compelling on the page as any virulent-screaming-match passage. The novel is well-regarded not for its storyline but for its characters' emotional lives. Because such inner lives are tough to put on screen, at least in an Oscar-baiting Prestige Pic, Mendes compensates with a flashback structure; close-ups of frowny, furrowed faces; and that aforementioned music. Instead of exposing an emotionally rich interior, it simply gussies up a vapid exterior with clichés as trite as the film's sense of suburban disillusionment.
Reviews of Movies We Haven't Seen, banking on the predictability of the holiday-movie industrial complex, and also our own tendency to review movies before seeing them. So let's see how we did. Here, I, who wrote the one on Valkyrie, compare my preview to my actual response.
In the most messianic star turn since Kevin Costner went postapocalyptic, Tom Cruise Atlas-shrugs the best hopes of Western Civilization as the eyepatched Claus von Stauffenberg, Hitler's would-be assassin. [Director Bryan] Singer gets his Superman sequel after all, obligingly foreshortening as Cruise manfully leads a phalanx of coconspirators towards low-angle camera encampments.In fact...
Common Ground, and to apply for food stamps, and returns to Common Ground this week.
The temperature was supposed to go down into the 20s. I had no way to get in touch with J unless we had a specific arrangement to meet, and sometimes that didn't work — if either of us were late, or unable to make the appointment for some reason, we had no way to tell each other.
So J rang my buzzer around 5pm. He wanted me to go to Kmart with him to get a sleeping bag. A friend of his had lent him his credit card, an Amex platinum, to purchase one, but he didn't want to go get it alone. He moved through the store like a ghost or a spirit. I followed him to where the sleeping bags were; he pulled one off the shelf without stopping and whisked it up to the register. "I scoped it out already," he explained. On the way back to my place we planned our next step. We would meet again in a couple days. I had to go to work and school every day, but I would skip school one day to go to the drop-in center with him. We would try again to get our letter notarized to add to the food stamp application in our efforts to establish myself as his official representative so that I could access his files. It was my hope that those files would present the evidence necessary to establish J as chronically homeless. After all, he had been living in a doorway directly around the corner from the drop-in center for several years. In addition, he told me that just last year he'd been "observed" regularly by an outreach worker throughout the winter. The outreach worker asked him if he was interested in housing. J said yes. Nothing ever happened, but at the end of the winter the man said to him, "Looks like you made it through the winter ok."
Says a retail expert who went to UPenn's Wharton School: "You'd have to be a moron not to ask for a discount." Beware of the angry masses behind you in line, who will grumble and shoot death glares until they, too, realize their power.
"Shoppers haggle for deals from desperate retailers" [AP via Racked]
I have to give it to the curators â they did an excellent job, and have
managed to make individually famous pieces take on completely new looks
and meanings through their relationships with the works around them.
Richard Avedon's Marilyn Monroe, Actress, New York City (1957), a print
of which is also currently on view at Pace Wildenstein in the Richard
Avedon: Performance exhibit (through January 3rd), is something else
altogether through its placement near Untitled #313 (1956-57) by the
Malian photographer Seydou Keita.
We see pattern on pattern in Keita's black and white composition of a woman in traditional Mali dress and jewelry; we see a pared down Monroe in Avedon's shot, wearing in a dress made of sequins, the light of performance gone from her eyes. Keita's unnamed woman looks at the camera straight on; Monroe is caught in a rare moment out of character, looking down. She is just a bit more human here than she is amid the big glossy prints of other celebrities at Pace Wildenstein. A glance into the next room at Onesipe Aguado's Woman Seen from the Back (1862) changes the context of the previous two portraits completely. The ivory Bust of Nobleman (1695) by C. Lacroix spins the images in another direction. And so on ad infinitum.
I liked this show so much that I prepared myself, as we neared the exit, with justifications for dropping 50 bucks on a hardcover catalogue. Only, there was no catalogue to debate myself over buying. For the first time ever, the catalogue for a show at the Met is fully available online, and not at all in print. Digital reproductions of every single work in the exhibit "create a kaleidoscope of images similar to that which is experienced in the galleries." See? That was a quote from the online catalogue, which I accessed for free. A strange quote, in fact, because it makes the obviously false claim that an online gallery can create an experience "similar" to a museum show. Clearly, it can't. Especially this show, which is all about looking at familiar (by way of their fame, not everydayness) art objects placed in new physical, spatial relationships with other familiar but altogether dissimilar pieces.
Print catalogues may, sadly, be going the way of the newspaper, but the memory of a gallery walk that snakes through 19th c. American cabinets, wood and ivory stringed instruments from Germany, former Pope's jewelry, Picassos, Van Goghs, and Matisses (and more, and more) provides a mental reproduction of an experience that neither (print/online) form of documentation can touch, anyway.
The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions
Metropolitan Museum of Art, through February 1
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