Backseat Driving: March 2008

1. Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, which has already been made into a good Paul Newman movie, is being performed onstage before a hometown crowd at Portland Center Stage in Oregon. I wish I could catch it, and if it travels to New York I certainly will catch it.

There’s also word that director Gus Van Sant is making progress on his film version of the Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, a classic non-fiction text that describes the mid-1960s cosmic collision between Neal Cassady, Ken Kesey, Robert Stone, Larry McMurty, the Grateful Dead and a big bus. I think this ought to be an outrageously good movie, but I hope Gus Van Sant will do a better job with it than he did with Tom Robbins’ hippie-era classic novel Even Cowgirls Get The Blues. That movie had it’s moments (Uma Thurman dancing with her thumbs), but the ultra-stylized visual treatment and wooden acting made it boring to watch. My two favorite Gus Van Sant films were two of his quietest and most naturalistic: the haunting Elephant and the bleak, blank Last Days. I think an overly stylized or stagy treatment (a la Cowgirls) would hurt Tom Wolfe’s classic narrative, a narrative about a moment when truth was truly stranger than fiction. I think this film is in good hands, but I hope Van Sant will let the great story speak for itself.

2. Last week I praised the new HBO series John Adams, and I still feel that way, though in this week’s episode I really wasn’t trying to see John Adams getting busy in a Braintree bedroom. I wasn’t trying to see Paul Giamatti getting busy in a Braintree bedroom either.

3. Mike Palacek is another patriot.

4. Happy birthday The Millions!

5. Regarding another Penguin project, what does the technology add?

6. I love a writer who’ll speak up for himself. Novelist James Morrow doesn’t agree with New York Times Book Review critic Siddhartha Deb’s comments about his the Philosopher’s Apprentice, and invites you to sample the novel on his website. I urge you to do so.

3 Responses

  1. I would hope to see Van Sant
    I would hope to see Van Sant approach his Koolaid Acid Test project along the same lines as his “Drugstore Cowboy”, which is an excellent, if chilling, portrayal of drug addiction, with WSB himself as Tom the Priest.

  2. A round of standing applause
    A round of standing applause for James Morrow! I just finished reading the first chapter of The Philosopher’s Apprentice and, yeah, I really got a kick out of it! I definitely want more of this.

    Seeing Morrow’s website, I put two & two together and realize that he also wrote The Last Witchfinder. A review of that book caught my interest a few months ago, but I never got any further than googling an old Vincent Price “B” movie with a similar name. I have purposed in my heart to obtain both books and consume them voraciously.

  3. hi, everybody —
    I’m new to

    hi, everybody —
    I’m new to climbing aboard websites, but this is one I’d love to be on, the Summer of Love etc. forum on LitLinks. (Of course I’d like to be all over LitLinks, but that’s another story.) I’m a ’60s generation-ite, writing thoughtful (I hope…) and clear-eyed (I hope — well, HALF-clear-eyed) paens to it. I wrote a December Vanity Fair piece on Michelle Phillips, the queen of the Summer of Love (check out – Archives – Julia Roberts-with-rose-in-teeth cover), and, MOST importantly!, my history of the women of the ’60s generation, via a triple biography of Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon — GIRLS LIKE US — has just been published, is, happily, # 7 on the NYTimes best-seller list its first week out (BECAUSE, I think, there is a tremendous hunger to re-live those let’s-face-it-MAGICAL times). And Janet Maslin, initial grumbling notwithstanding, fell hard for it.

    I would love to share thoughts on the ’60s, talk about my book, and about what I think the women of that era contributed (SO much!) to changing the path for subsequent generations of women (GREAT young women). How can I join the community? And I hope you read my book!

    Peace, love, and all things groovy…
    Sheila Weller

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