Kate and Leo in Suburbia

1. I attended a preview screening of Revolutionary Road, the new Kate Winslet/Leonardo DiCaprio film based on a highly regarded 1961 novel by Richard Yates, along with a few friends who’d all loved the Richard Yates novel. They all hated the movie. Myself, I haven’t read the novel yet, so I can tell you how the film stands on its own. (I’m also reading the novel right now, so I may sound off on this topic again once I finish.)

Revolutionary Road is the tragedy of a marriage that starts off shaky and ends worse. Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio play two earnest and artistic New Yorkers who find themselves living a conformist lifestyle in a fashionable Connecticut suburb (with a street called Revolutionary Road) even though they have strong Bohemian yearnings and can’t stand their neighbors. The only neighbor they like — in one of the film’s best scenes — is a literal madman, played by Michael Shannon, in whom they find a kindred alienated spirit.

The fiesty lovers fight constantly, humor and ignore their children, dream of solving their problems by moving to Paris, all the while descending into greater and greater miseries. I can see why my friends who are familiar with Yates’s novel consider the movie a simplistic and commercial betrayal of the source material, but even so, the film packs a punch. It’s a bleak and unblinking stare at a troubled modern family, and Kate Winslet’s performance helps carry the message. Leo DiCaprio, unfortunately, still can’t act — he sure can emote and yell, and he has a craggy face you could carve into Mount Rushmore — but he can’t act. Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) is also fond of an artificial and histrionic style of acting (Winslet somehow manages to appear natural even in Mendes’s hands), and it’s frustrating to realize how much better this film could have worked in subtler hands.

Yet Revolutionary Road is worth catching, if only to see the stars of Titanic gloriously reunited. I was surprised that the preview audience didn’t gasp during the scene where Kate Winslet fingers a brochure for the Cunard Cruise Line as she makes plans to sail with her family across the Atlantic Ocean. Once again, Kate and Leo don’t make it to the other side.

2. The new Pal Joey ended up getting trashed in the New York Times. I think the show deserves a more sympathetic review, even with its many problems. It’s still about a hundred times better than Little Mermaid or Legally Blonde.

3. Maud Newton introduces Iceberg, an exciting new iPhone e-book approach pioneered by ScrollMotion. In other e-book news (and there seems to be a lot of e-book news lately), Project Gutenberg is going mobile.

4. Heartbroke Daily is about one writer’s persistent lovesickness.

5. I told you last week that I am going to begin an extensive writing project here on LitKicks in January. I first conceived this as a book idea, but since I am already working with an agent on a different book proposal I am going to begin writing this one right here on LitKicks in occasional blog-post segments, not necessarily chronological, and I will continue until I either tell the entire story or decide to stop.

The story is about me, specifically about my work in the internet industry in the last fifteen years. I have seen a lot — and survived a lot — since launching LitKicks in 1994 and leaving my job in the financial software industry to work for Time Warner’s first internet startup in 1995. In the years to follow I became a spoken-word poet, helped to launch one of the web’s first advertising networks, insulted Bill Gates in person, published a book, built BobDylan.com, drank too many martinis, became a paper millionaire, went completely broke, got a divorce, watched my kids grow up, endured a year’s employment in what must have been one of the most dysfunctional technology departments in the history of mankind (at A&E Network/History Channel), fell in love, and found a new footing online in the age of blogs and Web 2.0. I watched the birth of the dot-com industry, the birth of Yahoo, the birth of Amazon, the birth of Java, the birth of XML, the birth of Google, the death of the Pets.com sock puppet, and the incredible hair of Rod Blagojevich (okay, Blagojevich’s hair isn’t in the book, but everything else is).

I have been burning to tell some of these stories for a long time, and I hope to do so in a way that is both entertaining and intellectually stimulating. I’m not a big Ernest Hemingway fan, but my method in telling this story will be to follow his advice in what must have been one of his best lines: “Write the truest sentence you know.”

Truth? That’s a tall order, but these stories need to be told. Some former Silicon Alley colleagues of mine may not like some of the things I’ll say. Hell, I may not like some of the things I’ll say. But in my opinion the only reason to write a memoir (James Frey notwithstanding) is that you want to tell the truth, and that’s exactly what I plan to do. I hope you’ll check out the first installment, which should appear just after New Years Day.

We’ll be closing down (and putting up our annual Action Poetry retrospective) between Christmas and New Years. Yesterday I posted a video from Godspell, and in the same spirit, here’s an even better random video I found on YouTube, an extremely intense version of Gethsemane from a Peruvian production of Jesus Christ Superstar. This is my idea of a good Christmas video. Enjoy, and see you in January!

5 Responses

  1. Looking forward to the
    Looking forward to the memoir. Those are my times, too, although I go back even further, to mini computers, the birth of the PC, DOS, the first version of Windows.

    It’s an incredible chapter in our history, and it’s still unfolding.

    By the way, in addition to having the best hair in the country, Blagojevich also has the best collection of track suits. What kind of dufus shows up at Federal Court in a track suit? Our fine governor and wise guys, that’s who.

  2. I agree that Leo D is a
    I agree that Leo D is a graduate of the Keanu Reeves acting school. But did you see him in the Rimbaud movie (can’t remember the name) – I liked him in that, but the casting may have been akin to using Arnold as Conan and the Terminator. Opinions?

    My fave comment on the Titanic movie comes from my buddy Hal Ackerman, who teaches screenwriting at UCLA: “There wasn’t an honest moment in it.”

    After earning my living writing everything from poetry to fiction to a book on selling art, I, too, have begun an autobiography. It must be an age thing. I’m telling myself it’s for my kids’ information, but do I want them to read the horrible parts (the times I was a real shit, a total fuckup, a hopeless drunk, etc, and the toll it took on innocent people)? What can you do about that, Levi? Mike? Anyone?

    I tried to read Revolutionary Road after it was blurbed here and tossed it – in my opinion the worst kind of ultra-literary pandering to the same boring suburban losers mined endlessly by Updike, Roth, and countless other scribblers adored by the academy.

    I seem to have run on. Happy holidays!

  3. What did you tell Bill Gates?
    What did you tell Bill Gates? Will we have to wait to hear that tale?
    Gates was just on Charlie Rose and if Microsoft gets into cell phones the way it did PCs, it will be the end. I have suffered with Nokia withdrawl for way too long but the cheap phone I have suffices. When you can see what’s available on phones in China and Taipei, it is scary Microsoft getting into them and killing them.

  4. That’s a good question about
    That’s a good question about what anybody’s kids will think, Dan — but I don’t think anybody should try to write a memoir unless they are prepared to lay it all out there. Every occupation has its hazards …

  5. Having your kids read about
    Having your kids read about your prior reprehensible behavior – that’s a tough one. Still, I agree with Levi, you can’t pull punches in a memoir or autobiography.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What We're Up To ...

Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!