1. The Syntax of Things Underrated Writers project is a really generous and useful offering. Personally, I feel terrible because I was invited to participate but chose to procrastinate instead. If I had responded, I think I would have duplicated Rake’s nomination for J. Robert Lennon, who I was raving about recently in these pages.
2. Revered playwright Sam Shepard will be making an unusual musical appearance with his son Walker and 60’s urban folkie Peter Stampfel at the Bowery Poetry Club this Friday.
3. James Marcus recounts Samuel Beckett’s visit to the 1964 Worlds Fair at House of Mirth. This leads me to recall another literary visitation to the same spot: when Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady and a busload of California freaks drove a bus called Further across the USA in 1964, their goal was to reach the Worlds Fair in Queens. As described by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, the journey turned out to be more memorable than the destination. Still, I wonder if Kesey and Cassady might have ever stood on a hot-dog line with Samuel Beckett. Just imagine.
The Worlds Fair grounds are less than a mile from where I live now, and I still go there with my kids all the time. Here’s a photo essay I put together a few years ago, back when my kids were really short.
4. Okay, I went to see Rent, which is based on the once-popular book Scenes de la Vie de Boheme by French journalist Henry Murger (or, more specifically, I think it’s based on Puccini’s opera La Boheme, which was based on Murger’s book). I’m not a member of the Rent cult, but I liked the film okay. It’s a passionate, earnest tribute to the bohemian lifestyle as represented by an aspiring filmmaker, a songwriter who never writes a song, a philosophy professor, a heroin addict/stripper, a performance artist and a drag queen, all of whom sing a lot. Here’s what I didn’t like about this film:
— the answering machine that says “SPEAK” is annoying.
— the whole “performance art” sequence (in which a woman shouts some incomprehensible stuff about a cow jumping over the moon and the crowd is so moved that they stage an impromptu riot) is silly. First of all, performance art never gets that big a crowd, not even if Karen Finley is covering herself with chocolate. Secondly, performance art crowds don’t riot. They usually just sit there, and if the performer is lucky they applaud.
Here’s what I did like:
— the acting wasn’t terrible, and a couple of the songs were okay.
— the movie was set in a cold New York City winter, and the filmmakers really did a good job of depicting the dirty snow that always collects on New York City streets in the winter. This may seem trivial, but this was the only realistic depiction of New York City dirty snow (grimy from footsteps, and weirdly textured from melting every day and refreezing every night) I’ve ever seen.
So there’s my final judgement — not a clear thumbs-up or thumbs-down, but see it for the dirty snow.