1. I’ve never read a book by Mickey Spillane, who died yesterday, but I spent a riveting couple of hours recently watching Kiss Me Deadly, an outrageously interesting 1955 noir classic based on a Spillane novel. A no-name cast (plus a young Cloris Leachman) plays a bunch of not-very-nice people racing against each other to unravel a mystery, which turns out (SPOILER ALERT) to involve a small stash of nuclear material stored in a box in a locker. The idea of storing uranium or plutonium in a box or locker (it glows when you open the box) is hilarious, but this is a great film, well worthy of the Lita Ford song the title inspired. Beyond Kiss Me Deadly, I learned everything I know about Mickey Spillane from Mad Magazine, which used to have a great time sending up his style (here’s just one example: If Mickey Spillane Wrote Nancy):
2. I’m still learning the ropes at the Litblog Co-op, and I’m looking forward to participating in the next Read This! selection. The current selection is Michael Martone by Michael Martone, a metafictional tour de force that evokes M*A*S*H and many other things, and it was selected by Dan Green, who explains his choice.
3. I attended a Cynthia Ozick reading at Barnes and Noble on 86th Street last week. She is a charming speaker with a surprisingly sweet and musical voice, and her demeanor was much gentler in person than on the page. She chose an illuminating biographical piece about Helen Keller as a sample from her new book of essays, A Din in the Head. I was not aware that Helen Keller faced great public derision (as well as great acclaim) during her difficult life; some authorities considered her a fraud, and she suffered terribly when a story she allegedly claimed to have written turned out to have been previously published by another author. It’s not at all clear that Keller was a plagiarist (it’s much more likely that she never intended to represent herself as the story’s author), and I’m guessing that Ozick selected this essay partly because it provides interesting historical perspective on the famous plagiarism scandals of 2006. But I believe Cynthia Ozick mainly chose this essay because it expresses a private connection she feels with the legendary deaf dumb and blind girl, who also had to struggle to establish her career as a writer. I enjoyed Cynthia Ozick’s subtle and edifying presentation very much, and I recommend that you catch her if she comes to your town.
4. Let’s see, what else? Via Rake’s Progress, here’s a description of an upcoming new Thomas Pynchon novel that leaked out briefly on Amazon. A few interesting obituaries of Indian author Raja Rao can be found here. Finally, Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh has declared himself a political conservative. I don’t know enough about the U.K. political scene to say anything intelligent at all about this, so I wish one of these guys would provide some context (Unless I’ve missed something, neither has mentioned it yet).