David Lynch at work at his home, the Beverly Johnson House in the Hollywood Hills, CA. Photograph: Patrick Fraser
David Lynch at work at his home, the Beverly Johnson House in the Hollywood Hills, CA. Photograph: Patrick Fraser

Spent some time yesterday afternoon touring the Universität Basel in Switzerland. Aside from walking the city streets and dipping my feet into the Rhine, I’ve been devoting some time to reading. As I mentioned in previous posts (1, 2), I am enjoying Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I am also slipping back into the world Twin Peaks, which has reignited my fascination with all things Lynchian. Here are a few of the articles that have caught my attention over the last day or so:

LA Weekly has posted a fantastic gallery of David Lynch shooting locations, with accompanying stills from Eraserhead, Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire • “[A] heady whiff of Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton” — Tom Huddleston recaps episodes 5-6 of Twin Peaks: The Return • German image-maker Michael Wolf‘s first retrospective exhibition shows urban living at its most extreme • Listen to the history of rock music before and after Radiohead‘s OK Computer • Ali Smith on meeting W.G. Sebald • The pros and cons of the digitized Walt Whitman and his “lost” novels • Miroslaw Balka and Joseph Rykwert discuss how art and architecture shape the politics of memory around conflict • Why American modernism is older than you think

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In a conversation published by VultureDavid Marchese asks artist and filmmaker David Lynch about the reboot of his cult 1990s drama:

After being away from the world of Twin Peaks for so long, was it hard to find your way back into the atmosphere of the show and the minds of the characters?
It was just like rolling off a log.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
It’s a very good thing, David. It’s hard to stay on a log. It’s easy to roll off.

You could hit your head, though.
That would be bad, David. I mean to say I know the world of Twin Peaks. You get Douglas firs in that part of the Pacific Northwest rather than ponderosa pine. I love vertical-grain Douglas-fir plywood. I love that world and all the characters from the original series. It feels like only a moment ago we were working on the original and then, a moment later, we’re stepping back into it. It’s just like that.

Lynch also shares his favourite topic of conversation (hint: it involves sitting quietly) and speculates on the importance of television since the decline of arthouse cinema.

Filmmaker Jonathan Demme feeds Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter on the set of The Silence of the Lambs.
Filmmaker Jonathan Demme feeds Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter on the set of The Silence of the Lambs.

Surprised and saddened to hear that one of my favourite filmmakers, Jonathan Demme, has passed away. Demme is perhaps best known for his superb adaptation of Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs (1991), a film that received all five major Academy Awards: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally). His other works include Philadelphia (1993), Married to the Mob (1988), and Stop Making Sense (1984), the genre-bending music documentary about Talking Heads. Demme was not just a supreme talent but a humanitarian.

Roger Luckhurst offers a critical and entertaining survey of Kubrick’s horror masterpiece
Roger Luckhurst, The Shining (Palgrave, 2013).
Roger Luckhurst, The Shining (Palgrave, 2013).

In the thirty-seven years since its premiere, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) has been the subject of heated debate. Based on a bestselling novel by Stephen King, the adaptation was dismissed by the author as ‘maddening, perverse, and disappointing’. His judgement was not unique. Critics and audiences alike found the film bewildering and strange, not knowing whether to take it as an art film or a low-brow horror shocker. Yet, as Roger Luckhurst points out in his excellent book, The Shining (BFI Classics, 2013), despite its chilly opening reception the film is now regarded as ‘one of the most admired horror films in cinema history’.

Luckhurst’s take on The Shining manages to pierce the lid on thirty years of critical discussion, and to yield a fresh perspective on one of cinema’s most discussed and perplexing films. The book addresses Stanley Kubrick’s status as a distinctive auteur filmmaker, but dismisses the tendency of critics to see deliberate intention in every move and gesture. Instead, Luckhurst reads The Shining within the broader cultural and historical context of late 1970s-early 1980s American culture. Insightful connections are made to films like The Amityville Horror (1979), The Omen (1976), Poltergeist and The Evil Dead (both released in 1982). Through its representation of prescient children, telepathy, and horror, Luckhurst reveals how The Shining expresses widely-held anxieties about traditional gender roles, the nuclear family, and histories of repressed trauma and violence. (more…)

Joyce Carol Oates, A Book of American Martyrs
Joyce Carol Oates, A Book of American Martyrs

Just read an interesting piece in The New York Review of Books by Ruth Franklin, author of the recent biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life. (I was drawn to the sensationalist headline: ‘A Deep American Horror Exposed‘.) The piece is a review of Joyce Carol Oates‘ new work,  A Book of American Martyrs, a novel that explores the troubled inner life of an anti-abortion activist is driven to murder in the name of his cause.

This is not the first time that Oates’ writing has ventured into pressing contemporary issues. As Franklin remarks, “Oates’s fiction has confronted some of the most morally troubling episodes in the recent American past,” and cites Black Water (1992) and the recent Carthage (2014) as prominent examples. What is significant about A Book of American Martyrs, for Franklin, is its ability to frame social issues with an attention not just to their complexity, but to politically and economically disenfranchised groups: “Like much of Oates’s other recent work, it is clearly an attempt to speak for ‘those unable to speak for themselves’—the uneducated white working class.” (more…)