Neil Doshi and James McNaughton are putting together a panel entitled ‘International Beckett’ for next year’s ACLA conference at Universiteit Utrecht, Netherlands. The seminar will comprise 8-12 participants, meeting for 2 hours on each of the conference’s 3 days. You will present a 20 minute paper, and then have an opportunity to discuss your work with likeminded scholars and enthusiasts. (more…)
As they watch a suicide bomber with explosives strapped to his chest walk through a London that feels on the brink of political collapse, some viewers may suspect that the new TV adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel, The Secret Agent, has been tweaked to maximise contemporary relevance.
Those elements, though, are in the original, making the BBC1 three-parter – with Toby Jones as Verloc, an anarchist who becomes involved in a plot to blow up Greenwich Observatory – the latest example of Conrad’s story becoming a prism through which modern political insecurities are viewed. It is a tactic that goes back to 1936, when Alfred Hitchcock filmed the story, under the title Sabotage, as a reflection of the developing political pressures in Europe.
Ever since, the years that sees an adaptation of The Secret Agent is unlikely to have been a good one for democracy. The BBC put the book on the screen twice in quick succession, in 1967 and 1975, straddling an era of international instability, marked by the rise of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, student riots in France and assassinations in the US. There had even been, in the early 70s, a period of actual anarchist terrorism in England, with bombings carried out by the Angry Brigade. (more…)
Of the film adaptations that had been made of his work during his lifetime, JG Ballard vouchsafed to me that he liked Jonathan Weiss’s version of The Atrocity Exhibition the best. It was hardly a surprising verdict; the movie, released in 2000, eschews any of the easy certainties of narrative for a furious collage of extreme images – urban wastelands, nuclear explosions, penises rhythmically pumping in and out of vaginas – all to the accompaniment of a voice-over comprising near-verbatim passages from the quasi-novel. And as the book is a furious collage of extreme images, the film is of the highest fidelity imaginable.
Ballard also liked Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Empire of the Sun, although more, one suspects, because of the opportunity he got to be an extra in a party scene that was set in a simulacrum of his parents’ interwar home in Shanghai. So tickled was he by this Möbius-looping of reality and the imagined that Ballard wrote about the episode in another roman-à-clef, The Kindness of Women. When it was announced in the early 1990s that David Cronenberg was to adapt Ballard’s apocalyptic tale of autogeddon, Crash, and moreover set it in Toronto, I was so exercised that I phoned the writer. “You can’t let him do that, Jim,” I protested (or words to that effect). “Crash is one of the great London novels. The city demands that it be set right here!” He was having none of it and gently talked me down: the point of the novel was to describe a global phenomenon, one Ballard termed “the death of affect”. It was quite irrelevant which city the film was set in – the important point was that Cronenberg’s affectless vision and planar cinematography, all lit at operating-theatre strength, strongly resonated with Ballard. (more…)
This afternoon, I was chatting with Jennifer Dawn Whitney (@Critical Cookie) about an interview she read with Hollywood actor Kirsten Dunst. The interview, which is published in the latest issue of The Gentlewoman (Spring and Summer 2016), reveals that Dunst is working on a directorial debut. (more…)
American icon Toni Morrison has been awarded the 2016 PEN/Saul Bellow award for achievement in American fiction
The award, which is presented to living American authors whose “scale of achievement in fiction, over a sustained career, places him or her in the highest rank of American literature”, is worth $25,000 (£18,000).
Morrison is famous for her epic, often historical writings about race, family and identity. She wrote her first novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970 when she was 39, while working as a senior editor at Random House. Morrison won the Pulitzer prize in 1988 for her novel Beloved, which was adapted in 1998 into a film starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. She later won the 1993 Nobel prize in literature and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. (more…)
Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)
After a publishing career of more than 50 years, Thomas Pynchon has finally allowed one of his novels to be filmed. Inherent Vice, which has been adapted and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is all about a stoner private detective named Larry “Doc” Sportello in 1970 southern California, called in by an ex-girlfriend to investigate the sinister disappearance of her married lover. It is an occult mystery upon which Doc attempts to shed light using the torch he still carries for her.
The resulting movie is a delirious triumph: a stylish-squared meeting of creative minds, a swirl of hypnosis and symbiosis, with Pynchon’s prose partly assigned to a narrating character and partly diversified into funky dialogue exchanges. Each enigmatic narrative development is a twist of the psychedelic kaleidoscope. (more…)
“a reflective document of post-war American culture”
The plot revolves around Robert Neville, the ‘last living man on earth’. He navigates a post-apocalyptic landscape where every other man, woman, and child has been converted into zombie-like nocturnal vampires. It is a cautionary tale, negotiating the long-term impact of violence and exploitation in the atomic age. (more…)
[Djuna] Barnes’s Ladies Almanack, first published in 1928 (full title: Ladies Almanack: showing their Signs and their Tides; their Moons and their Changes; the Seasons as it is with them; their Eclipses and Equinoxes; as well as a full Record of diurnal and nocturnal Distempers, written & illustrated by a lady of fashion), is a sly roman à clef chronicling Barnes’s (mostly lesbian) circle of friends and lovers, and their HQ in Natalie Clifford Barney’s long-running Parisian salon. In reinventing it as a film, [Daviel] Shy is creating a hybrid Chicago-Paris setting and what she calls a “triple time” zone where three distinct periods collide. The film follows characters based not only on Barney (played by Brie Roland) and other thinly veiled figures in the book, including Mina Loy (Brenna Kail) and Radclyffe Hall (Deborah Bright), anchored by narration from French feminists of a later time: Luce Irigaray (Elesa Rosasco), Monique Wittig (Eileen Myles), and Hélène Cixous (as herself). All of these characters blur into the present as they find form in the bodies of contemporary artists and writers. I spoke with Shy about the genesis of the project, her relationship to the book and the community to which it pays homage, and what it was like to work with the great Cixous. [Read the full interview with Daviel Shy]
Samuel Beckett in Company is a new series from Ibidem that seeks to place Beckett within an array of contexts – literary, historical, geographical, philosophical, theoretical and institutional – yet with the overarching rationale of tracing the relations of which Beckett is the centre.
Through a career that spanned prose, poetry, theatre, literary criticism, radio, film and television over a period of some 60 years, Beckett was influenced by, negotiated with, and then came to influence, a host of artists (both literary and non-literary), media and their associated institutions. By placing Beckett at the centre of such relations, the series aims to trace influences on Beckett, but also to investigate how he influenced subsequent artists, movements, media and institutions. Submissions that focus on new or previously neglected relations are particularly welcome. (more…)
I was at school near Sevenoaks, within a short walk of Knole, and one of my school chums was a Sackville-West. Like Orlando – like Vita – I had grown up in an old house and looked like the people in the paintings on the stairs, mainly ruffed, mustachioed, velvet-covered men. We all posed formally in front of bits of furniture, strung together on a high family tree like so many forgotten party balloons caught in the branches. Like Orlando, I wrote poetry. In my adolescent fantasy I read this book and believed it was a hallucinogenic, interactive biography of my own life and future. [Read More]