A very quick post today, because I'm leaving on vacation soon.
I found a link on my friend Joe Germuska's blog to an interesting piece at 2blowhards.com that contrasts the attitudes that movie people and book people (broadly defined as people who are involved in some way in those industries) have toward trash and its relationship to art. The writer is arguing that movie people have a much healthier relationship to crap, essentially accepting that there's a place for it and it can be fun; book people, in his view, are the opposite, always arguing for high art and totally ignoring or denigrating popular or genre fiction. He admits to making broad generalizations, and I do think the argument has some holes--failing, for example, to take full account of how seriously movie people take the pious crap that surfaces around Oscar time, while at the same time not making sufficient allowance for the marginal position of the book world in popular culture, and the possibly understandable defensiveness that provokes--but it did get me thinking, and it's definitely worth taking a look at.
I don't actually see that many movies, but not because I don't like them. It's more because seeing a movie takes some work and planning, and when I'm surrounded by books--having three or four on my person at any given moment--the effort of getting to a movie usually ends up seeming like too much.
I was thinking about that last week as I was reading a recent Hard Case Crime book, George Axelrod's Blackmailer (1958). Axelrod is best known as a screenwriter, author of The Manchurian Candidate and The Seven-Year Itch, among other screenplays. Perhaps not surprisingly, reading Blackmailer is a lot like watching a good thriller. In telling the story of a guy sucked into a double cross--though he can see it coming all the way--Axelrod relies almost exclusively on images and dialogue rather than introspection. You feel that all the book needs to turn into a movie is a screenplay formatting program. The plot clips along satisfyingly, with plenty of twists and surprises, and Axelrod throws in some interesting observations on the craft of acting (and, oddly enough, on the relationship between crap and art in movies). In two hours, I was done and satisfied--and, because it was a book rather than a movie, I had spent the whole time in the park. How can you beat that?
Speaking of Hard Case Crime, I've packed the past few months of their books in my vacation bag--they're perfect for this trip because they're reliably good, they're portable, and when I'm done I can lend them to my father. I've supplemented those with a half-dozen other books of various sorts, and now we're ready to go. I'll be away from the blog for a bit; enjoy whatever you're reading until I get back.