Moliere, playwright extraordinaire, started as a horrible tragedian. What inspirations led him to writing famous stage comedies such as The Misanthrope and Tartuffe or the Hypocrite? The movie Moliere, starring Romain Duris, explores how an artist’s past can inform his creative direction. Moliere is pulled from debtors’ prison by Mr. Jourdain. Jourdain dresses Moliere as a priest to hide the playwright in plain sight of his wife. You see, Jourdain wants to learn how to perform – to impress his would-be mistress. Only while Moliere is teaching Mr. Jourdain, Mrs. Jourdain is left suspicious and neglected…a situation Moliere remedies as well. If you liked Shakespeare in Love, you’ll probably appreciate the comedy and ardor of Moliere.
Archive for July, 2010
The love of jazz is woven through Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. The story of a Japanese girl and a Chinese boy’s secret friendship during Seattle’s WWII Japanese relocation process is told from a modern, older man’s perspective as well as through his memories.
What would you think of a postmistress who chose not to deliver the mail? Not out of laziness or error, mind you, but a conscious choice to withhold a letter? Now imagine this happened in 1941, a time when mail was crucial. Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress tells the story that Frankie Bard, radio gal, never filed. It’s about Iris James, the no-nonsense postmaster of Franklin, Massachusetts. There’s also Emma Fitch, who first arrives in the small town as a blushing bride. Frankie doesn’t know these women when the story begins. Journeying to London to file first-hand reports to show America that the war is real, she discovers hundreds of unforgettable stories. It is this one in particular that will change all of their lives.
Metric has taken ‘80s synthesizers and new wave dance beats and updated them for the new millennium. Don’t be mistaken, danceable doesn’t necessarily mean unfailingly happy. In Fantasies, Metric’s most recent album, Emily Haines’ writing has equal parts severity and wonder. Haines states, “I was raised to comment on the world around me, and if it was all- you know- daffodils, there would be a lot of songs about daffodils. But, it’s not, so it’s not really a conscious decision to be disappointed.” If you like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Tegan and Sara and Broken Social Scene then you’ll probably like the thoughtful energy of Metric.
If you think Shakespeare isn’t for you, perhaps it’s time to look at it from another angle. Instead of watching a mopey, indecisive prince debate whether life is worth living, step behind the action to see what the lesser characters might be doing while they wait their cues. This is the conceit of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1991), which takes two minor roles and reveals them as entertaining fools. They’re not quite sure what they are doing in the world of Hamlet, but they’re pretty good at faking it, and they may just discover the laws of physics along the way. Starring Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, and Richard Dreyfuss, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a feast of quick wit and clever repartee.
Bollywood cinema’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (commonly DDLJ) recently set a record by completing 750 weeks (over 15 years) of continuous play in Mumbai cinemas. Starring the king of Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan, and multiple best actress winner, Kajol, DDLJ is a joyful, musical love story for everyone.
Glenn Taylor is the author of The Marrowbone Marble Company. In it we meet Loyal Ledford, an orphan who becomes a working class man then a whiskey-drenched WWII vet and finally the proprietor of an egalitarian marble factory in West Virginia during the violent racial unrest of the 1960s. The Marrowbone Marble Company is founded by Ledford, his half-Indian cousins – the Bonecutter Brothers, a wide-eyed, philosophical preacher and Mack Wells – an African American man well aware of the civil strife associated with skin color. Equality becomes a battle and Ledford finds himself fighting for the future of the Marrowbone, its workers and his family.
MPPL chatted with Glenn Taylor about The Marrowbone Marble Company and more.
MPPL: What sparked the idea for The Marrowbone Marble Company and how long has it been stewing around on your desk?
GLENN TAYLOR: I had been reading a good bit about World War II, after having picked up a copy of Donald L. Miller’s The Story of World War II. It really got to me, reading of what young men endured, and I began to recognize how young enlisted men and women are still enduring it today. I teach several sections of required Freshman Composition each semester, and inevitably, I always have a few students who have recently returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. Once, when I asked a particularly bright and thoughtful young man (who had served three tours) how he had come to be in the military, he told me, “I enlisted on September 12, 2001.” That kind of answer sticks with you. I had Ledford in mind, and I knew that after Pearl Harbor, Ledford was the type to do the same thing my student did. Beyond this little spark of instigation, I was very drawn to glass making. And, like always, I feel compelled to write of folks who struggle against oppression.
MPPL: Some writers can’t or don’t write about a certain setting until they have lived there and left. For example, Joyce wrote all his best work set in Ireland after he’d left his home country. The Marrowbone Marble Company is set in West Virginia, as was your first novel The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart, how tied to place are you as a writer?
GT: I am very tied to place. The question here is so insightful that it reveals its own answer. For me, it took leaving home to discover how to write about it. I spent the first eighteen years of my life in West Virginia, and during that time I was not drawn to investigate its history. Only upon moving to Texas did I fully develop the pride that leads to digging up the past. And what a past it is. Only upon moving to Illinois did I fully develop an appreciation for hilly terrain. And what hills they are.
MPPL: It’s been said that there is a “hidden south,” meaning that there’s the magazine Southern Living and then there’s real life. Does that idea hold true to you? If so, who are the people and places of your “hidden south?”
GT: I suppose the people and places of my “hidden south” are those oft misunderstood people of the southern coalfields of West Virginia. My father grew up in Matewan, Mingo County, and I visited there quite a bit as a child. It’s a complex place that the national media has not ever taken the time to understand. The people are diverse and tough and possess great ingenuity, I think. Yet, the civic resources to build on such qualities are long since gone. The boom and bust of the coal industry has left some scarring and heartache in its wake. The “hidden” part comes about in the media presentations of the people of such areas. These presentations usually involve very little historical perspective, so that contemporary viewers never realize how relatively socially and racially progressive such places once were, before the money disappeared.
MPPL: What kind of research did you wrestle through to nail down the setting in The Marrowbone Marble Company?
GT: The book takes place in Huntington, my hometown, and in Wayne County, my neighboring county, so I had that advantage. Time was more of a stumbling block than place. And the spot where I envisioned Marrowbone Cut itself is now covered over by a 1200 acre, man-made lake, so that was a challenge. I suppose it was a combination of reading and talking to older folks. I read books like Huey Perry’s They’ll Cut off Your Project, and I talked to people like C. Michael Gray, who was active in the Civil Rights Movement in Huntington and elsewhere.
MPPL: Were there any bits of phenomenal research that grabbed your brain that you couldn’t squeeze into the novel?
GT: So many accounts of World War II experiences were either too painful or too beyond my realm of understanding to fully convey. I felt strange just trying to write about a few select days on Guadalcanal, as if I was treading ground I shouldn’t be, having never served in the military. Beyond that, there was research on glass blowing that was fascinating that simply didn’t fit, as well as a wealth of knowledge concerning the War on Poverty.
MPPL: Do you think you’ll ever write any full-length nonfiction?
GT: I’m open to it. It would probably be down the road a ways.
MPPL: How’s about a short story collection?
GT: Though I’m open to that too, I don’t foresee ever returning to the short form. I’m simply not as good at it. In hindsight, there was a reason for all those rejection slips over the years. Some writers can make stories feel full, like little novels. Mine have traditionally run the risk of seeming gimmicky, or too clever for their own good. We’ll have to wait and see if I have the time and energy to change that down the road.
MPPL: Speaking of short stories, have you read any good ones lately?
GT: Yes. I’m reading Ron Rash’s Burning Bright, and they are all good. He is a true storyteller, no gimmick.
MPPL: Do you have a favorite bookstore around Chicagoland?
GT: I must admit my lack of experience here. Where we live, the chains are easiest to visit. Beyond those, I’ve visited a decent range of city and suburban stores, yet I haven’t scratched the surface. I’ve been to Quimby’s, which I found very unique and interesting. I like the other style too, the old “stacked to the ceiling” kind, like Jack’s Used Books on Northwest Highway used to be. I got a signed first edition of a Harry Crews book there once upon a time. And I look forward to doing a reading at The Book Table in Oak Park. I hear it’s a great one.
MPPL: What about favorite libraries you’ve visited while winding around on book tours?
GT: I did a reading once at Barnes & Noble Georgetown, and it was embarrassingly sparsely attended. But the trip was worth it in the end, as I spent a day at the Library of Congress. It was incredible. I filled out the paperwork, got my researcher card, and had at it. I could’ve spent a year inside those rooms. Little staircases connected little alcoves of book-lined treasure chests, room after room after room. A couple was getting married in the main hall. Hell of a library.
MPPL: In a bout of drag-down, knock-out literary fisticuffs, who would win in a cage match?
Flannery O’Connor vs. Carson McCullers
GT: O’Connor. She’d throw mud in the eyes if she had to.
William Faulkner vs. William Gay
GT: Tough one to call. I suppose Gay might triumph, even if it wasn’t in a totally “fair” manner.
Mark Twain vs. Harper Lee
GT: Twain would go down by decision and claim later he let her win, but that would be a bald-faced lie.
Stephen King vs. James Patterson
GT: I’ll go with King here. I heard Patterson has other writers do some of his legwork, which leads me to believe he’d slack on training.
Dorothy Parker vs. Shirley Jackson
GT: A draw. Neither would manage to do much more than pull a few loose stands of hair out.
The winners of the 2010 Audie Awards have been announced, and the honor of Audiobook of the Year was bestowed on Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales. This audio recording benefits children in South Africa who have been orphaned or impacted by HIV and AIDS and features an all-star cast of twenty-two performers. Charlize Theron, Don Cheadle, Hugh Jackman, and Scarlett Johansson lend their talents, but our favorites are Helen Mirren, Sophie Okenedo, and the delectable Alan Rickman! This must have been the year for multi-voiced productions, because The Help by Kathryn Stockett deservedly won both in the Fiction category and for Distinguished Achievement in Production. Click here for a full list of nominees and winners, and make your choices for some great summer listening.
If you’re looking for an eclectic blend of folk, rock, country and punk, check out the classic Palace Music disc Viva Last Blues. Will Oldham on vocals will captivate you with his uniquely stirring, haunting, warbling tunes. Track #7, ”New Partner,” is especially one of my favorites.
People think he’s a veteran. A shark victim. A beggar. They throw money at him. Bless him. Cry. Stare. Mostly, people just stare. There’s nothing wrong with Kevin Michael Connolly. He was born without legs, and for this people eye him. Instead of rockin’ a wheelchair, Kevin prefers to skateboard. During a trip abroad and after a long day of more than a few gawkers, Kevin got fed up. If folks could watch him, he’d watch them right back through the cathartic lens of his camera. Double Take is the story of Kevin Michael Connolly’s life, from growing up in a paycheck to paycheck Montana home to winning at the X Games to becoming a world-traveling photographer.