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“That’s The Trouble With You Readers, You Know All The Plots” September 30, 2007

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Movies.
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With no Patriots game until tomorrow night, I had the chance this afternoon to polish off Sam Staggs’ Close Up On Sunset Boulevard, an exhaustively thorough (and that’s putting it mildly) examination of the making & overall legacy of what’s easily one of my favorite movies ever. Staggs does a great job of telling the story of the film from the multiple perspectives of all the people involved in its making, and the overabundance of catty gossip he certainly enjoys wallowing in deeply make the book a very entertaining read. As someone else with a brain crammed with film trivia, I especially liked Staggs’ chapter on later films and television shows (even specific episodes of shows, such as “The 16 Millimeter Shrine” episode of The Twilight Zone) that ripped off from Sunset Boulevard. I also was interested heavily in another chapter where he tears into Wilder’s later films and his writing partnership with I.A.L. Diamond, because I disagree with so much of what Staggs says here (though he does admit that much of his dislike for this period in Wilder’s career stems from his visceral negative reaction to any twitchy Jack Lemmon performance, and there are many of them to be found in Wilder’s work from 1959 onwards). And to go with all the material on the film, we are also treated to backstage dirt on Faye Dunaway’s brief encounter with playing Norma Desmond in Lloyd Webber’s stage musical as well as Staggs’ demonstration that he’ll leave absolutely no stone unturned when he provides us with some of the better dialogue from the gay porn version of the story, Sunsex Boulevard, which somehow I think would have made a better Lloyd Webber musical, especially if they’re all in cat suits on roller skates.

But I digress.

You might have noticed from my other posts on books that I read far more nonfiction than fiction. I think the last new novel I read was at least three years ago. I was asked about this last night at a dinner gathering (yes, there are those rare occasions when I actually leave my house), and I really couldn’t think of anything else to talk about the sorts of nonfiction subject matter I enjoy reading about, like Vincent Price’s views on art, for example.

And then I come upon an article like this that says, and says it quite well, what I’ve been thinking about much of the current “high-end” fiction that’s been out there for the past few years but haven’t been able to put into words since I was too lazy to make the effort to try, and I was certainly not enough of a masochist to read all the books that guy did. Go read it now, and then come back.

Back already? Jeez… hang on… I had to use the bathroom….

Okay, I’m all set! So, I guess I’ll AMEN what he said – I can’t stand ass-hatted self-congratulatory self-esteem masquerading as PROFOUND ENLIGHTENMENT anymore than him, and since that seems to be all the rage these days, I’ll be skipping most of the output from the McSweeney’s cabal and reading more nonfiction, thank you very much.

To paraphrase Joe Gillis: That’s the trouble with us curmudgeons – we know all the annoying societal zeitgeists.

“Ssh! You’ll wake up the monkey!”

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