In Lady in the Dark: Iris Barry and the Art of Film, “which he has been working on for decades (among the interviewees is Roberto Rossellini, who died in 1977), [Robert] Sitton brings to light an extraordinary story—or, rather, an extraordinary person, who has been languishing unjustly in the shadows (though Jean-Luc Godard did pay tribute to her, by name, in his film In Praise of Love).” The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody notes that Barry (1895-1969) was “friends with Ezra Pound, published poems, had an affair (and two children) with the writer and painter Wyndham Lewis, helped with the release of Ulysses, married the American poet Alan Porter—and, in 1924, became the Spectator’s first film critic.” In short, she’s “one of the secret heroines of the history of cinema—in fact, of the very idea that there is such a thing as a history of cinema.”
“John Lahr’s distinctly American sense of humor—it never comes at his subject’s expense—informs Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, his authoritative and felt new biography of the playwright (1911-1983),” writes Hilton Als, also for the New Yorker. “Williams wanted to queer the world. Stars ranging from Marlon Brando and Maureen Stapleton to Geraldine Page made their names in works by Williams, because they were brilliant, but also because they transmitted their difference, as Method artists, through the twisted light of Williams’s characters, who are always set apart.”
For the Los Angeles Review of Books, Jordan Cronk talks with Michael Koresky about Terence Davies: “I think people aren’t entirely sure how to discuss his movies. People don’t even know if they’re happy or sad. And that’s actually kind of a fascinating thing.”
At Flavorwire, Jason Bailey‘s posted an excerpt from his own Pulp Fiction: The Complete History of Quentin Tarantino’s Masterpiece to mark the 20th anniversary of the film’s release.
Cronenberg joins the small but growing fraternity of established filmmakers like Ethan Coen, Harmony Korine, and Gus Van Sant who have tried their hand at fiction. (John Sayles, best known for socially conscious films like Matewan, began his career as a novelist, and has returned to fiction on and off over the past three decades, most recently with the 1,000-page historical behemoth A Moment in the Sun.)…
During a dip in his career in the 1930s, after the introduction of sound, acclaimed silent auteur Erich von Stroheim wrote a novel called Paprika, about, as the Los Angeles Times described it, “Hungarian gypsies, gay, irresponsible, thieving, dancing, sensuous, and sadistic.” Earlier this year, the Cineteca di Bologna published a heretofore-unknown novella by Charlie Chaplin, Footlights, about a once-popular clown named Calvero who would later show up, somewhat altered, as the protagonist of Chaplin’s 1952 film Limelight. Screenwriter and blacklist victim Dalton Trumbo wrote the classic antiwar novel Johnny Got His Gun during his time away from Hollywood, eventually turning it into a well-regarded film. Pulp filmmaker Samuel Fuller began his career as a pulp novelist, with his “lost” novel Brainquake republished earlier this year, complete with an encomium from Martin Scorsese. Most famously, Elia Kazan embraced the literary life late in his career as a film and theater director, writing four novels, including the immigrants’ tale America, America.
Austerlitz then looks into “what motivates filmmakers to attempt to transform themselves into novelists.”
And actors are at it, too, of course. At the AV Club, Caitlin PenzeyMoog finds that Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin’s A Vision of Fire, “book one of the Earthend saga,” reads like a pale imitation of an X-Files episode. Bob Odenkirk, whose A Load of Hooey is not a novel, but rather a collection of “short—sometimes very short—stories, sketches, and thoughts, delivered with a combination of thoughtfulness and absurdity that Odenkirk has honed over the course of his career,” scores a B+ from Josh Modell.