We begin this weekend books roundup with Clayton Dillard at the House Next Door, where he notes that when Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast was originally released in 1997, the late Stanley Kauffmann called it a “permanent resource.” Dillard: “Indeed, Patrick McGilligan’s nearly 500-page treatment of the elusive, demonstrative German director seemingly spares no detail, chronicling Lang‘s entire life with a precision that transcends merely ticking off facts in chronological fashion and, more interestingly, revels in the director’s off-screen faults just as frequently as he applauds the on-screen brilliance. Such jarring juxtaposition is epitomized by the books epigraph, spoken by Lang himself: ‘My private life has nothing to do with my films.’ McGilligan looks to test this claim throughout, detailing the life of a man dedicated to artistic integrity and meticulous detail while working, yet also capable of rampant adultery, giving numerous tongue-lashings to cast and crew, and, even, murder.”
“Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem was published fifty years ago, first as a series of articles in The New Yorker and then, a few months later, as a book,” writes Mark Lilla for the New York Review of Books. “It’s hard to think of another work capable of setting off ferocious polemics a half-century after its publication.” Further in, Lilla turns to Margarethe von Trotta‘s 2012 biopic, beginning with notes on the milestones of von Trotta’s oeuvre up through Vision (1991) and suggesting that, in Hannah Arendt, “we are left with the impression that she, like Hildegard [von Bingen], has had a vision.”
And perhaps this is how von Trotta sees Arendt. She admits in [Martin Wiebel’s Hannah Arendt: Ihr Denken veränderte die Welt (Hannah Arendt: Her Thought Changed the World)] that she, like many on the German left in the 1960s and 1970s, turned their noses up at Arendt for comparing communism and Nazism as instances of totalitarianism and refused to read her books. But later she came upon Elisabeth Young-Bruehl’s biography and discovered a strong figure, a female philosopher engaged in political debate whose personal life was also rich in friends and lovers. This woman she could admire and celebrate. The problem is that von Trotta has chosen an episode in Arendt’s life where the stakes were so high, intellectually and morally, that they cannot in good taste be treated as the backdrop of a human interest story. Though the battle may be lost, it can never be emphasized enough that the Holocaust is not an acceptable occasion for sentimental journeys.
The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw reminds that “on 8 November 1913, Marcel Proust published the first volume of À La Recherche du Temps Perdu, his monumental novel about memory, mortality and art, the belle époque, and the leisured and aristocratic classes of Paris, a city crammed in Proust’s pages with the most vivid and extraordinary personalities, destined to be swept away by the Great War.” Ever since struggling with Raúl Ruiz‘s Time Regained (1999), Bradshaw’s been “intrigued by the troubled history of Proust on film, and what it implies about the limits of screen adaptation. It could be that Proust adaptations are unique in that they really must be experienced as an adjunct of the novel.” And the survey is off and running.
“Though it belongs—or appears to belong—to the gutter-bound caste of celebrity biography, A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True, 1907-1940 puts one in a philosophical frame of mind,” writes Michelle Orange at Slate. “Author Victoria Wilson, vice president and long-time editor at Knopf, has devoted over 15 years and 1,000 pages (including endnotes, but no index) to what is only the first of a multivolume affair. Meeting this effort raises, at a particular slant, the questions that forever dog biography, the tireless, thankless, pack mule of the literary arts: What amount of detail makes a life? What quality, what selection?”
Bob Fosse’s “films included Cabaret (1972), for which he won an Oscar, Lenny (1974), and All That Jazz (1979),” writes Bruce Handy for Vanity Fair. “He is now the subject of a smart, impeccably researched biography, Fosse, written with all due style and brio by Sam Wasson. We sat down this week to talk about what was arguably Fosse’s masterpiece and inarguably his most personal project: All That Jazz.”
“If women’s magazines make women feel so bad about themselves, why do we continue to buy them?” asks Autumn Whitefield-Madrano in the New Inquiry, suggesting right off that “glamour is part of the answer. Not glamour as in the magazine title, nor glamour as many of us conceive of it—say, marcel waves, rubies, and sleek gowns on the red carpet—but rather glamour as articulated and explored in Virginia Postrel’s latest, eminently readable book, The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion. Rather than merely musing on glamour, Postrel sets out to define it, and in doing so weaves not only a history of glamour but the parameters that allow the concept to encompass everything from Jean Harlow to wind turbines, Angelina Jolie to train windows, James Bond to candy wrappers. Glamour here is neither an aesthetic nor a convention, but a nonverbal rhetoric that Postrel likens to humor, ‘a form of communication that elicits a distinctive emotional response.'”
The Most of Nora Ephron, collecting decades of her journalism and essays as well as her novel Heartburn and the screenplay for When Harry Met Sally, is, for Rebecca Traister, writing in the Los Angeles Times, “the work of a brilliant woman who took copious notes on four decades of tumultuous social and political history and who exerted astonishing authorial control over the story of her own place within that history.”
And finally for now, the New Yorker is running an excerpt from Let Me Off at the Top!: My Classy Life and Other Musings by Ron Burgundy. A snippet:
By the time I graduated several scouts were interested in me. I was invited to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to the anchorman camp—the “Gauntlet,” as it’s known in news circles. The field that year was tough—my class alone had News Hall of Famers Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel and Jim Lehrer. Vance Bucksnot, who became the number one anchor for the Quad Cities, was there, as was Punch Wilcox, the legendary anchor for Salt Lake City’s KPAL. There was also Snack Reynolds (Austin), Brunt Harrisly (Columbus), Tink Stewart (Butte), Race Bannon (Minneapolis), Hit Johnson (Albany), Kick Fronby (Charlotte), Ass Perkins (Mobile) and Lunk Brickman (Boston). All of these men distinguished themselves with long careers for their respective stations, so yeah, it was very competitive.