Lotsa good stuff in the latest number from the Brick gang. The best way to appreciate the journal is to ignore its official sequence and simply flip forward and back through its many pages (this issue runs close to 200), dipping in whenever, wherever, something strikes you. Some of the things I’ve been enjoying: John Ralston Saul’s memoir of meeting the last surviving member of the seven Serb conspirators who plotted the 1914 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, traditionally benchmarked as the precipitating event of the First World War; the moving tribute, by Rudy Wiebe and Aritha van Herk, among others, to the late novelist/poet/essayist Robert Kroetsch; a penetrating, detailed celebration of director Luchino Visconti’s superb 1971 adaptation of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. In addition, John Berger contributes a report/meditation on a gathering, in May this year, of 5,000 young French activists and former members of the anti-Nazi Resistance, among others, to invoke the embattled ideals of “social justice and democratic responsibility” while protesting (natch) “the hegemony of financial capitalism.” Playwright Tony Kushner recommends Science and Health with a Key to the Scriptures, the central text of Christian Science: “It’s a great read.”
Who says print is dead? My friendly newsstand agent tells me demand in the United States for the latest Playboy is so intense that its distributor is drastically reducing the number of copies normally available in Canada. He got only five or six the other day whereas the usual shipment is 20. All this for an excerpt from Elmore Leonard’s new novel, you ask? No, sillies! It’s because everyone’s favourite tabloid train-wreck, Lindsay Lohan, has bared all for a fee of almost $1-million (U.S.). The whole thing’s weirdly retro, the 10 pages inside being mostly a riff on Marilyn Monroe’s famous 1949 pin-up, and the cover a seeming homage to Lewis Morley’s notorious 1963 photo of British call girl Christine Keeler astride a chair. Is Playboy intimating something about what lies ahead for Lohan who, lest we forget, is still a few years shy of her 30th birthday? Moreover, didn’t New York magazine already do the Marilyn evocation/invocation three years ago when it photographed a nude LiLo à la Bert Stern’s last sitting sessions from 1962? Just asking.
Jerry Garcia once described the Grateful Dead as being the rock ’n’ roll equivalent of black licorice. “Not everyone likes black licorice,” he acknowledged. “But those who do really like it.” The same could be said, I guess, of the films of Terrence Malick. They number only six, the most recent, The Tree of Life, dividing audiences into two big camps, one that finds it numbingly pretentious and baffling, the other deeming it yet one more Malick masterpiece, albeit somewhat baffling. Paul Matwychuk, film and theatre reviewer for CBC Radio Edmonton, likely falls into the last camp, based on the evidence in his personal essay here.Titled “Malickpsychosis,” it’s a sharply observed account of the effect The Tree of Life had on him while attending an evening screening of the film, and afterwards. Its visualizations of childhood experience and family life were so powerful they flashed him back to an unsettling encounter he had, as a nine-year-old, with his dad 30 years before. This was followed by a manic five-hour cleaning binge of his apartment. Much to his girlfriend’s dismay, writes Matwychuk, “I couldn’t allow myself to go to sleep, not until I’d scrubbed some of the squalor out of my life.”