October 1st, 2007


Finally: A Negative Review for 26lies.

It took a year. It seriously took me a year:

Peek is a bit too clever, a bit too cute, for his own good. Sometimes his book reads like the literary equivalent of an actor repeatedly turning to the camera and winking at the audience. At other times, he most resembles the guy who sits next to you at the bar and spends the next three hours deconstructing the world from his own narrow perspective. Peek does it very eloquently and with fewer slurs, but the reader is sometimes left with the same weary wish that he'd just shut up. The second entry in this book is "Autobiography." Under it, Peek writes, "How much can you trust authors who write their own history?" Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth has a point to make, and, by God, the book will bang on about it until the damn thing is blunt.


In 1879, Henry James wrote a biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne, a writer perhaps now most famous for writing The Scarlet Letter. In his introduction, James expressed surprise that Hawthorne had lived so uneventful a life—"few men of equal genius and equal eminence could have led, on the whole, a simpler life," he wrote. This line has always struck me as odd, since it seems no more necessary—and no more likely—for a writer to live an exciting life than it does for a street cleaner to do so. Ben Peek has subtitled his book "The Autobiography of a Man Who Has Been Nowhere, Done Nothing and Met Nobody." And then he has made a lot of it up anyhow.

I love when people accuse me of being too clever, since it naturally means that someone was too stupid.

Personally, I've never quite figured out how being too clever is a complaint. "I don't like it when you try things. Try less. Be a little more mediocre." There's got to be better things to accuse me off. But, anyhow, on top of being too clever, I'm too cute. In fact, I'm cute and clever. Clearly you should want a date with me. Email me, hey? I only reply to people with photos.

Anyhow, what can you say? When I wrote 26lies I thought there would be more negative opinions to it, and it's nice to see someone not liking the book, though Hartland in his review still notes some nice things about the writing, so in truth we're probably doing 40/60 or something like that. In the end, his problems with the book are simply those of someone who didn't like it, and maybe wanted it to be something else--and what can you say about that at the end of the day?

Shame he didn't mention Anna, though.

At any rate, if you haven't bought 26lies, you should. You can buy it from Amazon, Wheatland Press, and Agog.

Paul Pope's Once Upon A Time in the West Memory

Once Upon A Time In The West

A memory-sketch of the scene where Chyenne bursts into the stable/bar to find Mr. Harmonica licking his wounds in the corner. Harmonica plays his morbid tune while the lantern waves on its wire.

Once Upon A Time in the West is a film I quite like, though I'm not convinced of it being Sergio Leone's best film. It lacks the flow of the Eastwood films he did: there is, at times, a very staged essence to the film, a sense that it can't lift itself out of the fact that it is a script and that paid actors are saying the words while cameras roll. You--or perhaps I--never suspend my disbelief. In addition to that, it suffers from not achieving the sense of scale it wishes to do so, especially when compared to Once Upon A Time in America. With West, like America, you have the feeling that somewhere, Leone had wanted it to indeed be a grand statement--the first in a series of films about the States, in fact, and you can still see it lurking there, under used. I remember reading somewhere that the original script was some four hundred plus pages, which would account for that, since the rule of thumb for scripts, so I've been told, is one minute of screen time per page.

Still, it is a beautiful film, and perhaps Leone's most beautiful, and the director makes full use out of Bronson's craggy face and faded eyes of his, which were always much more interesting to me than Peter Fonda's.
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