Thursday, February 7, 2008

Reading, watching

Have been reading Natasha Randall's just-published translation of the early Soviet writer Yevgeny Zamyatin's WE. A few days ago, on the northern underground line I saw another rider put down a give-away tabloid and pull out his bag a copy of WE. Natasha was thrilled to hear this. It reminded me of John Mortimer's anecdote of sitting on a bus next to someone reading one of his novels. His stop was approaching, but he knew that just two pages ahead from where his neighbor was reading there was a joke...

Am also reading Elizabeth Gray's translations of Hafiz. My favorite poet, and these are the sorts of translations I've long been looking for. Attempting Lajos Egri's formidable The Art of Dramatic Writing. Am looking forward to seeing on Monday David Hare's play The Vertical Hour, just transferred to the Royal Court Theater. Was it trenchant in NY, or just polemical? Is it still timely now? Looking forward to seeing Israeli director Joseph Cedar's BEAUFORT, about Israeli soldiers stranded under fire during the 2006 Lebanon war. Cedar won the Silver Bear for best director at last year's Berlin festival, and now his film is up for an Oscar for best foreign film. The next project he's circling, or so I hear, sounds provocative, and a little bit brilliant. Want to see the new cut of BladeRunner (!). Am liking the Hospital members club, and their new magazine... featuring as it does writers Sasha Wilkins, Hephzibah Anderson, and Jessica Gearhart. Heard wonderful things about the Jaipur Literary Festival.

Also saw director John Irvin's cut of The Garden of Eden, and while I found it hard to trust my own judgment I was liked it very much. And happy to see that Irvin, a veteran, was quietly proud of what he'd done. Meanwhile, at least one constituency has twigged to the themes of the film and appears to be looking forward to it. A very informed reading of Hemingway's work here.

Food historian Carolin Young's emails about the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery have made me hungry. Have been saving my pennies, though, for an EasyJet flight to Fez to visit my old friend Karina, a designer, who's just bought a ramshackle riad in the medina, the medieval quarter. Speaking of fashion, beloved LibertyLondonGirl is up for best insider blog at the Fashion Blog Award. Vote for her here.

Otherwise, have been liking Obama, especially the tone of his campaign. Such an elegant guy. In his televised response to the Bush State of the Union speech, with that gray suit and skinny lapels, the grainy low-fi video feed, I thought his people were channeling an early 1960s thing, reinforcing JFK comparisons. But the JFK comparison is apt for another reason... as my friend Nora Maccoby said, "He speaks and the soul lifts." My friend Susan Eisenhower is expansive here on the subject in today's Washington Post. (Novelist and historian Caleb Carr, a sometime-contributor to this blog, heatedly disagrees. Liz Wurtzel too... her comments, the funniest of this campaign-season, could be found at WSJ opinion last week.) All hats off to John McCain for his recent (finance-free) resurgence. I'd been sure the Republicans were going to choose the baptist minister or the fellow who looks as if he's about to announce layoffs. It suddenly feels lucky that the US might have two such presidential candidates facing off. Lucky for the world. But I think Obama will win the general election in a landslide.

The Big Smoke is sunny today, and not at all smokey. I'd put this in a Facebook status, but it's a bit much. What's more, with all those zombie hugs, and superwall posts leading to blind alleys, I'm over FB, for the moment. Oh, have just been reminded of one good thing from FB... Zyzzyva magazine editor Howard Junker just tracked me down, friended me, and sent me his latest issue, which looks better than ever.


Greenspan "appears" at Davos

An economist friend just returned from that World Economic Forum in Davos. He was to appear on a panel along with Alan Greenspan to discuss some aspects of the global economy. Greenspan, however, upstaged him and the other participants in a most unusual way... giving his presentation via hologram, transported in from a high-tech studio in DC. I can find nothing on this on any news-site, but nonetheless true. It reminds one... Greenspan should long ago have stopped encouraging people to believe he is God. He kept interest rates too low for far too long, and ignored warnings about dangers in the mortgage market.

My economist friend added "And as with God only part of the audience saw him (with the hologram you can only see 120 degrees...)"

- James Linville

Friday, February 1, 2008

Paris Review anniversary at Square Books

... a friend who saw Square Books profiled in the current issue of Vanity Fair just dug out and sent me this, a Paris Review anniversary celebration at the supreme bookstore in Oxford, MS. In the pic above is author William Styron (a friend to the magazine since before day one), Paris Review Editor and co-founder George Plimpton, and the undersigned, James Linville. After the cake was cut, the mayor of Oxford made a speech proclaiming it Paris Review Day in the city, and then launched into a campaign speech in anticipation of an upcoming election, til he was drowned out in boos.

Weeks later, Square Books owner, Richard Howorth, resoundingly beat the incumbent for the mayorship.