Philip Larkin comes under the scalpel again, but this time the hand is friendly. The book, Philip Larkin – Life, Art and Love, takes a look what’s become a focal point of the great poet’s life and work: his seemingly banal Life as a librarian (I never shared that view – library work is richly rewarding for the literary inclined), his Art, which suffered tragic abuse when several critics and higher journalists blurred the picture by noting some seemingly racist and sexist language in his collected letters followed by a respected biography noting the same thing. And along with all that, his secretive Love life was exposed, which came as a shock and added spice to the staid picture he had painted of himself as a bored, suburban bachelor in a staid, middle class town.
Life, Art and Love are given a therapeutic scrubbing in this book, returning him to the shelf of normal, healthy souls who chose to live their life in semi-seclusion and not in the public eye. After all, Larkin’s true charm came from presenting himself as being un-Byron and un-Shelley, and, yet, he is, for our time, as great as the greatest British poets.
Larkin’s steadfast champion over the years, Clive James, gives the book high marks for setting the record straight and throwing water on whatever fainting spells caused the sniping in the first place.
This is an independent Western shot in the early 70s with two worthy performances by Cliff Potts, who is terrifically good in this movie but whose career never reached the heights he seemed capable of, and Harry Dean Stanton. It was produced by Elliot Kastner, who did some interesting independent films. He produced Tom McGuane’s modern revisionist Western, Rancho Deluxe, and the hilarious classic, Missouri Breaks (great dialogue).
The story is stark, the dialogue is scarce, but good, and the villains are a troop of US Army cavalry who hunt down an Indian girl and rape her. Earlier, Potts’ character befriends the girl and they fell in love. After witnessing the rape, he sets out to revenge her death. He’s a convincing gunslinger who meets the fate of a lot of gunslingers: he’s shot in the back. Harry Dean appears in key scenes at the beginning and end. Good performances by James Gannon (who stared in several Sam Shepard plays) and others. It was a time when a lot of talent was underused in Hollywood, and this film shows what can be done on a small budget when in the hands of good filmmakers.
Some critics faulted the filmmakers for not having a “payoff” for viewers at the end. The girl is raped, dies, and the hero is shot dead. That’s real storytelling. The film fails because you want a happy ending? Spare me…
Here’s an essential new book by Greil Marcus, our best writer and social critic on Rock, Blues and early American music. The premise is 10 Rock songs as a way to approach the intertwined history of Rock music. He has an uncanny knack of taking a knife and opening up the heart of songs, putting you inside the music, making you wish for a compilation of the songs he illuminates. The choices are not what you’d expect – some are very obscure – leaving you wishing you had his ears and knowledge to “read” the music. Here’s an interview.
A classic, eclectic anthology on the major world religions is available now from Norton. The book includes some 4,200 pages of texts spanning roughly 3,500 years. Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are presented “in their own words,” followed by critical responses, dissents, appreciations, commentaries, poems, songs, broadsides, in short a wide range of material that offers a reader one of the broadest, most comprehensive views possible of humanity’s search for the meaning of life. The overall editor, Jack Miles, discusses the book here.
Anthony Quinn gives a powerful star turn in this 1956 Western Movie, The Man From Del Rio, using many of the tricks and mannerisms of Marlon Brando. The 1956 film was made after Quinn’s roles in Viva Zapata and La Strada. It’s a conventional Western genre movie, essentially a shoot-‘em-up, borrowing from High Noon and other Western formulas, but it’s good to see Quinn inhabit the role. His performance is unwavering with his trademark sensitive-machisimo contrasted with the female lead, Katy Jurado, his perfect match, who always brought sensitivity and fire to her performances. Each cast member adds power to the story. Peter Whitney is the villain, Douglas Spencer is the spineless sheriff, and the town drunk is Whit Bissell. It was directed by Harry Horner with a screenplay by Richard Carr. An interesting note, Katy Jurado was born into a very wealthy Mexican family who once owned much of the land that is now Texas. She had a long affair with Brando after he made Viva Zapata.