There was a popular series of illustrated books when I was in England in the late 80s’. It was an unusual series. A silly-looking guy, with thick glasses, and red ski hat, walking around with a walking stick, a backpack, and a white and red stripped shirt, through complex imaginary landscapes. That was the world of Wally, as in “Where is Wally?” Everyone read those books, spending hours to locate for “the silly guy” buried in the various scenery.
When the series was transferred to an American audience, the name was changed to Waldo, which is a weird adjustment, since the new name conveyed nothing of the original title. A Wally is a Wally, not quite an idiot but a stupid or silly person. Waldo carries no meaning whatsoever. Basically the English cheekiness was lost in translation.
Attached is a photograph from a PEN America event back in January 2024. Can you find the Wally/Waldo in the picture? Clue: This Wally attended the event, and his face landed on the main photograph of it. He is standing, clearly a victim of imposter syndrome, along the crop of the best young emerging writing talent in NY. Next to him, Ayana Mathis.
In case you’ve missed it, last Sunday (12/31/2023) the New York Times published a very important piece of mine . . . What a beautiful way to wrap up the year. Planets must have been on my side . . .
(Dec 08, 2023) You may not be aware . . . But I interviewed Karl Ove Knausgaard back in 2012, before he achieved a worldwide fame with his six-volume autobiographical series My Struggle as part of my own TV series, Books du Jour. The interview has just been published by the University Press of Mississippi, along many other in-depth conversations from the literary landscape. Bob Blaisdell did a remarkable job editing all these conversations in this must-have book. Whether you are a Knausgaard fan or simply a curious aspiring author or reader here is your chance to get a close look at Knausgaard’s creative process.
This is a message for all the exhausted women out there, who spend their life taking care of others and forget themselves in the process. Check out this book. Just released. It will help you to find yourself again.
From the author, Nancy Colier, “Are you feeling emotionally exhausted? Do you worry about being likable (at all cost)? Are you trying to do it all and be it all—all the time? This radically different self-care guide will help you find the courage needed to express your deepest needs, nurture self-awareness, and be yourself in a world that expects you to be everything to everyone.
Detour charts the struggle of a film-crazed young man to shape his identity; it is also about his resistance to doing so at every turn. Owning an identity can mean being straitjacketed, condemned to a living death; language becomes both an escape from the straitjacket and its evilest genius.
Detour is also a story of first love, as it concerns the intense, transient sexual relationship between the young man, who is very reluctant about to enter medical school in the Midwest, and a rootless former heroin addict named Anne.
The hero of Detour experiences movies the way Don Quixote responds to the romances of chilvary—as being infinitely more real than anything else in the world. Hence the connections relentlessly made between his own often Bresson, Welles, Fellini, Ophüls, Sternberg, Sirk, Karlson and Godard. Camera movements, cuts, dissolves, tension between sound and image—these torment, fascinate, liberate and exalt, because they seem to lie just beyond the vampire clutch of words, thoughts, analysis.
It is within such contexts that one begins to understand the “detours”—social, psychological, familial, erotic, existential—that frustrate and enrich the protagonist’s quest for love, for connectedness, for the satisfactions of a calling. As well as the artistic detours that are crucial to depicting his complex, lacerated, maturation.
It is by means of a technique that has truly absorbed the formal lessons of the novel and through an extraordinary command of language—and of the many different languages inside language: colloquial, technical, abstract—that Brodsky makes this account of the growth of the self so unnervingly new and unpredictable. In sentence after sentence, he manages to discharge the shock of the unknown, the unspeakable, the never before said.
Detour is a vastly expanded version of the novel that received the Ernest Hemingway Foundation Citation of the PEN American Center in 1979.
We are continuing to reissue Michael Brodsky‘s entire catalogue. This is installment #3. “Three Goat Songs” is a series of variations on a theme. It is divided into three novellas, each about a man who sits on a rocky coast by the seashore, contemplating. Herbs of goats come there to graze. The man is a husband and father of two children.
“Three Goat Songs” is an exploration into the existential boundaries, in the “sea-bounded goat world.” It is a philosophical look at the essential sameness and, at the same time, the diversity of all stories. It has in common with the other books of Michael Brodsky the theme of the protagonist’s struggle to survive, and more than that, to comprehend.
Together, this body of work has led critics to compare the writing of Michael Brodsky to that of the masters like Dostoevsky, Becket, Joyce.
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This startling novel (originally published in 1991) is the concentrated peak of Brodsky’s dynamic and unique vision. With a shifting group of characters—Mazel Tov Jones, Neddie and Eddie, Vladimir and Mr. and Mrs. Stein, Brodsky explores the thought process of a protagonist who is accused of a murder but is never sure of his crime or his accusers. Brodsky’s character becomes a model for all humans trying to find a self-identity, reduced to the simple yet tragic dilemma of trying to communicate with fellow men. Stripped of excess plot and locale, this novel expands on the visions of Beckett and Kafka, but with a uniquely American voice.
Circuits will surprise and engage the serious reader at a level that few contemporary writers attempt to reach. Brodsky lives up to Ezra Pound’s famous challenge—Make it new—and pushes fiction and the novel to new limits with spirit and vigor.
April 2, 2018 was the 50th anniversary of a 1968 premiere screening in Washington, D.C. of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film remains the most fascinating cinematographic adventure given to experience. As a tribute to the masterpiece, and to the maestro himself, this essay which was first presented in 1995 as a scholarly paper explores the multiple connections to the Odyssean theme that one may find in Stanley Kubrick’s filmography.
Kubrick’s unweaving and re-weaving of the cinematographic tapestry reflect his attachment to the changeability implied in the Odyssean theme, which has become the theme of questioning, the perpetual questioning of one’s possibilities. The camera’s shuttling back and forth in time, round and round in space, through the means of dolly movements, shots and reverse shots, circular and spiraling recurrences, equates the director’s shuttling between classical and avant-garde techniques, between painting and photography, between musical intensity and spatial silence.
A chassé-croisé which the pluricephal director utilizes with a view to producing new angles of view and new parallaxes: a constant Kubrickian experimentation of the cinematographic language.