DEAR MR. SONDHEIM,

NOTE: this is an unrevised version of an entry from my old blog from August 12th, 2016

NOTE: this is an unrevised version of an entry from my old blog from August 12th, 2016   

I have become fascinated by a  60s TV special that you were part of  — an adaptation of John Collier’s Evening Primrose.  Collier was one of the greatest short story writers of the 20th century, and you, well I suspect that you don’t want to be flattered, but you are quite good yourself.

This should have been the first big feather in your cap.  You completely understood the story and used bits of Collier’s dialogue to great effect.  But there is a falling off after the first number.  It isn’t you of course.  The screen play is trash.  I don’t want  to spoil it for everyone else, but the brilliant sideways love story gets — well you know what happens. The very end is fine but the queer genius of the story is thrown out entirely and replaced with something barely plausible and trite.  I don’t think that the screen writer (or maybe some officious producer) knew what the story was about, and ruined it, or, if he did understand, he might have thought that  it was too edgy for viewers.

These are old complaints I am sure.  And I know that you are 86 and semi-retired.  Nineteen sixty-six must seem like a thousand years ago, but, for the sake of the rest of us, would you mind writing a few songs to go along with the proper plot of the story?  If you like, go right ahead and someone else can tidy up the script.  Certainly I want that person to be me, but anyone on earth would do it if you asked (remember though, if by any chance they do turn you down, you have a volunteer).

Collier’s story has the quality of earthy unreality that you handle so well.  You did it in Into the Woods, and Sweeney Todd.  Please do it here.  I heard a rumor that you were doing another version of Road Show.  I love that production.  Leave it as it is.  The public should come around eventually.

Just give us, not the Primrose that we have, and certainly not the Primrose we deserve, but the Primrose that only you can deliver.

With great admiration,

Thomas Olivieri, August 2016

 

 

Tags: Officious Dolts, Open Letters, Road Show, Passion

On Watches

For the first few years that I had a cellphone I didn’t wear a watch.  I didn’t make any kind on conscious decision about it. I just stopped.  But a year or two ago I decided to wear one again.  It was a practical decision: it is much easier to discreetly look at a watch than it is to pull a phone out of one’s pocket and hit the button to see the time.  At first I had only planned on wearing it to work.

The more I wore one, however, the more I got to like it.  I bought a new watch — nothing fancy, a big round face with clear numbers and solid easy-to-see hands — and ever since the new watch has been an instrument of liberation.  The phone isn’t a tool of communication anymore.  It is just a gew-gaw to stare at.  I look at my phone less now.  I turn it off more often.  When I think that I can get away with it, I leave it at home. My watch weighs about the same as my cellphone, but it is teaching me the joys of being unencumbered.

Priceless Treasures and Ghastly

My new book of Hallowe’en stories  is back from the printer earlier than expected. If you want to get a jump on the horrific and the fantastic before the holiday,  this is your chance.

It is a short lavishly illustrated collection of tales of horror, the uncanny, and Putin.

Leonard Cohen: Working Steady

NOTE: this is an unrevised version of an entry from my old blog from August 26th, 2016

NOTE: this is an unrevised version of an entry from my old blog from August 26th, 2016   

Leonard Cohen just published an unpunctuated poem with the following lines:
.
I was always working steady
But I never called it art
I was funding my depression
Meeting Jesus reading Marx
.
I assume he means:
.
I was always working steady,
But I never called it art.
I was funding my depression,
Meeting Jesus reading Marx.
.
Rather than:
.
I was always working steady,
But I never called it art.
I was funding my depression,
Meeting Jesus, reading Marx.
.
The ambiguity in the poem, in a few places, is Cohen’s little joke on us (if you can’t see it look in the kitchen).  But it’s satisfying that the man we have long thought of as an old troubadour is doing the proper troubadour thing.  The poem was just published an hour or so ago, but I already like it.
.
I may post about it again when I have had time to think on it a little.

MUSINGS FROM THE CHEAP SEATS

I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s new book The View from the Cheap Seats, a sort of uncompleted compendium of his nonfiction from the 90s till now.  Actually I’ve been skipping over a lot of it, because I have already read it. And I’ve been thinking that it’s strange how much of single writer we can take in without realizing it.

 

And I’ve begun to wonder what influence it has.

 

I should hope that by now people are savvy enough to resist (or at least be aware of) commercials and ham-fisted political messages, but who is aware how much they are affected by the steady output of someone over the course ten or fifteen years?

 

My relationship with Gaiman is not the longest or the deepest that I have had with a writer, but it seems broader and deeper than I had ever suspected.

 

It is all for the best. Like almost everyone my age, he is one of my favorites, not only in his fiction, but here in his non-fiction as well.  Reading the book made me feel grateful in places.  I felt a special delight in finding out that someone else loves Memoirs of Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds as much I do; it is through Gaiman that I first found John Collier, one of my favorite writers.  A Gaiman essay made me remember how much I loved Ray Bradbury, whom I hadn’t read in years.

 

I cannot agree with him on some points: as much as I enjoy the artwork of Will Eisner his writing leaves me a little cold. But I didn’t pick this up out a desire to agree: if all I wanted was someone who would always agree with me. I wouldn’t need other people at all. This is a book of essays and it would be a poor book of essays if it just made the reader nod along in agreement.  We should all be seeking discourse instead of ideological purity.

 

Many of the pieces are introductions.  Even those pieces that are not introductions function as such, which is how it should be.  Criticism usually falls into one of two categories:  screeds about personal prejudices, and political posturing. There is no place or time in the English-speaking world when anyone expected that critics read what they reviewed, and, for the most part, they never have.

 

But, when writers introduce new readers to the best stuff, as Gaiman does here, they are doing the best work that critics can do.  People are smart enough to know what is good and what isn’t, but they do need to be pointed in the right direction.

 

I didn’t mean to write a book review so I will stop myself here, but this is a fine book.  You may find that you have read much of this book already, which is fine, or you may find that it is all new.  Either way there are likely many things in this book you have forgotten and many things you never knew.

 

This is a chance to remember and learn.