Here are some excerpts from the Sunday newspapers.
1. I have to say I don’t know what Wald is talking about. The Beatles always struck me as pretty bland and very white (exceptions for me: Revolver and Rubber Soul) but the Stones? The Animals? Eric Clapton? They couldn’t exist without black music.
Elijah Wald: How The Beatles Destroyed Rock `n Roll reviewed by Erik Himmelsbach in the Los Angeles Times
Wald explains that the Beatles did in fact destroy rock 'n' roll by creating a schism between white and black music that's only grown farther apart in the decades since the dawn of Beatlemania (see: disco, soul, hip-hop). Like many early rock bands, the Beatles were rooted in the music of Chuck Berry and Little Richard. As the band found its creative voice, its members abandoned their early influences. The results included "the effetely sentimental ballad" "Yesterday," a song that Wald claims "diffused" rock's energy and opened the door for milquetoasts such as Simon and Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Billy Joel and Elton John. With the "Sgt. Pepper" album, the band draped their music "in a robe of arty mystification, opening the way for the Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, Yes, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer."
"Rather than being a high point of rock," he continues, "the Beatles destroyed rock 'n' roll, turning it from a vibrant (or integrated) dance music into a vehicle for white pap and pretension." And what, again, was so revolutionary about Pat Boone?
2. The sad last days of Scott Fitzgerald have never seemed sadder than here.
Francis Kroll Ring: The Typist of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon
By David L. Ulin in The Los Angeles Times
From the start, Fitzgerald was frail, if focused. He had just returned from a disastrous trip to Cuba with Zelda -- the last time they would see each other -- and was recovering from the bender the voyage had become. "He was lying in bed," Ring says of their first meeting, "and he asked me all kinds of questions. Then he gave me some money and asked me to wire it to his daughter -- and to call him when I was done. That was his way of testing my honesty. He was only in his 40s, but he was fragile. The kind you wanted to help. He was very pale and had very blue eyes, and he was a charmer."
Toward the end of the interview, Fitzgerald asked Ring to open a drawer in his bedroom; "Instead of shirts or underwear or whatever one might expect to find in a bureau drawer, there were gin bottles," she writes in her book.
Fitzgerald wasn't, at first, able to work. "He wasn't organized yet," Ring says. "We did letters. I could type, I could do letters, I could do bookkeeping because I used to take care of my father's stuff. And at the beginning, he wanted to sit and talk. He was in bed most of the time, or he'd get up and pace around. He'd talk about books, and I was well-read, which intrigued him, because a lot of the secretaries were not well-read. There were other functions for them at the time and I wasn't that kind of girl."
"What's fascinating," muses Berg over the telephone, "is that in the end, here is Scott Fitzgerald, his wife in the asylum, his daughter at school on the East Coast, and he falls in love with another blond and in many ways adopts another girl named Frances -- like his daughter -- and replicates the family. It's spooky to me, eerie, almost like a parallel universe."
Stand By Them reviewed by Jim Windolf
The New York Times
(Ed here: This is the story of Leiber and Stoller, the great black-oriented white songwriters. They teamed up with David Ritz to write the book and to their credit talk about accusations that they cribbed this song or that from others. These accusations seem to be endemic in the music business. My favorite line in the review is the one about Norman Mailer. Not long ago I read another book review in which Mailer put in a brief appearance. The book’s writer was having a drink in a bar one night in NYC when Mailer walked in with his dog. You know how it goes with long nights of boozing and bitching. Ultimately Mailer gets into with some guy. The reason (only if you’re on eleventh drink does this make sense) ? ”The guy called Mailer’s dog a fag.” )
Windolf: I love autobiographies that chart a slow, difficult rise. This isn’t one of them. The boys score a songwriting contract soon after meeting each other at 17, and the book chugs through encounters with Elvis Presley, the wreck of the Andrea Doria (Stoller was a passenger) and a night when Norman Mailer puts Leiber in a chokehold at Elaine’s restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
The Screen’s Seduction of Graham Greene
By TERRENCE RAFFERTY
Published: June 12, 2009
This is an excellent overview of Greene’s career in movies. My favorite line here is what would have happened if Greene had become a priest.
THE British novelist Graham Greene was a connoisseur of human frailty: he savored the bouquet of sin. He was, unlike most of his countrymen, Roman Catholic, and unlike most practitioners of the literary arts, entirely comfortable with the movies. His religious affiliation was well known, to the point where, at the height of his fame, he bristled at being labeled a “Catholic writer.” His relationship to film was pretty visible too; almost all his 25 novels and many of his short stories were turned into movies or television shows (several of them more than once), and for some of the best of them, like Carol Reed’s classic “Third Man” (1949), he was also the screenwriter.
Both his Catholicism and his movie-friendliness are in full cry in John Boulting’s terrific 1947 gangster picture, “Brighton Rock,” which Greene adapted from his own novel... The movie shows, as clearly as anything he ever did, his very Catholic preoccupation with the allure of sin. And it suggests too why filmmaking might have appealed to him so strongly. In what other activity could he so reliably enjoy the dashed hopes, the queasy compromises and the nagging knowledge of failure, which for him were the staples of life in this fallen world.
But for the last 30-plus years of his life (he died in 1991) he railed against Joseph P. Mankiewicz, who brought “The Quiet American” to the screen in 1957 and turned Greene’s dangerous idealist into a sympathetic one.
That was unpardonable. (It’s a lucky thing Greene wasn’t a priest; you’d never get absolution.)