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Sarah Weinman
I write about books and publishing, primarily.
I write about books and publishing, primarily.

Sarah's posts

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On that class action lawsuit filed against the 'Agency Five' (what, Random House showed up too late for the defendant party?) and why the logic is, to say the least, rather tortured. And oh yeah, Hagens Berman "is based in a town called Seattle..."

(This is also a test of G+'s ability to share paywall links, and I'm pleased to see the headline and byline come through. This is the house opinion, but Michael wrote the piece.)

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I wasn't about to let a little (okay, a lot) of rain deter me from going to Saturday night's Shelabration at Summerstage (+Edward Champion +John M. Osborne +Lara Osborne were fellow brave troupers.) And it was a lot of fun! John Ventimiglia killed singing a bluesy version of "The Ugliest Man in Town" and, in the second half, following on someone else's Johnny Cash-inflected "A Boy Named Sue" with the more ribald sequel "Father of a Boy Named Sue", aping Silverstein's gravel-tenor singing voice (a difficult feat to pull off, I should add.) Richard Belzer had a blast - and so did the audience - hamming it up to "Cover of the Rolling Stone"; Annabella Sciorra did a fine rendition of "The Smoke-Off" and trombonist Roswell Rudd did the Dr. Hook version of "Freakin' at the Freakers Ball" (which drives harder than the Dixieland-inflected version on Shel's album of the same name.) Ricky Jay read poems in voice-over. Pat Dailey sang a Bush-I-era topical song which was pretty clever (and made me wish he'd release an adult-centric album of his collaborations with Shel to follow up "Underwater Land.") Bobby Bare Jr., did a lovely version of "This Guitar is For Sale" (though, alas, his "Things I Didn't Say" - one of my favorite Shel lyrics, and a song Dennis Locorriere pretty much owns - was far too overproduced, with the aforementioned lyrics getting lost in the mix.) Lou Reed and Emily Haynes duetted on "25 Minutes to Go" and of course Lou was going to interpolate a more contemporary spin, even though it kind of misses the point, but it's Lou Reed.

Then Laurie Anderson showed up to do her version of "The Giving Tree." There is no way around this: it sucked ass. Granted, she's a taste I have not acquired, having been turned off her spoken-word style about 20 years or so ago, but the creepy electronica ambience did not fit, not when Shel's original voice-over is so widely available on YouTube now. And then she had to go and break down her gear while Melvin van Peebles was rambling his way through Rosalie's Good Eats Cafe. Not cool.

That aside, Hal Willner produced a mighty good evening (if overlong at about 3 hours) and I pretty much want my copy of EVERY THING ON IT ASAP (or at least as close to the September 20 pub date as possible.) Though there was an evil part of me that wished Marilyn Manson could have shown up to sing "Get My Rocks Off"....

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Mix the recent documentary PROJECT NIM (or better, the book NIM CHIMPSKY) with FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON and the best of the PLANET OF THE APES movies and you get RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, which was massively enjoyable. Bonus: James Franco in character admitting everything was his fault!
Ape Has Rebooted Ape!

I love The Planet of the Apes movies. All of them. I own the full set on DVD and have watched them often, along with the DVD collection of the TV series, and even a copy of Tim Burton's disappointing reboot, though the less said about that one, the better. Years back, Film Forum did a PotA Marathon, in chronological order, and a friend and I took the day off and caught the whole thing. There were about 15 of us there for the first three movies, and then maybe three times that for the final two.

The 11:15am showing today for Rise of the Planet of the Apes was as packed as the equivalent showing for Harry Potter's finale a couple of weekends ago. I'd never heard of Rise's director Rupert Wyatt, or its co-writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, and there's nothing in any of their resumes that suggested they could pull of a credible reboot, but the trailers looked promising so I was looking forward to at least a fun movie, and perhaps a legitimate contender for movie of the summer honors. And they pulled it off!

The shift from nuclear holocaust to genetic engineering (with a dash of corporate greed) was a smart move towards more fertile storytelling ground, the motion capture work by Andy Serkis and others is convincing, and the many clever nods to the original are fun without being in your face. (I'm looking at you, Sam Raimi.) Overall, it's a solid popcorn thriller with a bit more substance than typical summer blockbusters; it does a nice job of developing a few solid characters before launching into an exciting third-act climax, and nicely tees up potential sequels in a brief epilogue.

It's also the first movie of the summer I want to see again. Like, right now!

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Late on this, thanks to vacation/not being at home, but couldn't let the passing of the great forensic sculptor Frank Bender go unnoticed. He was really something else, both in work and in life (read Ted Botha's THE MAN WITH THE CROOKED NOSE to get a good starter portrait of Bender's ferocious personality.) His busts pulsated with life that in turn gave unidentified people their real names back. He lived at least a year longer than everyone expected, probably by sheer force of will. And it's too damn bad his life ended as he became enmeshed in one of the most fucked-up lawsuits I've ever covered - and am still on the trail of. Really, the more I think about it, the more it makes my eyes bleed in WTFery.

So, Brian Garfield's DEATH WISH - written in 1972, the basis for all those Charles Bronson revenge movies - was really, really, good. Kind of incredible, actually, and not quite what I was expecting. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if Neil Jordan went back to the book to get some story structure ideas for his underrated movie THE BRAVE ONE, starring Jodie Foster in what's essentially the Bronson role. Because most of the revenging doesn't happen until the novel's final fifty pages, and by then you're so deeply immersed in Paul Benjamin's understandable rage, helplessness and despair over what happened to his wife and daughter, and how this senseless act transforms him from an empathic liberal to radical, tough-on-crime conservative. There's a lot going on here, from social commentary on New York City as a would-be war zone (five years before the city really had its Summer of Hell of near bankruptcy) to grappling with Nixonian malaise to what it is to love someone and not be able to help them or save them from terrible events. The book is out of print, too - so someone, please reissue DEATH WISH!

(now to find the sequel, DEATH SENTENCE, which I gather isn't quite as good but still looks interesting.)

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Of course there was a visit to a used bookstore -- in a barn! -- while on vacation. Among the treasures procured for cheap was a copy of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MYSTERY AND DETECTION, edited by the late Chris Steinbrunner and Otto Penzler and published in 1976 (for which both won an Edgar and basically made their names, leading to Penzler's career as we know it.) I've only leafed through it so will have more to say later, so for now enjoy the back cover, with photos of the two thirtysomething editors.

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This move has been in the works for a while now, and was one of the reasons I gave up my "Dark Passages" column earlier this year. It is always better to read the tea leaves and walk before you are pushed.

It's semi-official after three days of this: G+ is where I hang out while I'm on vacation, and Twitter is for work. Also: James Cain is perfect vacation reading.

In the process of doing some research on Boris Vian - whose books I really want to read now - I finally realized his novel I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVES (written as "Vernon Sullivan" in 1947) bears no relation whatsoever to the 1978 movie I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. (Which, now that I'm thinking about it, clearly had to be an influence on Stieg Larsson. What is this movie but man som hatar kvinnor personified?)

It only took me twelve years but I finally read Melissa Bank's THE GIRL'S GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING and to my pleasant surprise, I really liked it. It helped that some years have passed since its publicity heyday, but the book also falls into the category of books I think of as "books that aren't about publishing even though they are" and which always amuse me. I'm sure there was plenty of guessing about which house Jane Rosenal worked for (Harcourt?) and who her boss, Mimi, and boyfriend, Archie (clearly at Knopf) really stood in for. But those are side issues to what's ultimately a very straightforward, no-bullshit portrait of a woman making her way in the world, one that both exists and doesn't anymore.
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