Daily Archives: September 11, 2021

On Robin Wood’s TRAMMEL UP THE CONSEQUENCE

Now that I’ve finally read Robin Wood’s fascinating posthumous novel, an odd thriller involving amnesia, I’m pleased to report that it’s much better than I expected it to be, both as a page-turner and as what I would describe as a critic’s novel — even though the latter quality only became fully clear to me in the book’s closing pages.

The story as a whole can be described as a shotgun marriage or as a conversation — or perhaps as some of both — between a model of prose fiction that is literary, high- modernist, and intellectual and another model that is nonliterary, populist, and nonintellectual. These models and positions are represented by the novel’s two leading characters, a man and a woman respectively, the latter of whom is the story’s principal narrator and thus represents Wood’s own preferred position. It would be difficult to say much more about this without introducing spoilers — an especially heinous crime according to the nonintellectual model, and one that should clearly be avoided when it comes to the gradual revelations in this plot — but the degree to which the story as a whole represents a running debate between these positions reflects many of Wood’s own positions and tastes as a critic, which ran all the way from modernist art films to exploitation horror films — both of which are reflected, in different ways, in Trammel Up the Consequence.

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THE AGE OF MOVIES : “Globalized” Kael

 

One thing suggested by Sanford Schwartz’s editing of The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael (Library of America) is that Kael’s editing of her own work is superior to his. I admire his discernment in including her thoughtful and uncharacteristically generous review of Marguerite Duras’ Le camion (The Truck) — even though I regret the suppression of its original context, in the September 26, 1977 issue of The New Yorker, where it was sandwiched between Kael’s eloquent two-paragraph dismissal of Star Wars and a longer mixed review of Short Eyes, in a column pointedly called “Contrasts”.

In her final collection For Keeps (1994), Kael omitted the other two reviews, but she also had the foresight to delete the final sentence of her review of The Truck, which referred to its original context: “At the opposite end from popcorn filmmaking, it’s a demonstration of creative force — which doesn’t always cut as clean as that laser sword in Alec Guinness’s hand.” Schwartz also leaves out the reviews of Star Wars and Short Eyes, yet he retains the final sentence in the review of The Truck, which now reads like a non sequitur coming from left field (or from outer space).… Read more »

Reflections on September 11 and its Aftermath

From the online Australian web site Senses of Cinema, November 2001. Some of this piece recycles some bits from “Make No Mistake: The Day the Towers Fell“, commissioned but not published by the Chicago Reader a couple of months earlier. — J.R.

Like many other Americans lately, I’ve been scared -– but like only some Americans, I’ve been scared both of Middle Eastern terrorists and those whom I regard as American terrorists, almost in equal measure. For what can be truly terrifying on occasion is how alike these two kinds of myopic, intolerant individuals can seem to be: not just religious fanatics, but ordinary Americans who all of a sudden start thinking of the vanished World Trade Center as their own private property and the terrorist attacks of September 11 as simply and unambiguously an “attack on America” –- thereby allowing the Middle Eastern terrorists and their assumed positions to set the terms of the discussion and automatically dismissing the many non-Americans who were destroyed in the attacks as irrelevant.

Three disparate yet characteristic examples of everyday American “terrorism”: (1) A headline recently blazoning Chicago’s only tabloid (Roger Ebert’s paper), the Sun-Times, announcing that the Taliban was poisoning U.S.… Read more »