ESSAYS, ARTICLES, & REVIEWS
July 28, 2000
I love to read. I love books. I am surrounded by books, thousands of them. The sight of them pleases and soothes me. Pulitzer Prize-winners in first editions, two entire bookcases of movie books, a shelf on religion with every major holy book (including B’hai), five 7-foot cases of fiction and non-fiction alphabetical by author, humor, drama, World Book Encyclopedias, an unabridged dictionary, travel books, almanacs, reference books, many books of quotes, atlases, the complete hardcover Yale Shakespeare. Many people’s first question upon seeing all of my books is, “Have you read them all?” No, of course not. I don’t think I’ve read half of them (most of the books I’ve read I took out of the library). Part of the great pleasure is being surrounded by so many unknown adventures.
The first book I remember giving me a feeling of cozy, warm, completely transported pleasure was “The Godfather” in 1969 when I was eleven years old. I recall fondly curling up on my bed and reading in complete absorption night after night. That such things occurred in the world, and that I should be allowed to know about them was just way too wonderful for words.
And then there’s all of the filmmaking and film history books I’ve been devouring endlessly since I was a child. I’ve always tried to read them between other kinds of books because they seem like such brain candy to me. Interestingly, I think, I don’t read much fiction anymore. I used to only read fiction and science fiction when I was younger. My tastes have changed. Now, the most luxurious kind of book for me is a long biography or autobiography. I recently read “Wizard: The Life & Times of Nikola Tesla” and completely enjoyed every moment. My favorite biographer is Robert K. Massie and his books “Nicholas & Alexandra,” “Peter the Great” and “Dreadnought” are as good as books get from my limited perspective. That it takes Mr. Massie ten years a book is the difficult part for his fans.
Right now I’m reading Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography, a book I’ve owned for 20 years and which I am finally reading. It’s still absolutely incredible and wonderful to me to be transported back to London in the 1890s as little Charlie and his older brother Sydney come home to find that their mother has gone crazy and has been taken away to an insane asylum. They both end up in a workhouse, just like Oliver Twist. Chaplin wrote the book in 1964 (when I was six), which is not all that long ago for someone to have grown up living in a Charles Dickens novel.
Good books and movies and stories in general transport us to different times and places and let us see how other people have dealt with this dilemma called life, which, let’s face it, we none of us will ever get a particularly good enough handle on. But it’s always good to see how others dealt or tried to deal with it. We can even occasionally pick up useful ideas.
Books are also a way to set standards and goals for ourselves. Do you think you’re really smart and an over-achiever? Read about Tesla or Edison or Alexander the Great. You think you’re a filmmaker? Read what Orson Welles or Alfred Hitchcock had to say. Do you think you’re a good writer? Read Willa Cather or Joseph Conrad or Norman Mailer and see what’s actually possible.
Everything we humans know we’ve gone to the trouble of writing down in books, and all you have to do is pick them up and read them.
Here’s a few to start with . . .
1. “The Director” by Richard L. Bare
2. “Shot By Shot” by Steven M. Katz
3. “On Screen Directing” by Edward Dmytryk
4. “On Screen Editing” by Edward Dmytryk
5. “When the Shooting Stops (the Cutting Begins)” by Ralph Rosenblum & Robert Karen
6. “Adventures in the Screen Trade” by William Goldman
7. “Which Lie Did I Tell?” by William Goldman
8. “The Total Filmmaker” by Jerry Lewis
9. “Painting With Light” John Alton
10. “Making Movies” Sidney Lumet
11. “Hollywood” by Charles Bukowski
12. "The Art of Dramatic Writing" by Lajos Egri
1. “Who the Hell Made It” by Peter Bogdanovich
2. “This is Orson Welles” by Orson Welles & Peter Bogdanovich
"This is Orson Welles"
by Orson Welles & Peter Bogdanovich
3. “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” by Peter Biskind
"Easy Riders, Raging Bulls"
by Peter Biskind
4. “An Empire of Their Own” by Neal Gabler
5. “Conversations With Wilder” by Cameron Crowe
6. “Eyes Wide Open” by Fredric Raphael
"Eyes Wide Open" by Fredric Raphael
7. “Hitchcock/Truffaut” by Francois Truffaut
8. “A Talent For Trouble” by Jan Herman
9. “Preston Sturges” by Preston Sturges
10. “A Tree is a Tree” by King Vidor
11. “Lawrence of Arabia: The 30th Anniversary Pictorial History” by L. Robert Morris & Lawrence Raskin
12. “Pappy: The Life of John Ford” by Dan Ford
13. “A Siegel Film” by Don Siegel
"A Siegel Film" by Don Siegel
14. “A Life” by Elia Kazan
15. “My First Hundred Years in Hollywood” by Jack L. Warner with Dean Jennings
16. “The Public is Never Wrong” by Adolph Zukor
17. “I Blow My Own Horn” by Jesse L. Lasky with Don Weldon
18. “Harlan Ellison’s Watching” by Harlan Ellison
"Harlan Ellison's Watching"
19. “Something Like An Autobiography” by Akira Kurosawa
"Something Like an Autobiography"
by Akira Kurosawa
20. “The Name Above the Title” by Frank Capra
21. “A Short Time For Insanity” by William A. Wellman
22. “The Light on Her Face” by Joseph Walker, ASC, and Jaunita Walker
23. “Fun in a Chinese Laundry” by Joseph Von Sternberg
24. “An Open Book” by John Huston
25. “Picture” Lillian Ross
26. “Orson Welles” by Barbara Leaming
27. “My Last Sigh” by Luis Buñuel
"My Last Sigh" by Luis Bunuel
28. "Pieces of Time” by Peter Bogdanovich
29. “My Wonderful World of Slapstick” by Buster Keaton & Charles Samuels
"My Wonderful World of Slapstick"
by Buster Keaton & Charles Samuels
30. “Swanson On Swanson” by Gloria Swanson
1. “Peter the Great” by Robert K. Massie
2. “Nicholas & Alexandra” by Robert K. Massie
3. “Dreadnought” by Robert K. Massie
4. “Brave Companions” by David McCullough
5. “Truman” by David McCullough
"Truman" by David McCullough
6. “Mornings on Horseback” by David McCullough
7. “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris
8. “Wizard: The Life and times of Nikola Tesla” by Marc J. Seifer
9. “Longitude” by Dava Sobel
10. “Edison: A Biography” by Matthew Josephson
11. “The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard
12. “Myths To Live By” Joseph Campbell
13. “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” by Richard P. Feynman
14. “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat Moon
15. “The Conquest of Happiness” by Bertrand Russell
1. “The First Man in Rome” by Colleen McCullough
2. “The Grass Crown” by Colleen McCullough
3. “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry
"Lonesome Dove" 1st Edition cover
4. “Horseman, Pass By” by Larry McMurtry
5. “The Idiot” by Fyodor Dostoevsky
6. “Augustus” by John Williams
7. “I, Claudius” by Robert Graves
8. “Claudius the God” by Robert Graves
"Claudius the God" by Robert Graves
"The Magnificent Ambersons"
1st Edition frontpiece
"One Of Ours" by Willa Cather
11. “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton
12. “The Executioner’s Song” by Norman Mailer
13. “The Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara
"The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
14. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
"To Kill a Mockingbird" 1st Edition dust jacket, with a photograph of the author, Harper Lee, taken by her friend, Truman Capote.
15. “Out of Africa” by Isak Dinesen
16. “Seventh Heaven” by Alice Hoffman
17. “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” by Ann Tyler
18. “Angry Candy” by Harlan Ellison
19. “The Last Tycoon” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
20. “The Collected Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway”
21. “The Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad
22. “Dog Soldiers” Robert Stone
23. “Boys & Girls Together” by William Goldman
24. “King Rat” by James Clavell
25. “Shogun” by James Clavell
26. “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller
27. “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut
"Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., in the original trade paperback version I read as a kid in the late sixties and early seventies.
"Canary in a Cathouse" by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., a very rare, out-of-print paperback that got repackaged as "Welcome To the Monkey House".
28. “From Here To Eternity” by James Jones
29. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey
30. “Cockpit” by Jerzy Kosinski
31. “Rosemary’s Baby” by Ira Levin
32. “Elmer Gantry” by Sinclair Lewis
33. “Member of the Wedding” by Carson McCullers
34. “The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe”
35. “The Catcher In the Rye” by J. D. Salinger
"The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger,
in an early paperback edition.
"Nine Stories" by J. D. Salinger, 1st Edition cover (I just picked this up in Oregon).
36. “Julian” by Gore Vidal
3. “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” by Peter Biskind
"The Executioner's Song"
by Norman Mailer