Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Curing a Literary Hangover

We apologize for the lack of recent book blogging but most of us are currently mired in our sales conferences for the Spring 2008 books. These usually run for a week or so and we basically don't stop talking about books the whole time. Then there's at least a week prior to sales conference of prep and non-stop reading, and then a week after it for absorbing all your notes and compiling all the sales material to go out and sell. Three weeks of exhausting exhilaration all in aid of finding that perfect 30 second pitch to a book buyer. So the good news is that we'll all have lots of exciting new books to blog about in the future, but bear with us as we recover from our information overloads.
Last weekend, I got home, flopped on my couch and didn't want to leave. So I didn't. And found the perfect solution to a literary hangover - a mini filmfest. I piled all those DVDs I've been meaning to watch into a large pile and chose at whim. I was intending to watch 5 films over the weekend. I ended up seeing 13 with not a dud in the bunch. There is something about popcorn and PJs at 6am that feels very decadent. And these films were all so good; I was completely and happily absorbed through all of them. My favourite "escape" destination is always Paris so first up was Jean-Luc Godard's classic Breathless - a film that will have you making funny grimaces in the bathroom mirror. Avenue Montaigne (a delightful, romantic French comedy) and Truffault's The Last Metro (with Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu) followed. One of the books we discussed at sales conference was Chinese author Su Tong's latest, Binu and the Great Wall. He wrote the novel that the movie Raise the Red Lantern was based on, so that went into the DVD player next (gorgeous cinematography with of course a lot of focus on red). Which led to Krzysztof Kieslowski's Trois Coleurs: Rouge. After Breathless, I wanted to see some more experimental film classics, so Ingmar Bergman's Persona was next (I can't even find the words to describe it, but one of the most terrifically stark, disturbingly beautiful films I've ever seen) followed by Cocteau's Blood of a Poet (no, I didn't understand it either, but who cares?). On Criterion's DVD of this film, there' s a fascinating documentary on Cocteau which led me to the only bit of reading I did do this weekend. Cocteau talked at length of his admiration for Raymond Radiguet, a French author who died tragically at the age of 20. His masterpiece is Count D'Orgel's Ball which has an introduction by Cocteau, and is the story of a triangular relationship acted out amidst the superficial French society similar to that portrayed by Proust, but Radiguet does it in only 160 pages. There are quirky characters such as a man who becomes obsessed with the number of commas in Dante. I'm halfway through and loving it. Wars continue to pervade the backgrounds of a lot of upcoming novels so I was inspired to watch three very different war movies. King and Country is a very moving anti-war WWI movie about a deserter on trial. Europa, Europa follows a Jewish teenager through various countries and disguises as he tries to hide his identity from the Nazis. And the BBC recently released a number of filmed productions of Shaw plays, so I watched Heartbreak House with John Gielgud and Lesley-Anne Down. (Zeppelins will play a big part in Russell Banks' new spring novel The Reserve). Then my final three were Good Bye Lenin! (absolutely wonderful but had me in tears by the end), an amusing Irish film called Intermission (Love Actually meets Pulp Fiction) and my one American film on the list, The Prestige (great suspenseful script). Hangover cured, emotional catharsis reached, and I'm ready to go out to sell. Which is a good thing as I hit the road later today.

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