Tag: Janet Malcolm

Bad Books

I’ve been reading many bad and/or badly written books of late. One by choice, the rest by necessity. I think it was three or four birthdays ago that I vowed I would never do that again. Speaking of which, I always took it as a mark of a great book—not the only or a necessary mark, but a mark—that it contains certain passages that, because of the vividness of an image, power of an argument, or stylishness of the prose, you remember years later. Read them once, they’re with you forever. Foucault’s opening description of the execution of Damiens the regicide; Arendt’s meditation on the 1957 launching of Sputnik and how it was greeted not as a celebration of human power […]

Making Love to Lana Turner on an Empty Stomach (and Other Things That Caught My Eye)

In my first year of grad school, I read Naming Names, Victor Navasky’s study of the blacklist in Hollywood. That, and Michael Rogin’s The Intellectuals and McCarthy, made me a permanent junkie for all things McCarthy. The blacklist was a shameful episode in American history, but it had its bright spots.  One of them was Kirk Douglas, who helped break it by insisting that the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo receive the screenwriting credit for Spartacus.  The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival is now honoring the 94-year-old Douglas with its Freedom of Expression Award. Douglas discusses his experiences with Spartacus—as well as being Jewish in Hollywood—here.  Best quote from Douglas: “I always fasted on Yom Kippur. I still worked on the movie […]