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Jennifer

"I was furious with myself when I grew too tired to keep reading."

I HATE that! It is at that point when I hope advances in technology will find a way to project the written word onto ones inner eyelid. You could at least close your eyes, yet read for awhile longer.

Nice post.

Hmmmm, the most recent story that left me wanting to get back to it and thinking there was more was "Paper and Dust". I looked around the house for the book and then remembered it was a short story posted on someone's *#%**#* blog!

eric

I'll take this in a little different direction.

Once when reading one of Allan Furst's WWII novels I was struck by how good the writing was and had to keep pausing every couple pages just to let it sink in. You also find yourself slowing down becasue you don't want them to end.

As for Geniuses into old age, Kurosawa was how old when he made Ran?

burritoboy

First, Simon Callow's Road to Xanadu is among the WORST biographies of Welles (Thomson's biography is actually even worse, but Callow's is pretty bad as well).

"At the time, the “giant boy,” as Welles was often called, seems to have been too absorbed in his pleasures and projects to apprehend fully the ramifications of the destruction of Ambersons—and his own role in that destruction."

The portions of the South America project that have survived are simply incredible - if that project had come together, that film could have topped both Citizen Kane and Magnificent Ambersons - and The Magnificent Ambersons, even in its current state, is the greatest American movie ever made (in my own opinion). I think it could have been the greatest documentary ever made

Also, Welles' sent perfectly good, extremely detailed editing instructions on how to edit The Magnificent Ambersons. It wasn't his fault that the studio both completely ignored his instructions and decided to destroy the film. Shouldn't we put the blame where it belongs?

"Orson Welles' period of genius seems to have lasted about thirty years. Unfortunately for him, it began when he was ten."

The only way anyone could say that is if they've been able to see Welles' late works Don Quixote and The Other Side of the Wind. Since neither has been released (though appropriately credentialed film scholars can see most of Don Quixote in the Madrid film archives), very few people can really address the substance of Welles' last two-three decades of work. Many critics and scholars who have seen both of these works say that both are masterpieces of the highest rank.

The most readily available of Welles' late work, F for Fake, is an astonishing work in its own right and is one of the greatest American films of the 1970s.

Cryptic Ned

Ok, your turn again. What was the last book you read that you'd have kept reading alone at a bus stop at midnight while letting the buses go by?

I think it was the novel "Martha Peake" by Patrick McGrath (author of Asylum, Spider and The Grotesque, all of which are now movies). I read about one novel every two years, and I found this to be a particularly implausible story, but it was very exciting and the characters were all sympathetic in one weird way or another.

blue girl

Books I couldn't stop reading...almost every one I've read by Augusten Burrows. He's crazy! And I couldn't read them fast enough.

Last summer I read "Plan B: Further Thoughts On Faith" by Anne Lamott. I would hide upstairs so I could keep reading it.

blue girl! What are you doing up there?

Oh, you know, just doing my chores like I should be doing!

Several years ago when I was reading "And the Sea Is Never Full" by Elie Wiesel, I would read late into the night. And if I caught myself having to re-read sentences over and over because I was so tired, I would make myself close the book. I felt it was disrespectful of me to read his work if I my eyes were falling shut. I wanted to be able to grasp his every thought.

Lance

burritoboy: Simon Callow's Road to Xanadu is among the WORST biographies of Welles (Thomson's biography is actually even worse, but Callow's is pretty bad as well).

I'm sorry to hear that. I'm still enjoying it. But here's my question, bb. If Callow's is bad, and Thomson's even worse, whose Welles' bio are we to compare them to? What's the best?

As for the unreleased films, that's why I wrote that Welles period of genius seems to have lasted thirty years. Can't judge what I haven't seen. I'd be very happy if Quixote and The Other Side of the Wind see the light of day, happier still if they prove that Welles was one of the lucky ones whose powers lasted into old age. I've seen what there is to see of The Magnificent Ambersons and it makes me pray that somebody finds all that lost film soon.

ellent

Still-productive genius: Robert Altman

burritoboy

"But here's my question, bb. If Callow's is bad, and Thomson's even worse, whose Welles' bio are we to compare them to? What's the best?"

Joseph McBride's Orson Welles
James Naremore's The Magic World of Orson Welles

"I'd be very happy if Quixote and The Other Side of the Wind see the light of day, happier still if they prove that Welles was one of the lucky ones whose powers lasted into old age."

The Other Side of the Wind is apparently very nearly ready for release, once Welles' daughter Beatrice stops suing everybody in sight. Bogdanovich has either finished editing the film, or is extremely close to doing so. F for Fake alone is enough to convince me that Welles was equally a great artist in his late fifties as he had been 30 years earlier. Most people who have been able to see Don Quixote and The Other Side of the Wind say that they're both masterpieces of high caliber.

Bill Altreuter

During the primaries running up to the 2000 election the candidates were asked what their favorite books were. Gore liked "The Red and the Black". Bush, of course, said the Bible. And Bradley at first brushed the question off as being reductive, or something, then relented and said "Nostromo".

I thought I'd read most of Joseph Conrad, but I hadn't read that, so I picked it up and started. Perhaps the first 50 pages were slow going, and I might have put it down for good, but as it happened I was about to take a four or five day trip somewhere, and it was just about the right size for a couple of longish flights and reading myself to sleep while I was there so I brought it along.

Well, sir, it takes off like a rocket. I finished it on the plane and immediately re-read it, just so I could figure out how it was done.

Oh, and my still productive genius is Philip Roth.

burritoboy

"Also, name some geniuses who were productive into their old age"

Samuel Fuller: The Big Red One and White Dog showed that he was an even more important artist in the 1980s than he had been in the 1950s and 1960s.

Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Alain Resnais, Agnes Varda, Claude Chabrol and Chris Marker have all released films within the past 2-3 years; most of which were excellent, some of which are masterworks.

Exiled in New Jersey

Who kept their genius? Verdi, penning his first comic opera Falstaff in his last years.

I blush but the book I kept on reading until the sun came up was Rebecca.

Claire

(I loved Rebecca, too. DuMaurier could spin a good yarn.)

jillbryant

It's ridiculous but I get kind of cranky when people use the term genius. Maybe it's because I worked with someone who used the term indiscriminately (including on me - kind of like the "breathtaking" comment in Seinfeld. You feel pretty full of yourself for two minutes until you realize the same term is being used about someone who can remember a phone number without writing it down...)

Maybe one measure SHOULD be longevity - otherwise, the word would just be attached to the "genius" work and not to the creator.
I've also wondered if an artistic piece of work should be called genius if it is only genius for its time. For example, a movie like "Citizen Kane" needs no background explanation...it is great no matter when it was done.
And are you a genius if you only have one offering (everything else - if there is anything else - being some version of the one) but that one is incredible?

Since I really haven't been reading recently - it's awful and I need a great book to get me back in mode - the last page-turner I can remember is "I, Claudius" which I read quite a while ago. But, it is justifiably a classic and it was one of those books that gives you so much background of the time, it makes you feel like a (one-source) historian...

velvet goldmine

A genius productive into his old age: Philip Roth is having an amazing Autumn.

Campaspe

I haven't read Callow's bio of Welles, but Callow is a deft and witty writer and I can easily imagine the book being fascinating. I am still wanting to get around to his Charles Laughton bio. I agree with BB about the general tendency toward unjust criticism of Welles for leaving for South America--count me as one who always feel guilty when she likes a film by Robert Wise, the editor who helped the studio butcher Ambersons. I am afraid we will never see a complete print, though that is such a Holy Grail someone recently wrote a novel about the mere possibility. Welles said later that what he truly couldn't understand, beyond the botched editing, was the way the studio simply destroyed the cut footage, without even trying to put it aside for him. Ahead of his time as always, Welles might have done a "director's cut" if he'd been able.

Was it Welles, or someone else, who said an artist does his best work in his 20s and then in his 70s? anyway, when it comes to early burnout, I hestitate to tar many Hollywood artists with that label because so often it was the studios lighting the match. (I think of Erich von Stroheim, for example.) And some non-Hollywood types may simply have said all they have to say, like Harper Lee. Truman Capote, though, is surely an example of early creative burnout. Woody Allen, now 71, is certainly still very productive and while Scoop isn't close to his best, there is still time to see if he fulfills Welles' dictum. For an example of someone producing some of his or her best work in old age, I always think of Claude Chabrol or Luis Bunuel.

Finally -- a book to make me miss a bus stop. Gosh, I haven't had one in a while, but I am always looking. I think my last don't-bother-me-I'm-reading book was Luis Bunuel's autobiography!

Campaspe

Oh, and to JillBryant: No, I don't think longevity is a criterion for genius. It was Stroheim, living out his span in Europe, who said poignantly, "If you live in France, for instance, and you have written one good book, or painted one good picture, or directed one outstanding film, fifty years ago, and nothing ever since, you are still recognized as an artist and honored accordingly. People take off their hats and call you maitre. They do not forget." He went on to contrast that, bitterly, with Hollywood.

If Welles had done only Citizen Kane, and not another foot for film for the rest of his life, I'd still call him a genius.

Ed D

The one I re-read every couple of years is an old copy of Les Miserable that I found in a library sale in Newburg, Indiana one summer. It's old and badly printed but remarks that it contains the latest updates by the author. Other versions have not been as good.

Others, The Frontiersmen by Allan Eckert. Coming Into the Country by John McPhee - the parts about Eagle Alaska and its inhabitants. Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun. Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. And there was one of the Tom Clancy books - Without Remorse - I couldn't put down.

tom truthful

LM: you featured a painting by Manet earlier in the week, how's about a nod to Papa Monet?
As for "genius" having a "shelf life"...I guess that depends on what's a genius.(The only person I'm certain that moniker applies to is Shakespeare.)
I like to think that two of my Artistic "heroes" - Joyce and Picasso - reached their prime rather late in terms of years lived.
And, the greatest "hero" of them all - John Lennon - never had a chance to prove how great his mature period would have been...but we got a taste of how wonderful the 80's and 90's would have sounded, if only he hadn't been murdered on the streets of New York.

bach

A wise film scholar I knew once said "Orson Welles' primary career was not filmaking." What? "Wells was deeply involved in international relations and politics. Filmaking was a cover and advocation." Same guy said "There is far more of Howard Hughes in John Foster Kane than William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was not pissed about Marion being dissed, it was the treatment of his role in war-mongering that seemed threatning."

If you haven't locked you mind to prevent theft, think about it.

burritoboy

"A wise film scholar I knew once said "Orson Welles' primary career was not filmaking." What? "Wells was deeply involved in international relations and politics. Filmaking was a cover and advocation." Same guy said "There is far more of Howard Hughes in John Foster Kane than William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was not pissed about Marion being dissed, it was the treatment of his role in war-mongering that seemed threatning.""

Of course, since Welles made a movie about Howard Hughes - F for Fake - it's pretty clear that Welles was thinking about Hughes for a very long time indeed. James Naremore (and some of my own future blog-posts) make it clear how politically involved Welles was (answer: extremely so).

Jennifer

James Naremore!?!?!? I took one of his classes in college. What a great professor. The class was pure fun and info. I haven't thought of him in ages.

Kate Marie

A genius who remained productive (and arguably did his best work) in "old age"? Henry James.

daveminnj

elmore leonard. don't take him for granted.

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