Some of my work on Updike was discussed on The Dish with Andrew Sullivan.
Some of my work on Ross Macdonald was discussed on Pretty Sinister Books.
Here is my interview with superstar music impresario Wendy Starland.
Here is my interview with Pulitzer Prize nominee Olympia Vernon.
Here is my interview with the editor of Best American Short Stories, Heidi Pitlor.
Here is my interview with acclaimed artist Emil Kazaz.
My musing on John D. Macdonald, Travis McGee, and the chicks was picked up on The Rap Sheet.

Macbeth (PBS, 2009)


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Note: I have more visual analysis of this production at Cinematheque Quinones Dot Blogspot Dot Com.


http://cinemathequequinones.blogspot.com/2014/05/macbeth-pbs-2009.html


            We seek originality in new presentations of Shakespeare (I suppose) in order to confirm our belief that, somehow, there is more flexibility built into his plays than into the work of most other dramatists.  So when we see Lady Macbeth take a chocolate cake out of a refrigerator to serve it to Duncan, or see Macbeth blow a kiss at Ross after scolding him at dinner, we allow ourselves both a smile and a period of reflection.
            At the same time, there is perhaps a line between tinkling and changing, and I guess I would venture that some of Rupert Goold’s tinkling in this mostly impressive production borders on modest change.  To take one example, the three witches here participate in the action in new ways we aren’t used to seeing – as nurses attending to the wounded men of Duncan’s army and as hired help in the kitchen attending to the preparation of meals at Inverness.  A second example – here The Porter is given a substantial role well beyond the scope of the usual one scene.  A third – we are shown invented scenes, however brief, of the hunting down and execution of political dissenters. 
            There are also some logical knots.  For instance, we’ve known for centuries that the witches will meet Macbeth upon the heath, and the line is spoken here, yet they meet him in a banquet hall.  And in the grand finale Macbeth and Macduff fight not with swords but with knives, which means we are asked to accept that Macduff cleanly severs Macbeth’s head from the torso with a hunting knife. 

            But these are small, even trifling, observations.  In my view mostly everything here is grand.  The entire cast is excellent, and excellently chosen.  Even what is, in a film, a huge annoyance – having one actor play two different parts (which I understand was an Elizabethan commonplace) is here actually kind of fun.  By the end of the film the style of the director, Goold, is both recognizable and likeable.  The shots down passageways and tunnels, through bars and fences, the framing of a character in the left foreground in focus with another off the shoulder, behind and to the right, blurred, these come to feel like as much a part of the Macbeth experience as Shakespeare’s very words.  Fleance eating a slice of chocolate cake while he announces the moon is down; a Banquo and a Macduff who look in some scenes like they belong more in David Lean’s Brief Encounter than in Shakespeare; Malcolm saying he saw Cawdor’s death when, plainly, there is no one in the room but Cawdor and the executioner; these all give a little kick of vigor to the familiar.  And when Paul Shelley as Duncan tells Kate Fleetwood as Lady Macbeth “By your leave, hostess!” and she makes a little hand gesture we’ve all seen hundreds of women make I believe this is the first time in my conscious life I’ve ever wondered if it was the director or the performer who initiated the little extra touch.  

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