A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Joëlle's blog has the first three pages of our story for Madman Atomic Comics #16, "Last Night the Atomics Saved My Life." You can see them by clicking through on this teaser image.

Laura Allred colored them up and sent them along in the hope of them being used for my interview with Things From Another World, but I guess we crossed paths with that article on the way to the web, since it popped up this morning without them.

Even so, you can read my talk with Elisabeth Forsythe at TFAW.com, complete with a 10-page preview of You Have Killed Me. It's a career-overview kind of thing, not just a Killed Me post-mortem.

Current Soundtrack: Prince, Lotusflow3r

e-mail = golightly at confessions123.com * Criterion Confessions * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * ComicSpace * Last FM * GoodReads * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"She lay so still. I knew that something was wrong. And I said,
'Help me, girls. What should I do? What should I do?!'

Oni Press has just published a 31-page preview for You Have Killed Me.

Visit the site for ordering info and to read more.

NOTE: This preview is from an uncorrected proof, so forgive a few typos and some hiccups with misplaced balloons.

Diamond Previews have their due date for initial orders this coming Tuesday, March 31, so if you are planning to buy this from your local comic book store, tell them by then. While you're at it, add a Madman Atomic Comics #16 on top!

Current Soundtrack: Whyte Boots, "Nightmare;" Franz Ferdinand, "Ulysses;" The Tears, "Low-life"

e-mail = golightly at confessions123.com * Criterion Confessions * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * ComicSpace * Last FM * GoodReads * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I received advance copies of Portland Noir in the mail yesterday. Our story looks good. It shrank down really well and printed with really solid blacks. It looks cool in amongst all the prose.

As far as I know, you all still won't be able to get it until late May or early June, but go ahead and preorder it here: Portland Noir (Akashic Noir)

Joëlle and I are going to be all over the place in the next three months. Popgun, Volume 3 comes out at the end of this month, May will have Madman Atomic Comics #16 and You Have Killed Me, and then Portland Noir. The art for the Madman story was shipped to Mike Allred yesterday, by the way.

For more about crime comics, check this post at my Criterion blog.

Current Soundtrack: Nico, Desertshore

e-mail = golightly at confessions123.com * Criterion Confessions * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * ComicSpace * Last FM * GoodReads * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich

Friday, March 20, 2009



* The Great Buck Howard loses a bravura John Malkovich performance in an overly genial script.

* I Love You, Man, a gut-busting bromance with stand-out performances by Jason Segel and Paul Rudd


Fair warning, I may be late with this week's review. I've got a little bit of a cold and also, the ER review had to take precedence this week.


* ER - The Complete Tenth Season, wherein the venerable hospital drama hits the decade mark and keeps chugging.

* Max Fleischer's Gulliver's Travels, the classic cartoon gets a fishy remastering.

* L'Innocente, the final film of Luchino Visconti is a steamy winner.

* Morrissey: From Where He Came to Where He Went, a repackaging of two documentaries about Morrissey and the Smiths.

* The Scarlett Johansson Collection, collecting three more indie-minded movies featuring the actress.

* Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu - Eclipse Series 15, a collection of four wonderful films from the 1930s and '40s by a surprisingly little known Japanese director. (Also at Criterion Confessions.)

Current Soundtrack: The Raveonettes, "Blitzed;" Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Zero;" Real Time With Bill Maher: Episode #145 Podcast

e-mail = golightly at confessions123.com * Criterion Confessions * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * ComicSpace * Last FM * GoodReads * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Jason at Floating World Comics sent me a link to Sara Pichelli's blog. Looks like Sara has done some fill-in pages for Marvel's latest NYX series, but her blog shows off her own point of view much better. Looser lines, whimsical ideas that are a little violent, sometimes sexy, altogether unique.

And she also has an Audrey Hepburn drawing up:

We all know how I like Audrey Hepburn drawings.

Current Soundtrack: Sunday TV while I cook

Yesterday I was lucky enough to go see Steven Soderbergh's epic tour-de-force Che. Both parts. The director himself was in attendance for the first three Portland screenings, answering questions after the showing, including out on the street where he signed autographs and dealt with the crush of the crowd. I hadn't thought to bring my camera to capture it, but of course I was among the swarming fans.

I also sent Mr. Soderbergh home with a copy of Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?. That is presuming some member of the hotel cleaning staff is not fishing it out of his wastebasket this morning and dusting it off for a trip to Powell's.

It was personally exciting for me to meet him, as I admire the man's facility for telling many different types of stories with equal skill and an ever-evolving style. The fact that he's already completed two films since Che speaks to the his endless drive to create.

Che was an exceptional piece of work. A lot has been said of the audacity of a four-hour, two-part biopic of a controversial revolutionary, told mainly from the subject's point of view and thus sympathetic to his cause. Though I think even that is arguable, this is the hero's journey as tragedy, a man who goes so far off his mark that the ideals of the mission are lost somewhere between setting out on it and having the mission come up short. It's cinema-verite David Lean. The movie didn't feel audacious or overcooked, it's too carefully planned, too naturally paced.

In terms of my recent thoughts of adaptation, Che is an interesting case, and it does come down to that element of point of view. Though the project began by optioning a seminal biography of Guevara, it eventually borrowed its structure and its focus from the two books Che had written himself about Cuba and Bolivia. This made for a spirited post-movie discussion regarding the artistic choices and the criticism that Soderbergh doesn't show enough of Guevara's dark side. Personally, I found it interesting that by peering out of one man's eyes, it didn't allow for or make sense to have extraneous scenes of greater editorializing. The moralizing of others wouldn't make sense in terms of the "character."

Anyway, I'm going to put off any further review than that, fingers crossed that I might eventually get assigned the DVD and get to revisit it. I also just don't really feel like dissecting it too much on paper right now. This was one I was able to go see on my own time and my own dime, and sometimes I like to watch a movie just for me.

Current Soundtrack: various Lily Allen b-sides, compilation tracks, etc.

e-mail = golightly at confessions123.com * Criterion Confessions * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * ComicSpace * Last FM * GoodReads * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich

Friday, March 13, 2009

TONE FLOAT: Quick Friday Link

Nicolas shares some tones from the first handful of Spell Checkers pages.

See them here.


Current Soundtrack: Real Time With Bill Maher: Episode #144 - podcast version

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Things have a habit of converging all at once. Is it because we are looking for them, or just because that's the way the wind really is blowing? In other words, was the dust on the tabletop all the while, but it's only when we decided we needed to clean that the table became dusty?

From reading and reviewing The Dying Animal in order to better review the film version, Elegy, to thoughts of further adaptation...

Salman Rushdie writes of the art of adaptation for the UK paper The Guardian. His credibility falters when he suggests Rod Stewart outdid Tom Waits on one of old Tom's songs, but that just means never borrow Salman Rushdie's iPod. In other things, his thoughts are sound. He compares the art of adapting literature to film to the greater art of adapting any story from one media to another and the process of adapting to life and social change...

...and then I read this piece by Haruki Murakami, "The Novelist in Wartime" (link courtesy of Sierra "Ha-Cha-Cha" Hahn), addressing Israelis as they award him a prize for writing, talking of the writer's responsibility to the people who read his or her work, of the Egg vs. the Wall, and the people's responsibility to themselves...

...to Travis Fox posting this Lee Judge editorial cartoon:

...which put me in mind of this blog post from my friend, the writer Neal Shaffer, about the very attitude that the cartoon mocks, which I had wanted to link to before and forgot. Neal says it so perfectly, I can't see much point in even trying to summarize.

Everything that rises, as they say, must converge.

Current Soundtrack: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It's Blitz

Sunday, March 08, 2009

"Little death
Sly as junk
Strong as death
Sweet as love
Make me dance
Make me sing
Buy you a death's head
Diamond ring

Though normally I don't cross=post full reviews between this blog and DVD Talk, I have decided to post my review of Elegy, the adaptation of The Dying Animal by Philip Roth, here since I reviewed the book last week.

* * *

The art of the movie adaptation is a hot topic at the moment. As I write this, Watchmen is new to theatres, and the comic book blogosphere is ablaze with questions of was it too faithful, was it not faithful enough, and is it even a good movie regardless? While fans of books that get turned into movies are often demanding in their desire for accuracy, the accepted wisdom is generally that in the move from one media to another, changes have to be made to make the story work. What makes a scene come alive on a page is different than what makes it come alive on a movie screen.

One of the arguments for why Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen was unfilmable was that a major subtext of its story and, by its nature, how it was told, was as inherent to and critical of the comic book medium as oxygen is to our continued existence in this atmosphere. I bring this up as the long way around to point out that what makes Philip Roth's 2001 ode to the aging male libido, The Dying Animal, work as a feverish and hypnotic novel is the way it is narrated. The lead character, lecherous professor David Kepesh, relates the story in a breathless manner, speaking to an unseen listener (the reader?), and sharing his reactions and thoughts on what has been happening to him, complete with tangents, flashbacks, and pontifications.

That narration is not gone in its entirety in director Isabel Coixet and screenwriter Nicholas Meyer's 2008 film version, retitled Elegy, but it is significantly pared down, removing the urgency and the disgusting detail of the telling. To get some of that back, they have upgraded the character of poet George O'Hearn (here played by Dennis Hopper) to a more regular confidant for Kepesh (Ben Kingsley), but that still doesn't stave off the shift in the story's tonal quality. The title change, actually, points to a big difference. Elegy suggests something sophisticated, mournful, and reverential to whatever is being honored for its passing; The Dying Animal is primal, unguarded, decomposing, and gross.

The essential story of both book and novel is that Kepesh, a recurring Roth character and both an author and professor, is an aging libertine who uses his classroom as a way to pick up young women. Thinking himself a free and unencumbered sexual being, he is naturally taken aback when the latest object of his lust, the prim and achingly gorgeous Consuela Castillo (Penelope Cruz), so captures him that he finds himself bound to her in ways he would never have allowed in another relationship. He is jealous and needy, and when he can't get over that or his fear of commitment, he drives her away; yet, once she is gone, he remains obsessed.

Entwined in this are the somewhat opposing forces of Kepesh's other lover and his son. The lover, Carolyn (Patricia Clarkson), is another former student, though one Kepesh first bedded in the 1960s. She offers him the kind of sexual relationship he has always clamored for and one that is also more age appropriate, yet even she expects exclusivity. She is freedom with limits, the kind that says don't get too free. On the other hand, his son, Kenny (Peter Sarsgaard), hates his father and his lifestyle, hates what it did to his mother when Kepesh ran out on her, and thus is all the more devastated to discover that he is turning into an adulterer himself. Though, oddly, one who creates a bizarre moral framework to his cheating. He is a philanderer with binding principles, the exact opposite of what daddy strives for.

The story quite delicately brings all these things together--the ideas of personal freedom, sexual desire, and aging--and attempts to show them as linked. Kepesh is not just struggling against the natural decomposition of the human form, but of his ideals. Consuela is young and beautiful, and she also is a test of his intellectual conceits. Next to her, David Kepesh is a pathetic straw man full of insubstantial belief; yet, her own personal problems also bring his philosophy on sex and dying into sharper focus.

Philip Roth is quite often labeled a misogynist, though from my admittedly limited experience with his writing, I'd say that one must stretch their justifications quite far to prove that Roth doesn't fully understand and intend for his reader to see someone like David Kepesh as a creep and a fraud. I didn't see him as a lofty and tragic figure brought down by the evil influence of a woman, but as a man so out of touch with himself as to not understand what he truly needs.

Interesting, then, that this work of macho posturing has been brought to the screen by a female director. Isabel Coixet's previous credits include such challenging works as The Secret Life of Words and My Life Without Me, so she's not afraid of tackling tough, complex subjects. I think it would be easy to suggest that Elegy softens the proselytizing and decreases the bodily fluids from The Dying Animal due to her feminine hand, but I really doubt that is the case. Some of the more foul aspects of the sexual humiliations that pass between Kepesh and Consuela (the trade-off between submission and domination is a major theme) wouldn't make it past the MPAA anyway, the story would have been dialed down regardless. Instead, I think Coixet and Nicholas Meyer--a man, obviously, and no stranger to adapting Roth, having previously penned The Human Stain--are trying to remove some of the harsher aspects of Kepesh's character, the things about him that might repulse the audience when made flesh, so that they might get to the brutal core of his thought processes and turn it into drama. The novel has the benefit of Kepesh's seductive prose to draw the reader in even as his less-than-ideal traits push us away, like peering into a gory wound; the movie, on the other hand, is putting the words into action and doing so without the benefit of a running commentary.

The result is a final product that is more human instead of being so rampantly masculine, more psychologically effecting without being luridly troublesome. The same amount of acid, but perhaps less reflux. This is aided in part by Coixet and director of photography Jean Claude Larrieu's choice to shoot Elegy in a style that is more real than fancy, underlit and often sterile, not quite documentarian but at least seeming to be in a real space. The job is then finished by the remarkable cast. Ben Kingsley plays Kepesh without vanity, letting his age show and slowly allowing the intellectual mask that Kepesh wears over his weaknesses to dissolve.

Arguably, the movie belongs to Penelope Cruz, even if for just achieving the impossible task of wresting the male gaze away from itself and making her character real. In the story's emotional climax, Roth allows Kepesh to "make it all about me," whereas Coixet gives Roth's characters the license to be sensitive in ways the poetic situation demands. Cruz keeps Consuela from being yet another mysterious, idealized woman, but instead makes her a real person. The sympathy we have for her keeps us from having misguided sympathy for Kepesh--the dying animal can really be a beast. Ironically, Coixet also photographs Cruz's body in the most loving and sensual way, making her look as classic and beautiful as the Goya painting David says looks like her. In that, the director manages to portray love in a way Roth never could. The Kepesh of the book can only stare with hungry desire, the author's fetish for verbiage turning every tiny goosebump into a potential sex toy; Coixet's camera shoves Kepesh out of the way and takes a good look for itself, and what it finds waiting is something different and more three-dimensional than what Roth offered up.

That said, Coixet and Meyer do trip over the finish line, creating a coda of redemption that seemingly accepts the cliché of what Hollywood is supposed to do when it adapts a book to the screen. David Kepesh at the end of The Dying Animal is still his own worst enemy, a selfish threat to his own well-being; David Kepesh at the end of Elegy is ready to be the things he spent so long creating a moral philosophy to avoid. Both endings are bittersweet, but the movie version is a tad mawkish. It's salvation that Kepesh hasn't earned, forgiveness without contrition, and though it's not a selling out of sufficient baseness to destroy the movie, it does show that not all Hollywood concessions make for a better adaptation.

The full DVD Talk review, including technical specs and extras.

e-mail = golightly at confessions123.com * Criterion Confessions * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * ComicSpace * Last FM * GoodReads * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich

Saturday, March 07, 2009


Comic Book Resources has put up a preview of Madman Atomic Comics vol. 2, which collects issue #s 8-13. Go here to read a few pages from #8.

This book will go on sale this coming Wednesday, March 11. This is the cover:

The collection has a ton of extras, including a long look at the construction of #9, which you may recall was the one that ran as one continuous piece of action.

An Amazon link: Madman Atomic Comics Volume 2: Electric Allegories! (v. 2)


It's kind of funny seeing people in the comics field, fans and pros alike, fume about changes that were made to the Watchmen movie, particularly the ending, which I had no problem with--though I also had no problem with the original ending of the book and find them both to be equally implausible when you get right down to it. Still, it's "the studios this" and "Hollywood that" and "the studios, Hollywood, the studios."

I'm sorry Team Comics, but I am not sure we all have much room to get upset about what adaptations do to our precious classics, since the screwing goes both ways. Has anyone ever stopped to think about the staggering amount of bad comics that have been made either adapting or, most often worse, spinning out of Hollywood movies? Even the great untouchable Alan Moore wrote a couple of Star Wars tales once upon a time, and if they weren't crappy, people might actually remember them.

The big difference, actually, is that as an industry, comics continue to be developmentally disabled, so that when we adapt successful properties, it's rare that anyone makes any money. Maybe that's what we're really sore about. As I said to someone else recently, "That high horse of yours is a My Little Pony."

Curren Soundtrack: Leonard Cohen, Songs of Love and Hate

Friday, March 06, 2009


I've just got back from seeing Watchmen, and I feel like I let Zack Snyder gave me a facial for three hours. And not the good kind that leaves my skin feeling fresh and where I end up looking prettier when it's done, but the porno kind.

Don't listen to the apologists. I understand how badly fans want to like things like this, but if you have been waiting more than twenty years for this movie, then you should really be more demanding, you deserve better than one man indulging his personal fetish for latex and corn syrup. Just because Snyder got a few things exactly right, that doesn't make up for the fact that he got it wrong in every way that matters. It's like listening to a full CD for a couple of really wicked drum solos. There are a lot of bad lyrics, false melodies, and cheesy guitar riffs to get through to hear some lummox bang on the cans.

Actually, there is a lesson to be learned from the music. Snyder commissioned My Chemical Romance to cover Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row." Be it good or bad (and I kinda like it), the band did in three minutes what Zack Snyder could not do in 186: they made what they were adapting into their own thing, made it work in the context of what they were doing. It's clear to me that Snyder never stopped and asked, "Is there a better way to do this that makes more sense for motion pictures?" Comics are not the same thing as movies, I am not sure how he didn't get the memo, and so sticking to the panel-by-panel didn't work. Scenes were too long, and some of the visuals came off as way too heavy handed. I mean, really? You think keeping the smiley face on the surface of Mars was a good idea? A slavish attention to detail is laudable in its way, but a dogmatic blindness to what makes the storytelling is not.

So much of the movie could have been cut down. The extensive histories of the various characters, including the Comedian, could have been chucked to make the story move faster. Removing the subplot between Laurie and Sally Jupiter would have also trimmed out the unnecessary, but even more important, those scenes play to Snyder's weaknesses. The guy has no ability to direct human emotions. Whenever he tried, it was just bad melodrama. Then again, this is the director whose music cues include playing "The Sounds of Silence" over a funeral scene and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" during the flick's lone sex scene. These are not just lazy choices from a filmmaker with a limited vocabulary, but the latter also inspired laughs throughout the audience.

Seriously, just because Rorshach's mask looked cool doesn't make up for the fact that the motion-capture version of Dr. Manhattan didn't. Just because some of the prison riot was exciting doesn't excuse that the other action sequences are overly choreographed and devoid of life. Just who was it that decided that something exciting should have a pause in the middle? Would you want to be watching a basketball game and when the star player goes up for a big dunk, he hangs in mid-air for a second? He might as well stop and eat a sandwich before putting the ball in, he's already destroyed the adrenaline rush.

There maybe wasn't a good movie lurking in Watchmen, but there could have at least been a passable one. Get rid of the extraneous side stories, cut down the long chats, and stick to the mystery that is at the heart of the plot, and at least you'd have a decent capes-and-tights whodunit. Instead, we've got a boring whendoesitend.


Exclusive to my Criterion blog this week:

* Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Fassbinder's early '70s tribute to Sirk.

* Dodes'ka-den, a DVD release of one of Akira Kurosawa's quirkiest films.


* Far from the Madding Crowd, John Schlesinger reteams with Julie Christie in an epic, romantic adaptation of Thomas Hardy.

* In the Electric Mist, Bertrand Tavernier tackles a James Lee Burke novel with mixed but mostly good results. Tommy Lee Jones stars as Burke's Detective Dave Robicheaux.

* Murnau, a collection of six of F.W. Murnau's silent films from Germany, including Nosferatu, Faust, and The Last Laugh.

* Paul Newman X 2: The Helen Morgan Story, a fairly average biopic about a doomed singer, and The Outrage, Martin Ritt's perplexing remake of Rashomon.

* The Romance of Astrea & Celadon, an Eric Rohmer period piece that gets stuck up its own class.

* The Starter Wife - Season 1, Debra Messing is charming in some wholly forgettable but time-killing television fluff.

* Yentl, the Babra Streisand musical is a real eye-opener.

Current Soundtrack: Keane, Perfect Symmetry

e-mail = golightly at confessions123.com * Criterion Confessions * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * ComicSpace * Last FM * GoodReads * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich

Thursday, March 05, 2009


By the way, I should mention that in addition to You Have Killed Me being solicited for May, the Diamond catalogue also has Madman Atomic Comics #16 in the Image section. It's the one with the Abbey Road cover.

Madman Atomic Comics #16

What it doesn't tell you is that Joëlle Jones and I have a 12 page story in that issue, "Last Night the Atomics Saved My Life." So, if you order You Have Killed Me at your local comic book shop, consider ordering Madman Atomic Comics #16 as well. It's there on page 158 of the catalogue.

Current Soundtrack: Why, yes, I am still listening to It's Not Me, It's You

Monday, March 02, 2009


* Madman Atomic Comics #14 is on sale this week. It features two short stories, one by Mike Allred and the other by Darwyn Cooke & J. Bone.

Joëlle is pencilling our story for #16, which is also in the new Diamond Previews alongside You Have Killed Me. May should be a good month for us. The pages she have done so far are remarkable.

* I really like this page that Natalie Nourigat posted the other day. The construction of it is really swell.

It's from a Virginia Woolf-adaptation/minicomic she plans to have at Stumptown. More details here, here, and everywhere.

* I also really like this panel from a page Nico sent me:

I actually have a near-complete draft of Spell Checkers vol. 1 written now. I just have to write a two or three page epilogue, which I am going to let simmer for a bit, probably until after I've read over what I've already done.

* And I still really want this. I can't help it.

Current Soundtrack: Antony & the Johnsons, "The Rapture;" some Ennio Morricone; Depeche Mode, "Useless;" Elbow, "Any Day Now"

e-mail = golightly at confessions123.com * Criterion Confessions * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * ComicSpace * Last FM * GoodReads * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Dying Animal The Dying Animal by Philip Roth

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've always liked Roth and had bought this book as a slightly mashed copy on a bargain table several years ago. I pulled it out to read in anticipation of reviewing the DVD of Elegy, the film adaptation from last year. The Dying Animal is a short novel, and one that I must like in spite of myself, in spite of my often horrified reaction to the selfishness and intensity of the sexual peccadilloes of its narrator. David Kepesh is one of Roth's regular characters, and the man who turned into a giant tit in the appropriately titled The Breast, a parody of Kafka and one of the funniest things I've ever read. (Inside joke in this book being an admiration of a hand-written Kafka manuscript binding Kepesh with his fetish object.)

Kepesh isn't so much an unreliable narrator as one that is both myopic and didactic regarding the myopia. His story here is one of obsession regarding his long-term existence as an unapologetic, often evangelical libertine, and the crystallization of that lifestyle in one woman, the 24-year-old Consuela Castillo, and her rather large chest. The 62-year-old Kepesh becomes so overtaken by his desire for her, it begins to threaten the cavalier lifestyle he has so meticulously constructed.

What makes The Dying Animal slightly sickening to read is Kepesh's effusive recounting of his pleasures with Consuela. Talk about the male gaze, this book is one long, creepy stare! What makes me feel pangs of guilt, though, is how mesmerizing it can be, almost like Kepesh is hypnotizing me. Roth writes the book in long paragraphs, no dialogue breaks, just strings of traded conversation, and it compels the reader to move quickly through the novel, to feverishly go from page to page.

The "sex and death" coupling is nothing new, but Roth has inextricably entwined them here in this narrative. To borrow a metaphor he uses in the book--though he relates it as the trade-off of subservience and domination that is part of any sexual encounter--it is as if he has braided the two, creating one criss-cross strand where once there was a pair (and, admittedly, a pair that began from the same source, as the hair would come from the same head). Since The Dying Animal begins with so much about youth and carnality, the switch to ruminations on the aging process and mortality is surprising. Roth even creates a counterpoint to Kepesh's remorseless pursuit of Consuela by introducing us to David's estranged son, who so hates how his father lives, he thoroughly demands the opposite of himself even when it causes him terrible misery.

I think Roth is aware that there for all his belief in his own powers of observation, Kepesh is ironically unaware that the story he intends to share about Consuela is never about anyone but himself. Even in the emotional climax, where the knowledge of death prematurely comes to the young, he can't see the frightened heart beating beneath those great big breasts, he only sees the loss of his own desire. Or thinks he does, because it is also never more evident how out of control of his own life he is. I suppose this be a spoiler of sorts--so beware!--but there is a profound narrative switch on the very last page that will take some time to chew on and digest. Throughout the book, it has been made clear that Kepesh's monologue is meant to be a literal one, that he is speaking to someone directly, some invisible witness, a stand-in for the reader. In the last lines, not only does the witness speak up, but for the first time, Roth relates the call-and-response between him and Kepesh as separately rendered paragraphs (though the witness in quotes, Kepesh still not). It's a dramatic change, a last-chance grabbing at something that could be slipping away. Are we implicated now as the confidante, having read all the way to this end? Is Kepesh's obsession now our own?

And how the hell can the movie of this exist without either removing some of Kepesh’s beastly opinions or risk the entire audience thinking Ben Kingsley is the biggest slimeball to ever grace the silver screen? Because how can one not be more sympathetic to Penelope Cruz--particularly since in a film we will see her as something more whole than the idealized creature presented through David Kepesh’s eyes? Questions I will have to answer in another review. [Edit: That review now available here.]

View all my reviews.

Current Soundtrack: Antony & the Johnsons, The Crying Light

e-mail = golightly at confessions123.com * Criterion Confessions * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * ComicSpace * Last FM * GoodReads * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich