Thursday, January 20, 2011

I started this post a week ago

I. Jenny D on her new feline: "His name is Max, and he used to frequent a fruit stall in Brighton Beach."

II. Speaking of which: Over Xmas I reread—quite at random!—A Cricket in Times Square...and I just saw David Ulin's appreciation of it at the L.A. Times. I didn't know it was the book's 50th anniversary!

All in all, I enjoyed revisiting the book—though I did raise my eyebrows during the Chinatown scenes...

III. Dogs in New York: The New Yorker
on the NYC cult, ca. , around Charles Portis's great novel The Dog of the South

IV. Speaking of Portis: My friend in Little Rock, John Moran, alerted me to this tidbit in a local paper: one of its bloggers noticed that the film version of Portis's first novel, Norwood, is now streaming on Netflix!

Joe Namath and Dom DeLuise are in it...

Here's what I said about it in a footnote to my 2003 Portis piece in The Believer:

If the film of True Grit somewhat revises the book, the less-known screen adaptation of Norwood (Jack Haley, Jr., 1970), also scripted by Marguerite Roberts, scrambles both Norwood and True Grit. Glen Campbell (Grit’s LaBoeuf) here plays Norwood, and Kim Darby (Mattie) is Rita Lee Chipman; Mattie’s unacknowledged teenage longing for LaBoeuf (“If he is still alive and should happen to read these pages, I will be happy to hear from him,” Mattie writes at the novel’s close) becomes consummated in Norwood, or just about. Roberts’s Grit script shunted Mattie in favor of the bigger-than-life Rooster; for this film the screenwriter dilutes some of Norwood’s cool by revealing that Rita Lee has been made pregnant by another man before they meet—a significant, possibly feminist tweak of the original plot. (Incidentally, the contra-hippie theme that runs through Portis, made more explicit in Gringos, is elaborated in this film, most notably when Campbell-as-Norwood takes the stage after a numbing sitar exhibition. He sings a good-timey country number presciently called “Repo Man” to the uncomprehending, wigged-out crowd, until a more lysergically inclined combo unseats him.) As it’s unlikely I’ll ever have the chance to write about this film again, let it be noted that the date of Norwood’s theatrical release, a year after Midnight Cowboy won the Academy Award for Best Picture, lends Campbell-as-Norwood a certain Voightian frisson during the scenes in New York, where he sticks out like a Stetsoned sore thumb. Which makes the bit in Cowboy where Voight regards himself in the mirror and says approvingly, “John Wayne,” a sort of anticipatory gloss on Wayne co-star Campbell’s future appearance in Gotham. (The celluloid True Grit also spawned a 1975 sequel, Rooster Cogburn, starring Wayne and Katharine Hepburn.)

V. Speaking of New York: Doree Shafrir put together a list of her favorite New York fiction...Personal Days is in there between Joseph O'Neill's Netherland and Richard Price's Lush Life!

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