Today is Election Day in America. I am sitting in my living room, now dark by 6pm as the days grow shorter and mercifully cooler, bracing for a night of cable TV punditry and exit polls predicting the toppling of the Democrats. I’m a politics junkie, and even though I’ve grown increasingly disillusioned with efficacy and sincerity of a lot of this country’s politicians, I can’t help myself, I have to watch. But tonight, as interested as I am in the election results, something is distracting me: I can’t find one of my favorite books, For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies. In this ongoing process of organizing my collection, I realized recently that it’s not in any of my piles or on any bookshelves, and I cannot figure out what I did with it.
For Keeps is an anthology of movie reviews written by Pauline Kael, a former film critic and essayist for The New Yorker magazine. I don’t normally place much stock in movie reviews because they tend to be heavy on subjectivity and light on analysis – much like the news programs I can’t seem to stop watching* – but Kael’s essays are different. They stand on their own without the context of the film being reviewed, and whether or not I agree with her opinions, it’s damn good writing. What’s more amazing is that Kael only watched films once. She didn’t see the point in a second viewing. And with that single viewing imprinted in her mind, she was able to relay all of a film’s nuance and detail with accessible, intelligent and entertaining prose.
I have certain books that I equate to comfort food, and this one ranks at the top. Flipping through its 1,300 plus pages is like diving guilt free into a heaping pile of mashed potatoes on a rainy day. It’s a book I can read in bits and pieces, savoring an essay or two at a time, getting lost in the movie talk. It makes me happy. And now it’s gone.
So for the time being I’ll try to forget about it and instead concentrate on the drama playing out on television tonight. I’ll try to care about the spin doctoring and partisan vitriol I’ve heard a thousand times before. And I’ll try to convince myself that this latest sea change in the balance of power will result in significant, tangible improvements to my quality of life any more than the last one did. But try as I might, like Pauline, I don’t see the point in a second viewing.
*I’m cringing at this statement because I sound like a hack… but the comparison is so obvious that I decided it would be worse to ignore it. (A blog on my neuroses is forthcoming.)Read More...