Tuesday, May 16, 2006

pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled

In this past weekend's West, David L. Ulin argues that Charlie Kaufman has become one the best writers of his generation.

For me, "Adaptation" is precisely such a work, a strange and remarkable movie that offers the most accurate portrayal I've yet seen of what it's like to be a writer. It's also a compelling riff on narrative structure, on the intricacies of art and commerce, the difficulty of storytelling by committee and the universal human desire to be liked. Based on Susan Orlean's 1998 nonfiction book "The Orchid Thief," it is an investigation of obsession, of the elaborate, looping interplay of the author's mind and his material and, indeed, himself. "Do I have an original thought in my head?" the film begins, as Kaufman—or Nicolas Cage, who plays both Kaufman and his brother—murmurs in a voice-over, while credits flash across the bottom of a black screen. A minute later, we're on the set of "Being John Malkovich," where Kaufman/Cage is waved off the soundstage after getting in the way of a shot. "What am I doing here?" he wonders. "Why did I bother to come here today? Nobody even seems to know my name. I've been on this planet for 40 years, and I'm no closer to understanding a single thing. Why am I here? How did I get here?"

Via The Elegant Variation

The weekend LA Times also featured a review of Carolyn See's new novel There Will Never Be Another You, being released today.

As the world around these people spins out of control, so too do their own lives, with illness, death, divorce and heartbreak served up in rapid succession. Personal tragedy reflects global uncertainty, or vice versa — it depends on where in the novel you find yourself. See lets us know we can't control either one, then soothes us with the optimism that is her ultimate gift. When the scholar's daughter, Andrea, and Danny, a boy from the Chinese family, fall in love, it's a sweet relief. Here, in the bushes and bracken where they hide to make love, angst and anxiety suddenly fall away. This is young romance, after all. It gives a flash of logic to the querulous world See has pressed upon us, and we're relieved, even grateful.

You can download a version of the song from which the novel takes its title here.