The Three Best Books…*

17 Jun

Tri Quarterly # 37

Tri Quarterly # 37

Sick In The Head by Judd Apatow

Sick In The Head by Judd Apatow

I am not a fan of the current schools of cinema comedies (for instance I haven’t seen such cultural mainstays asthe Hangovers Pt I Ptt etc or Bridesmaids),thus I would ordinarily be indifferent to a book by director Judd Apatow (Knocked Up,Freaks and Geeks). But an anthology of conversations he has collected over 30 years with —Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Roseanne Barr, Spike Jonze,Sarah Silverman,Harold Ramis, Louis C.K., Chris Rock,Garry Shandling, Seth Rogen, Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham and on and on, is difficult to pass up.

I recall that Interview magazine, in what I thought was an inspired gesture, once published an interview with Charles Bukowski done by Sean Penn with Penn’s part of it redacted. Which is to say that even if Apatow’s conversational style is not to your liking, even as monologues, these testimonies are
amusing and illuminating.The publisher’s notes on this tome ring true, “What started as a lifetime’s worth of conversations about comedy becomes something else entirely. It becomes an exploration of creativity, ambition, neediness, generosity, spirituality, and the joy that comes from making people laugh.” And as Michael Chabon opines:

These are wonderful, expansive interviews—at times brutal, at times breathtaking—with artists whose wit, intelligence, gaze, and insights are all sharp enough to draw blood. Judd Apatow understands as well as any of them the pain that holds the knife, and the glee that wields it.

Muse by Jonathan Galassi

Muse by Jonathan Galassi

There is some risk involved with a novel set in the marginal world of writing and publishing. What makes Jonathan Galassi’s (poet and by the way, publisher of the fine literary house of Farrar,Straus and Giroux)Muse worth a look, is FSG’s deep roots in the literature of the 20th century and an out-sized character in the person of larger-than-literary life principal, founding partner, Roger W. Straus. I am not convinced that Muse is an effective a narrative for readers who are unfamiliar or unconcerned with the rules and mores of the literary game— the mechanics of big international trade shows, the ongoing efforts of publishers to poach authors from their rivals, the idiosyncrasies of authors, agents and editors of all stripes.On the other hand perhaps Galassi performs a valuable service by letting some light enter the dim and dusty corridors of old style book publishing

Francis Ha A Noam Baumbach  FILM

Francis Ha A Noam Baumbach FILM


Some years ago being friends with Larry Newman, a designer who served as Tri Quarterly‘s art director I was invited to join the crew working on Issue #37,Going to Heaven a photo narrative (pictured above). So off we went for a week, to a farm near Galena, Illinois. As Tri Quarterly was a literary magazine (now sadly only published on line by slave labor) the ideas of issue consisting of only pictures (four on each right hand page) could be construed as a bold idea.

Now, director of the film Frances Ha Noah Baumbach has created a book FRANCIS HA (Steidl) editing the movie down to one frame per scene, comprised of 688 black and white stills, recreating the film’s structure. Whether you have viewed this film or not is probably as irrelevant as whether one has reads the book from which a movie has been adapted. Which is to say this tome is a new twist on an old idea, offering as the publisher suggests a “commentary on the subtle but ordered beauty of Sam Levy’s cinematography.

Here are some stills from the book:





* at the time of this writing this (for lack of better title)

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