Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some Dance to Remember--or Forget?

Greetings, Fellow Bookmen--

Apologies for the delay in posting this message, but I did want to report that we had a good turnout and a lively, wide-ranging discussion of Jack Fritscher's Some Dance to Remember: A Memoir-Novel of San Francisco, 1970-1982, at last week's meeting.

One of the recurring themes of the evening was whether the "real" gay community is any more cohesive than the author's rather pessimistic viewpoint would suggest. We didn't reach any real consensus on that point, partly because the novel's approach is so polemical--though that failing is perhaps inevitable given the fact that Ryan O'Hara, the exceedingly rigid, and troubled, advocate for "homomasculinism," is the central figure. He is definitely hard to root for, as are most of the characters, with the exceptions of Solly and Kweenie (Ryan's sister).

We all agreed, more or less, that Fritscher demonstrated commendable ambition, both in the sheer scope of the story and the philosophical, political and aesthetic issues he tackles; "sprawling" was a word several used. Alas, the quality of his writing was not quite up to the task. Even those like myself who enjoyed the book and would recommend it grew impatient at the author's tendency to repeat himself. For instance, was it REALLY necessary for Magnus to spell out over and over, in almost identical language, again Ryan's awareness that words often have two layers of meaning?! And as one member commented, there were so many journal entries that it appeared Fritscher had just dumped them into the story.

On a more positive note, even some of those who did not think the novel truly "worked" enjoyed Fritscher's descriptions of the place and time. And while we were all, to varying degrees, left disappointed, I would still call it a noble effort well worth reading. But I speak only for myself in that regard.

Note that the author himself has posted a comment on Walter's item about the origin of the title (scroll down).

Cheers, Steve

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Toibin on Gunn

The New York Review of Books has an article in the January 14 issue, available in print or to subscribers of the electronic edition, by Colm Toibin on a new selection of Thom Gunn's poetry and includes a review of essays on Gunn's poetry as well as a volume of selected poems of Fulke Grenville edited with an introduction by Gunn. The heart of the review of Toibin's discussion of Gunn as a man and a poet, and well worth reading.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The 99-Minute Cologne Ad

"Commentary" on A Single Man aside, I'd like to hear from the appreciators' of Tom Ford's movie. I was suspicious when I saw the trailers and most of the reviews since have only made me more so. All the way from Anthony Lane's New Yorker review

We know, for instance, how English professors dress: some trim-suited and clerical, others avuncular in tweed, many too deep in Dryden to be bothered with their outward crust, and one or two no better than compost heaps. Not this lot. They look as spry and as spotless as an advertising spread in L'Uomo Vogue. Who's in charge here, for heaven's sake—a fashion designer?

to my very local Gazette's partly favorable review: "Unfortunately, Ford falls victim to the trappings of a young film student." And it's just laughable the idea that Colin Firth at 48 (or even 58!), and no matter how dressed, would have trouble or doubts about picking up just about anybody he wants (unless he were truly psychotic)!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Title source for "Some Dance to Remember "

(Posted on behalf of Walter)

Some of you may have already figured out where the title of our Jan. 6 selection, Jack Fritscher's Some Dance to Remember,
comes from. I knew I'd heard/read the phrase "Some dance to remember, some dance to forget." The words are in the lyrics of The Eagles' "Hotel California." "Hotel California" appears a few times in the book. The reference seems appropriate because of some similar hedonistic nightmarishness in the story--plus its location.

"Hotel California"

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night.

There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
'This could be Heaven or this could be Hell'
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way.

There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say...

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year (Any time of year)
You can find it here

Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

So I called up the Captain,
'Please bring me my wine'.
He said, 'We haven't had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine'
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say...

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face.
They livin' it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise (what a nice surprise)
Bring your alibis.

Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said, 'We are all just prisoners here, of our own device'.

And in the master's chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can't kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before.

'Relax,' said the night man,
'We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!'