Thursday, December 31, 2015

Talking Out of Turn #40 (Podcast): Dave Marsh on Bruce Springsteen (1987)

Bruce Springsteen, on stage during The River tour in 1981. (Photo: Patrick Harbron)

From 1981 to 1989, I was assistant producer and co-host of the radio show On the Arts at CJRT-FM in Toronto. With the late Tom Fulton, who was the show's prime host and producer, we did a half-hour interview program where we talked to artists from all fields. In 1994, after I had gone to CBC, I had an idea to collate an interview anthology from some of the more interesting discussions I'd had with guests from that period. Since they all took place during the Eighties, I thought I could edit the collection into an oral history of the decade from some of its most outspoken participants. The book was assembled from interview transcripts and organized thematically. I titled it Talking Out of Turn: Revisiting the '80s. With financial help from the Canada Council, I shaped the individual pieces into a number of pertinent themes relevant to the decade. By the time I began to contact publishers, though, the industry was starting to change. At one time, editorial controlled marketing. Now the reverse was taking place. Acquisition editors, who once responded to an interesting idea for a book, were soon following marketing divisions concerned with whether the person doing it was hot enough to sell it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Georgia on Its Mind: The Oxford American Annual Southern Music Issue, Winter 2015

In lieu of a top ten list of the best music for 2015, I’d like to pay tribute to one of my favourite magazines, The Oxford American that celebrates the music of the American South every December with a compilation CD and some outstanding music journalism. I’ve been collecting them since a good friend of mine introduced me to the periodical in 2010. This is a magazine worth keeping.

Now in its 17th year, the Oxford American focuses on the history of the southern United States. It is published four times a year but the magazine’s best issue arrives in December. Simply titled the “Southern Music Issue,” the magazine features recordings, past and present, from a particular state or region in the American south. Last year the magazine and accompanying CD featured artists from Texas. This year it’s the music of Georgia, with a 77-minute sampler and some fine storytelling about the State’s musical heritage.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Ten Games of 2015: Monsters, Makers, and MOBAs

Yacht Club Games' Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows is just one of the gaming highlights of 2015.

If you hear anyone bemoaning the state of popular media, grab them by the shoulders and give them a good shake: there can be no doubt that these, right now, are the good ol’ days. 2015 was an incredible year for the pop culture enthusiast, whether you were a cinephile or a book lover, and gaming was no exception. The glut of fantastic, unique gaming experiences on offer this year was so generous that I wasn’t able to get around to many of the most popular ones (Bloodborne, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Batman: Arkham Knight, and Just Cause 3, just to name some bigger names). What follows are my favourite of the games I did have time to play, and some of them were so good that I suspect they’ll resurface as all-timers. I implore you to try these games out for yourself, or at least watch them in action on Youtube or

Monday, December 28, 2015

Tour de Force: Maggie Smith in The Lady in the Van

Maggie Smith in The Lady in the Van.

2015 has been an abundant movie year for leading performances by women, but to my mind Maggie Smith walks away with the honors for her work in The Lady in the Van. Smith created the role of Mary Shepherd, an irascible eccentric who spends the last decade and a half of her life living in her van in the driveway of a house owned by the English playwright Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings). Bennett first encountered Miss Shepherd in 1970, shortly after he’d bought a house in trendy, gentrified Camden Town (the movie was shot in and around that actual house), but for a long time he resisted writing about their strange acquaintanceship while she was camped in his garden – an arrangement that he’d allowed reluctantly in 1974 as a temporary stop-gap but that became permanent without his ever actually agreeing to it. He eventually dramatized the story in 1999 and Smith starred in it at the National Theatre. I read about it at the time and eagerly anticipated seeing it when she brought it to Broadway, but she never did, so it’s a lovely surprise to see a movie version all these years later, with the same director, Nicholas Hytner. Hytner also staged Bennett’s The History Boys for the National in 2004 as well as the 2006 movie version, and except for Richard Griffiths, who died in 2013, the entire cast of that play shows up in The Lady in the Van. All but Frances De La Tour play cameo roles; she has a delightful supporting part as one of Alan’s neighbors, the widow of the composer Ralph Vaughn Williams, a robust specimen of the English bohemian artists’ community of an earlier era. (My favorite of the cameos is by James Corden, as a street market vendor.)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Top Ten Favourite Books of 2015

I have reviewed some of the following selections (link provides); all were read in 2015 and about half were published this year.  – Bob Douglas

All the Colours of Darkness by Peter Robinson (2008) was the first police procedural that I read that feature DCI Alan Banks. I was so gripped by the novel that I continued to read several more from the series but none of them surpassed its originality. We are never in doubt about the identity of the perpetrator but Robinson imaginably unfolds the why and the how by watching an amateur production of a Shakespearean drama about jealousy.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, the winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is a dual account about an albino child prodigy in Nazi Germany and a blind girl in France before and during World War Two. Werner has an astonishing skill for fixing radios that earns him a place at a training school for the Nazi military elite. Then his talents are put at the service of the Reich to identify the sources of enemy transmissions, a task which will challenge his essential decency and morality. These chapters chillingly recreate the fanaticism and thuggery that we associate with the Third Reich and are among the best in the book. To compensate for her blindness, Marie-Laure’s father builds a model of the neighbourhood for her so that she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When the Nazis occupy Paris, the two of them flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo to live with his uncle who uses his radio transmitter on behalf of the Resistance. The lives of Werner and Marie-Laure will intersect during the Allied invasion. Despite an unnecessary subplot about a valuable and dangerous jewel and a few stereotyped minor characters, Doerr unfolds a completely new tale about a familiar terrain, one that Dickens might have written had he lived in the twentieth century.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Still Savoury Nut: James Kudelka's Nutcracker at 20

 James Kudelka's The Nutcracker is celebrating its 20th anniversary at the National Ballet of Canada. (Photo: Bruce Zinger)

The Nutcracker not only lives on, it's gotten better with age. Having just seen the 20th anniversary production of James Kudelka's version of the seasonal ballet classic as performed by the National Ballet of Canada, I can say that the passing years have lent the home-grown production a lovely patina. The choreography, while still devilishly tricky, has softened to the point that interpretative performances trump the pyrotechnics. Individual dancers in command of entertaining acting skills (Harrison James, Dylan Tedladi, Meghan Pugh and Stephanie Hutchison, for instance) better stand out and the story, which previously tended to get lost in the shadows of Santo Loquasto's ravishing sets and costumes, is easier to follow. Not that there is much of a story to tell.

E. T. A. Hoffmann's original 1816 The Nutcracker and the Mouse King book, the inspiration behind Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 1892 ballet, provides the general idea of a broken Nutcracker who comes to life at night to battle with toy soldiers against an army of bayonet-wielding rats. But the real source material appears more to be earlier ballet versions in which tropes like a growing Christmas tree and a tiara-wearing Snow Queen are now deeply embedded components of The Nutcracker narrative. Kudelka knows the formula but still ended up creating a ballet that forges its own path. Instead of a girl's coming-of-age story, as is typically the case with most Nutcracker ballets, Kudelka's version is a portrait of two squabbling siblings, a girl and a boy, Marie and Misha (played, respectively, by Jacqueline Sugianto and Adam Hone), who unite in dream to conjure the fantasy that takes them on a journey of the imagination through a land of ice and snow.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Until Dawn, and Then Some

Ashley (Galadriel Stineman) and Chris (Noah Fleiss) find time to fall in love between fending off monsters and murderers.

It’s winter. You and six friends are vacationing at a friend’s remote cottage when tragedy strikes: two of your friends, twin sisters, disappear in the woods under suspicious circumstances, never to be seen again. Exactly one year later, their older brother invites you all back to the cottage to carry on partying in spite of his sisters’ absence, claiming he’s “over it.” Do you go? Most would politely decline, recognizing such a bizarre request as being, at the very least, in poor taste and, at worst, a cry for help. Good horror stories are not built on common sense, however, and Until Dawn’s seven protagonists unanimously pull on their winter gear and march up the mountains of Alberta to indulge their grieving buddy, unaware of the danger waiting for them.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015: My Cultural Year in Review

Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons in the second season of Fargo.

It’s been a long year. We’re coming close to the end. As Mr. Lennon said, “So this is Christmas, and what have we done?” Well we’ve listened to a lot of music, and read a lot of books. Watched some movies. And some TV. Maybe my favourite TV show has been Fargo, Season 2 of which I have just finished, and I have to say I loved every minute of it. The first season was interesting, had a few surprises, like when Officer Molly got shot but the second season was where we found out just what happened at the Sioux Falls massacre. The concept of going back twenty years to explain this was sheer genius. If you haven’t watched Fargo, I recommend you start from the beginning. See the movie first and marvel at the work of Joel and Ethan Coen. Next try the first season to see how beautifully the television producers have translated North Dakota and environs to the small screen. Billy Bob Thornton was the perfect villain, and Allison Tolman as Molly Solverson was extraordinary. Her expressive eyes just captured the viewer and never let you go.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Eminently Forgettable: Atom Egoyan’s Remember

Martin Laudau and Christopher Plummer in Remember.

He may be one of Canada’s best known directors but Atom Egoyan’s film oeuvre is more than a little underwhelming. Except for the fascinating screenplay for his debut feature, Next of Kin (1984), about a young man posing as another couple’s child, who they gave up for adoption; the last half hour of Exotica (1994), which revolves around the murder of a young child and builds to a strong emotional climax and some powerful scenes in the murder mystery Where the Truth Lies (2005), Egoyan’s movies, including Speaking Parts (1989), The Adjuster (1991), The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Felicia’s Journey (1999), Ararat (2002) and Chloe (2009) tend towards the arid, intellectually obtuse and singularly uninteresting. He’s generally not a stupid filmmaker but he is tone deaf to how people actually speak and live. His fifteenth feature, Remember, which will open in the United States in February, is one of a handful of his films not written by him (it’s credited to Benjamin August, a producer and casting director), but it’s of a piece with his usual mediocre output, albeit with an added dose of ridiculousness thrown into the mix.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Saga Begins Again – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and BB-8 (centre) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

This review contains major spoilers for The Force Awakens.

The stars (and wars therein) have aligned: my 100th review for Critics at Large is of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams’ continuation of the space opera blockbuster series created (and subsequently ruined) by George Lucas. This is significant because Star Wars is the film series that has most inspired me from a young age, fostering my lifelong fascination with science fiction, storytelling, special effects, and cinema in general. It’s immensely gratifying to me that these stories of a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away are back in theatres, inspiring a new crop of wide-eyed kids. Just to put the true generational nature of this phenomenon in perspective: Star Wars is almost forty years old this year! I sat down for this newest incarnation and saw an almost totally even split between grey-haired veteran fans, t-shirted nerds around my age, and younglings small enough to need booster seats. And I know from experience that the latter is who these films are truly for.

The Force Awakens really only had to achieve one thing (apart from making a shit-zillion dollars for Disney): be better than Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Star Wars fans have been through the emotional ringer already, becoming incredibly excited about their long-dormant series returning, and having their devotion rewarded with some of the worst filmmaking ever projected in public cinemas – a trilogy of inept prequel films that represented a baffling and infuriating corruption of the adventurous, exciting films they knew. So I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being wary of Abrams’ attempt, as promising as it looked in the trailers. I had been burned badly before.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Old Times: Acting Exercise

Clive Owen, Kelly Reilly and Eve Best in Old Times at the Roundabout Theatre. (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Though I’m not really a Pinter guy, I can admire the craftsmanship of plays like The Caretaker, The Birthday Party, The Homecoming and Betrayal. And some actors respond to the challenges of his language in exciting, even startling ways, as Ben Kingsley did in the 1983 movie version of Betrayal and Kristin Scott Thomas did in the West End revival of the same work in 2011. But though they’re often compared, his other three-hander Old Times has remained, through the years, stubbornly opaque for me – and I don’t mean ambiguous or mysterious. In it, a couple, Deeley and Kate, play host to Anna, who was Kate’s roommate years earlier, and in the course of their post-dinner conversation we not only hear about a side of Kate that Deeley has never encountered but we also learn that Deeley and Anna may have met each other in a pub around the same time. In both cases Anna’s version is so odd as to seem manufactured. The received wisdom about the play is that it’s about the nature of memory, but Anna’s memories aren’t convincing and the suggested transformations of the characters in the course of the evening aren’t suggestive, the way they are in Strindberg’s dream plays (which may be one of Pinter’s influences). It feels academic to me – an acting exercise – and it seems to end before Pinter has worked out where he wants to take the audience.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Bolshoi Babylon: Light on Pretty

Nick Read and Mark Franchetti's documentary Bolshoi Babylon airs on HBO on Monday, December 21.

Nick Read and Mark Franchetti were in Russia in the winter of 2013 looking to make their first documentary film about a prisoner accused of murder in the northern reaches of the country. But while there they got the call that another, perhaps more explosive, story had just broken thousands of miles south: an acid attack on Sergei Filin, the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Franchetti, the Moscow-based correspondent for London’s The Sunday Times, and Read, an award-winning British cinematographer and director who had previously covered the war in Iraq and the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, wasted no time in shifting gears. While neither at that time was a dance fan, both could see that an act of barbarism inflicted on the seemingly beautiful world of the ballet was itself a compelling blood-and-guts story.

Once in Moscow, they got permission to bring their cameras inside the famed 250-year old theatre and started interviewing subjects for a new documentary that ended up taking them close to a year to complete. Bolshoi Babylon, which screens on HBO on Dec. 21, goes behind the scenes of one of the world’s most famous classical dance companies to show the dark side of an art form that most people think of as light, airy and divorced from reality. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Pierogi, Pop Music, and Portentous Comets: Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 at ART

Denée Benton as Natasha, in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. (Photo: Evgenia Eliseeva)

During the intermission of Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, my friend turned to me and said, “This is probably the future of theatre.” It was meant more as a statement about the difficulty of providing a unique, compelling theatrical experience that could draw people otherwise content to watch Netflix at home than a compliment to the show, although the production is quite enjoyable. As a conventional stage musical, Great Comet certainly isn’t perfect, but the immersive nature of its staging elevates it and makes it something more vital and exciting than it would be in a more traditional form.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Meh Comes to Pemberley: P. D. James’ Jane Austen Fanfiction

Novelist P. D. James, 1920-2014. (Photo by Kristian Buus)

Growing up as a closeted nerd, I’ve always tried to make a positive case for fanfiction: the art of writing original stories with characters and settings borrowed from another artist’s work. Taking your favourite characters and making new stories for them is essentially play time for grownups and any respectable fangirl’s closet vice. When I was an awkward teenager, the genre was often considered to be embarrassing nerdy garbage, some lesser form of writing by geeks who lacked imagination, but today fanfiction has leaked into mainstream media in all sorts of unexpected ways from the controversial commercial success of the 50 Shades of Grey series (originally published online as Twilight fanfiction before taking on a life of its own) to a diverse array of contemporary takes on classic novels. Death Comes to Pemberley, by acclaimed mystery novelist P. D. James, is one such example. The story picks up some time after Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Iconic romantic figures Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are now married, rich, fabulous, and suddenly tasked with solving a murder that takes place during a party at Pemberley, Darcy’s sprawling country estate. In the years since its publication, the novel has been transformed into a BBC miniseries starring Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin, lending some much needed legitimacy to the fanfiction genre. Unfortunately, however, the original text offers about as much excitement as a comparably thoughtful undergraduate essay.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Immigrants: Brooklyn and In Jackson Heights

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn is a sweetheart of a movie. Written by Nick Hornby and directed by John Crowley, it’s a remarkably faithful adaptation of Colm Toíbín’s lyrical award-winning 2009 novel about the emigration of a young woman named Eilis (pronounced “Aylish”) Lacey from Ireland to Brooklyn in the early 1950s. In a still-depressed post-war Irish economy, Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) is stuck: her sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) has a job as a bookkeeper, but Eilis can’t do better than land work at a small-scale grocery run by sour, stern-faced Miss Kelly (Brid Brennan), who lectures customers who show up on Sunday to buy items she considers non-necessities. Enniscotty in County Wexford is a narrow, parochial community, but it’s all Eilis knows, so when Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), an Irish priest in Brooklyn with whom her mother (Jane Brennan) is in touch, arranges lodging and employment for Eilis, she leaves with trepidation. The movie is about how she adapts to her new surroundings and makes Brooklyn her home and how it alters her.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

On the Road with Tom Jones’ Long Lost Suitcase

Tom Jones performing in Los Angeles, February 2015. (Photo: Michael Kovac/

Tom Jones has become an older version of himself. The man with the booming Welsh baritone who broke out in 1965 with “It’s Not Unusual” has delivered a new album, Long Lost Suitcase (Virgin) released December 4th to coincide with the recent publication of his autobiography, Over The Top and Back Again. Jones’ new record is not only a showcase of his versatility, it’s also a cross-section of American music at its finest. Every genre is explored here: country, rock, blues, gospel and R&B – with not a dud among the 13 tracks. Jones feels every beat, every musical hook and grasps the lyrics with gusto in his delivery. He’s also surrounded himself with first-rate musicians and an equally great producer, Ethan Johns, to make it happen with engaging success.

Listening to this unadorned and rather spare recording, it's hard to believe Jones is 75 years of age. He sounds fresh, immediate and completely in the moment on every track. He sings with confidence by planting his feet firmly in the soil and belting it out with gusto and bravado, where the word “nuance” is for sissies. But he takes nothing for granted on these songs, as if he’s hoping to pass an audition rather than reclaim his past glory. So unlike his peers, such as Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton who stepped out of their comfort zone to perform jazz Standards laced with nostalgia, Jones is only interested in pursuing excellence without being sentimental about it. On Long Lost Suitcase, which could be interpreted as a trip down memory lane, Tom Jones has decided to challenge himself by taking his audience on a musical journey with him.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

In the Heart of the Sea: A Long Voyage Home With An Empty Hull

Chris Hemsworth in Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea.

I’m not prepared to comment on Ron Howard’s career as a whole (Phil Dyess-Nugent’s 2013 review of Rush does that effortlessly already), but I can speculate on what it appears he was trying to achieve with In the Heart of the Sea, based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s nonfiction opus about the sinking of the Nantucket whaleship Essex. He might have been trying to apply the same flashy Hollywood lacquer he did to Rush or Apollo 13 to yet another historical yarn, or he might have genuinely tried to do justice to this incredible true story (both approaches are troubling, for their own reasons). Or, he might have just been indulging his inner ten-year-old, having fun playing with tall ships. However admirable – or otherwise – his intent, the final product unfortunately comes out as a muddled mashup of all three: a bright, but severely undercooked period piece.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Macbeth: Doom and Gloom

Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in Macbeth, directed by Justin Kurzel. (Photo: Jonathan Olley)

In the late eighties I saw an incoherent production of Macbeth with Christopher Plummer and Glenda Jackson that looked as if the actors were making it up as they went along. As my friends and I high-tailed it to the street at intermission, never to return, I theorized that if you’d stopped the play at any point and asked the actors what they were playing, no one on stage would have been able to come up with an answer. Throughout its pre-Broadway tour the show had been shuffling off directors like a snake sheds skin: three had departed by the time we saw it, none of them memorialized by so much as a credit in the playbill. Unsurprisingly, it never opened in New York.

The new movie version of Macbeth with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, directed by Justin Kurzel (whose only previous feature-length credit is something called The Snowtown Murders), isn’t as bad as the Plummer-Jackson version – and, aside from praising the cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, that’s the single comment I can offer in its favor. It’s punishing. The entire cast, which includes David Thewlis as Duncan and Paddy Considine as Banquo, is stuck on the same lugubrious note. Until the Macbeths ascend the Scottish throne and throw a celebratory feast, everyone wears black, and the bagpipes in Jed Kurzel’s mournful score sound almost cheerful by comparison with the line readings. When Duncan informs Macbeth, whom he has just promoted to Thane of Cawdor in honor of his courage in battle, that he’ll be paying the Macbeth castle a visit, Fassbender responds as if he’d just been asked to make funeral arrangements for the traitor whose title he’s inherited. When Banquo talks to his little boy Fleance (Lochlann Harris), from whom he’s been separated by war, father and son don’t even smile at one another. It’s not enough to say that the characters have been stripped of all their complexities; they’re not playing characters at all, just harbingers of doom and gloom. When the actor cast as Macbeth reads the lines “To know my deed, ‘t were best not know myself” and “Is this a dagger that I see before me, / The handle toward my hand?” exactly the same way, it’s obvious that something is getting lost in translation: meaning.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Impact of Aesthetics in Simon Mawer’s The Glass Room

The living room at Villa Tugendhat (to the right of the onyx wall), the setting for Simon Mawer’s The Glass Room.

“The Glass Room remained indifferent, of course. Plain, balanced, perfect; and indifferent. Architecture should have no politics...”
– Simon Mawer, The Glass Room
Simon Mawer is adept at reimagining and creating powerful storylines from history. His recent espionage novels, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky and Tightrope, are a tribute to the female resistance fighters in World War Two and an exploration of the nuclear politics of the early Cold War. In a somewhat different manner, his superb 2009 Booker Prize finalist, The Glass Room (Little, Brown) is inspired, as the author acknowledges, by the history of a cultural landmark, the Villa Tugendhat, currently a museum in the Czech Republic. It was once owned by a wealthy Jewish couple who were forced to flee to Switzerland when the Nazis incorporated Czechoslovakia into the Third Reich and the house itself was appropriated by the Nazis. Then it was confiscated by the Soviets who used it as a ballet school and a clinic before the Czech Republic acquired and renovated it and transformed it into a museum.

Mawer’s novel loosely follows the history of this “jewel of modern domestic architecture,” but in his reworking, he uses the house as a literary device to examine the dreams and illusions of its various inhabitants. The cool rationality and beauty of this exemplar of minimalist architecture serve as a counterpoint to the conflicted emotions of those who live within its spaces, compounded by the combustible forces of six decades of twentieth-century Central European History, much of it tragic. Almost the entire plot takes place within its shimmering spaces. When the narrative strays beyond it, the actions of the characters are a response to the luminescent architecture and its centrepiece, the Glass Room. As a result, a house, or more specifically a room, becomes the principal character in a novel that marries plot with aesthetics, but the aesthetics is not burdened with heavy-handedness or pretension.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

More Fair Than She: National Ballet of Canada’s Romeo and Juliet

Chelsy Meiss, first soloist for the National Ballet of Canada. (Photo: Karolina Kuras)

Last Saturday, Chelsy Meiss did the remarkable.

Dancing the lead role of Juliet in choreographer Alexei Ratmansky’s 2011 reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s star-cross’d lovers, the National Ballet of Canada soloist imparted that elusive thing that only rarely occurs in the theatre – a tingling sensation at the back of the neck.

It’s pretty much an invisible phenomenon. But the pleasurable shiver experienced as a result of a particularly vivid performance is a true occurrence. While not entirely proven by science, Autonomous Sensory Meridien Response, or ASMR, is backed by anecdotal evidence. When a buzz along the spine is prompted by art it generally signals that a feeling of euphoria has overwhelmed the spectator, resulting in a temporary state of awe. Except with Meiss that feeling tended to last the full three hours she was on the stage.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Neglected Gem #85: Just Before Dawn (1981)

Gregg Henry and Deborah Benson in Just Before Dawn (1981).

It’s difficult to pinpoint one thing above others that makes Just Before Dawn – a low-budget 1981 thriller about a group of campers stalked and terrorized in the Oregon mountains – uniquely memorable. It might be the unrelenting sense of height and verticality in its location setting; or its command of paradoxical tones, where stillness throbs and violence is static; or the unfailing intelligence of its artistic choices, from camerawork to acting to soundtrack. It might even be the fact that its first victim is probably the only character in movie history named Vachel – as in Vachel Lindsay, once-famed chanting poet and author of The Art of the Moving Picture (1915), the first book of film aesthetics published in America.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dystopian Playground: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last

Author Margaret Atwood. (Photo credit: IBL/REX Shutterstock)

Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, The Heart Goes Last, opens with spouses Stan and Charmaine living in squalor in their car following an economic collapse in the not-so-distant future. Charmaine waits tables for tips while Stan ruminates on his state of unemployment. He used to work in robotics, she used to work in a nursing home, and they used to be happy before things went horribly awry. Longing still for the illusory (North) American dream (let’s remember Atwood is Canadian), Stan and Charmaine are all too pleased to hear about the “Positron Project,” a utopian scheme where civilians spend one month living in Leave It To Beaver-style domestic bliss and the next in a neighbouring prison, alternating every 30 days for the rest of their lives. The twin cities of Positron and Consilience seem to be the answer to Stan and Charmaine’s prayers but anyone who’s ever read an Atwood novel will recognize from the get go that some things really are too good to be true.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Podcast: Interview with Judith Fitzgerald (1985)

Poet Judith Fitzgerald (1952-2015) passed away on November 25.
From 1981 to 1989, I was assistant producer and co-host of the radio show On the Arts, at CJRT-FM (today Jazz 91.1) in Toronto. With the late Tom Fulton, who was the show's prime host and producer, we did a half-hour interview program where we talked to artists from all fields. It was during that time that I first met and spoke with Canadian poet Judith Fitzgerald, who died last month at the age of 63.

Judith Fitzgerald did more than write verse. She was also a journalist and critic, as well as an editor and avid baseball fan. At the time I first met her in 1985 when her poetry collection, Given Names, was published, she was already a potent media critic in the Globe and Mail who had strong views on politics. When the Canadian Free Trade debate was raging, for instance, she took me to Massey Hall to attend a protest concert against the deal and I still recall her enraged voice cutting and echoing through the din of the performances from the stage.

She was dynamic, funny, razor sharp and a real beauty with a sweetness for life that was never cloying. We would talk together many times during the Eighties. But I thought I'd include our first conversation as a tribute today because besides tracing her sensibility as a writer, you can also hear the kindred spiritedness of a friendship beginning to bloom.

– Kevin Courrier.

Here is the full interview with
Judith Fitzgerald as it aired on CJRT-FM in 1985.

Tom Fulton was the host and producer of On the Arts for CJRT-FM in Toronto for 23 years, beginning in 1975.
Kevin Courrier is a freelance writer/broadcaster, film critic and author (Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World of Zappa, Randy Newman's American Dreams33 1/3 Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask ReplicaArtificial Paradise: The Dark Side of The Beatles Utopian Dream). Courrier teaches part-time film courses to seniors through the LIFE Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto and other venues. His forthcoming book is Reflections in the Hall of Mirrors: American Movies and the Politics of Idealism. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Blunting the Snark: The Wiz Live!

Shanice Williams (left) and Elijah Kelley in NBC's The Wiz Live! (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Over the last few years, the response to NBC’s live broadcasts of crowd-pleasing musicals has reminded the network’s executives of the power of snark in our culture. The concept, which began with 2013’s The Sound of Music Live!, is certainly one that theatre fans like me welcome: the network has, for three years running, staged productions for the holiday season, and the first one proved to be a monster hit in terms of ratings. Given the time of year when these specials air, they’re also smart in terms of how producers Craig Zedan and Neil Meron are attempting to recapture nostalgia for the TV specials of the 1950s, which featured stars like Mary Martin in shows like Peter Pan. Having a captive audience for a live event has become crucial in a time of declining ratings and delayed viewing, so even though many viewers tuned in to laugh at as much as enjoy The Sound of Music Live!, it still proved a savvy business decision for the network.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Alban Berg's Lulu and Modernism

Johan Reuter (as Dr. Schön) and Marlis Petersen (as Lulu) in Alban Berg's Lulu. (Photo: Ken Howard)

Alban Berg wrote his opera Lulu in the late twenties and early thirties, though because he died (in 1935) before he could complete the orchestrations for the third act, only acts one and two were included at its premiere in 1937, in Zurich. Of course it couldn’t have opened in Berg’s native Vienna, because of the Nazi ban on “decadent” art: Berg, a student of Schönberg (already a black mark against him since Schönberg was Jewish), adapted the scandalous fin-de-siècle Frank Wedekind plays, Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box, that Pabst had made into his landmark Expressionist silent Pandora’s Box in 1929. And because Berg’s widow blocked all efforts to finish his work, it wasn’t performed in its entirety until after her death, in 1979, when the Paris Opera mounted a celebrated production by Patrice Chéreau with Pierre Boulez conducting and the great Teresa Stratas in the title role. I was lucky enough to see a tape of it and it wasn’t like anything I’d ever encountered: the twelve-tone scale added a jagged, unstable quality to music that still somehow carried the whiff of nineteenth-century Viennese elegance. I hadn’t seen another Lulu until, last week, I caught the new production by the South African artist and director William Kentridge in the Met Live in HD series. Since three and a half decades have intervened, I couldn’t possibly trust my memory of Stratas and Chéreau’s staging well enough to compare the two versions, but I found both utterly thrilling.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Marvel's Jessica Jones: AKA Saviour Complex

Krysten Ritters stars in Marvel's Jessica Jones, current streaming on Netflix.

Welcome back to Hell's Kitchen. Our last glimpse into this especially dark corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was several months ago when Netflix launched Daredevil, the first of five projected Marvel television series. At the time, Daredevil was the most adult chapter of the narrative juggernaut that Marvel has been unfolding since the 2008 release of Iron Man. Daredevil told a surprisingly gritty and human story, a weighty and morally ambiguous entry that left behind the big screen world of alien invasions, laser-wielding raccoons, killer robots, and colourful, bantering superheroes. With the recent release of Jessica Jones, Netflix and Marvel return us to the grimy streets of New York City's Hell's Kitchen, but where Daredevil ends, Jessica Jones only begins – and the result is the darkest and most compelling story that Marvel has yet told.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Podcast: Interview with Paul Auster (1989)

From 1981 to 1989, I was assistant producer and co-host of the radio show On the Arts, at CJRT-FM (today Jazz 91.1) in Toronto. With the late Tom Fulton, who was the show's prime host and producer, we did a half-hour interview program where we talked to artists from all fields.

One of those interviews was with author Paul Auster. Over the course of his prolific career, Auster has written novels (The New York Trilogy, 1985-86), screenplays (The Music of Chance, 1993, Smoke, 1995), poetry, and memoirs (most recently, 2013's Report from the Interior). When I sat down with Auster in 1989, his novel Moon Palace had just been published.

– Kevin Courrier.

Here is the full interview with Paul Auster as it aired on CJRT-FM in 1989.

Tom Fulton was the host and producer of On the Arts for CJRT-FM in Toronto for 23 years, beginning in 1975.
Kevin Courrier is a freelance writer/broadcaster, film critic and author (Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World of ZappaRandy Newman's American Dreams33 1/3 Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask ReplicaArtificial Paradise: The Dark Side of The Beatles Utopian Dream). Courrier teaches part-time film courses to seniors through the LIFE Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto and other venues. His forthcoming book is Reflections in the Hall of Mirrors: American Movies and the Politics of Idealism. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

When Being Petty Makes You Big: Ross Petty's Final Boo

Ross Petty as Captain Hook in Peter Pan in Wonderland, Toronto's Elgin Theatre. (Photo: Racheal McCaig Photography)

Ross Petty, the Canadian actor who has helped make sick mean something awesome, takes his final bow as the creator of a Canadianized version of the traditional English Christmas pantomime he has produced for 20 years. This season's "fractured family musical" is Peter Pan in Wonderland and it's at Toronto's Elgin Theatre until Jan. 3. Tracey Flye directs Canadian playwright Chris Earle's pop culture-inspired script with a cast that includes panto stalwarts Dan Chameroy and Eddie Glen along with Jessica Holmes and Anthony MacPherson in the lead role. Petty plays the villain, as he does every year. Captain Hook will be his final stage role, he announced earlier in the summer, adding that he will continue to produce. Petty is nearing his 70th birthday and keeping up with the high-kicking dancers and fellow high-vamping actors is proving to be too much. I for one will miss him.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Watching Couples Watch Couples: Angelina Jolie Pitt’s By the Sea

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Pitt in By the Sea.

When I initially saw the trailer for By the Sea, Angelina Jolie’s latest foray into directing, I admit to being intrigued. I had questions: What was happening in this pretty but rather vague series of images? Why don’t they speak? Is that glamorous Angelina lying murdered on a luxurious carpet?! At the behest of logic and reason, I shelved these thoughts for a while until the synopsis caught me by surprise while I was browsing the local movie listings. It was something murky about “an American couple in the 1970s” retreating to a quiet seaside town to focus on their troubled marriage. It was maybe a line or two, and it told me nothing. Immediately, I fell for it. I was confident that I’d be sitting down to some weird, hushed noir film, a tale of love gone wrong culminating in a crime of passion. Readers, I was wrong.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Fast Forward: Joe Jackson, Then and Now

Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff.

Joe Jackson wears his heart on his sleeve. The Brit-Pop artist, who first came into public eye on the music scene in 1978, caught the attention of the world for his razor sharp wit and his no-nonsense rock music. He was on the wave, or I should say New Wave of British pop, which included Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Ian Dury. Jackson’s articulate music stood out among the crowd of angry young men with attitude because his songs were much more sophisticated than the three-chord rock Costello et al brought to radio at the time.

Born in 1954, Jackson a piano player and alto sax player was influenced by Big Band jazz and classical repertoire while growing up. Jackson’s enriched and learned background in music had a lot of appeal considering the success of his debut album Look Sharp! (A&M) in 1979. He got regular airplay, toured the world and had a major label backing his every step. Clearly somebody at A&M believed Jackson made great music and they were right. He released eleven albums for the label until 1989, including two soundtracks Mike’s Murder and Tucker which showcased his talent as a composer. He fared quite well compared to Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe but Jackson wasn’t often mentioned in the same breath by fans or critics, perhaps because his punk attitude at the beginning of his career merely opened a door to higher achievement.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Creed: Going the Distance

Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in Creed.

Creed is a film about legacy: the legacy of legendary fighter Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), whose shadow perpetually looms over the life of his son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), and in a more meta sense, the legacy of the Rocky series, which has endured (despite several pitfalls) as one of cinema’s best and most inspiring character stories. Adonis – or Donnie, as he prefers to be called – must forge his own legacy, by both accepting his connection to his famous father and by earning his own place in the ring. So must director Ryan Coogler, in finding a way for his spinoff film to honour its pedigree while still standing tall on its own merit.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Literary Theatre: A Confederacy of Dunces and Thérèse Raquin

Nick Offerman, Talene Monahon, and Anita Gillette in A Confederacy of Dunces. (Photo: T. Charles Erickson)

John Kennedy Toole’s novel A Confederacy of Dunces, published in 1980, more than a decade after Toole’s suicide, and awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize, has a reputation as one of the great Southern novels (its setting is New Orleans in the early 1960s). But I confess to being a non-believer; for me, a little of Toole’s self-conscious wit and literary braggadocio goes a long way. I might find it less of a slog with a different protagonist, but Ignatius J. Reilly, the overfed misanthrope who lives off his indulgent mama until he’s thirty and then, landing a position at a pants company that he turns, through a combination of deviousness and perverseness and the stupidity of his supervisor, Mr. Gonzalez, into little more than a sinecure and an excuse for undermining his employer, doesn’t strike me as either especially clever or even slightly sympathetic. The book’s point of view seems to be that the world around Reilly is so infested with dunces that it deserves what it gets; the title is from Swift: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him,” and Toole may also intend some link to Pope’s literary-satirical Dunciad. The novel has a happy ending because, try as he may, Reilly can’t do any real damage in a community of idiots. For this sort of idea, I much prefer Kaufman and Hart’s great 1930 hard-boiled comedy Once in a Lifetime, where the target is Hollywood at the dawn of sound and the hero who keeps landing on his feet, George, is a blissful dope himself. Reilly’s high-flown pronouncements about the decline of the western world (some of them delivered as he sits through the fare at his local movie house) didn’t make me laugh; they put me in a sour mood.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Life in the Shadows Never Ends: Simon Mawer's Marian Sutro Novels

Author Simon Mawer. (Photo: David Levenson)

Simon Mawer’s The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (Little, Brown 2012) – the American edition is Trapeze (Other Press, 2012) – and its sequel Tightrope (Little, Brown, 2015) is like reading two parts of the same novel. The more ambitious Tightrope can be read independently, but I think readers can derive more pleasure if they begins with the first. Reminiscent of Sebastian Faulkes’ Charlotte Gray, The Girl chronicles the war efforts of a young English woman with a Catholic francophone childhood who is recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE), the spy network, to become a secret agent. In the Scottish Highlands, Marian Sutro attends a school for spies where she undergoes commando training and learns among other skills how to survive interrogation. She is ultimately parachuted from an RAF bomber into the South-West of France to join the Resistance, along with a young irreverent Frenchman, Benoit. Although the work she knows will be dangerous and fraught with risk, Marian “felt only a great rush of excitement.” Throughout, she displays her bravery and when the occasion calls for it, she becomes a ruthless killer.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

TIME Magazine: Sticking to the Old Ways, Fortunately

TIME magazine’s recent announcement that it has hired film critic Stephanie Zacharek to replace the late Richard Corliss, its longtime reviewer who passed away early this year, is welcome news for those of us who still buy magazines, value their continuity, and don’t want to see film critics thrown overboard in some misguided attempt to keep up with the times. When publications as diverse as Newsweek, Variety and The Village Voice canned their longtime critics, in recent years, including such stalwarts as David Ansen, Todd McCarthy and J. Hoberman , the future of film criticism, wobbly as it was in terms of overall quality, seemed even more dire. With the ascent of newer reviewers who don’t actually want to bring a real critical eye to their work (they don’t really deserve to be called film critics as they don’t/can’t criticize films but only praise them) and so many amateurs blogging their misguided, superficial and uninformed opinions on movies, there did not seem to be a place for the talented likes of Ms. Zacharek, who has toiled for the Boston Phoenix and The Village Voice, among others. Yet, here comes TIME which could have opted for a rotating slate of film critics, or no critics at all, attempting to keep the old ways going, allowing a prickly, original voice to carry the torch previously held aloft by TIME film critics, including Corliss, Richard Schickel (now retired), Jay Cocks and James Agee. Not only that, instead of routinely directing the readers of the print edition to go online to read most of the magazine’s critical reviews, as they used to recently do, they’ve of late opted to put most of those reviews in print instead and ceased tub-thumping for exclusively online content in the print publication, They still have separate online content, of course, but I no longer get the impression that it is paramount nor perceived by TIME’s editors, as more important to them then the weekly sent out to subscribers or sold on the newsstand. TIME’s decision to hire Zacharek comes on the heels of the startling announcement that Playboy magazine plans to phase out its nude pictorials, the ones that gave it cultural cachet when it was launched by Hugh Hefner in 1953. No doubt, those pictorials aren’t seen as nor are they as racy anymore in an age when mainstream pornography is aired regularly on (pay) TV (in Canada, at least), but it’s the exact opposite of what TIME has done, in terms of honouring its traditions. Playboy is turning itself into Esquire or GQ – profile pieces, interviews and lifestyle concepts geared towards an upwardly mobile male readership – while TIME tries to maintain important aspects of what it has traditionally done for decades. I think the latter has more merit and should be commended for not bending to the internet’s seemingly implacable Borg-like will.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bridge of Spies: Phony Baloney

Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies.

The opening sequence of Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, where, in 1957, the slippery British-born Russian spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) manages to elude the FBI for the last time before he’s caught, is both excitingly and wittily filmed. Rylance, a much-lauded stage and recently TV star (he played Thomas Cromwell in the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall) who hasn’t been tapped by the movies until now, turns the tension between Abel’s hyperawareness and his calm, almost languid air into a sort of music-hall routine with a whiff of melancholy. But as soon as Abel is sent to prison to await trial for espionage and James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is urged by his law firm to act as his defense attorney, the movie flattens out. How did Spielberg and the writers, Joel and Ethan Coen and Matt Charman, manage to turn the fascinating, twisty story of Abel – the Cold War spy who ended up being traded to the Soviets for both the captured pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) and Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers), an American economics student in Berlin arrested for suspicion of espionage – into a civics lesson? Somehow, instead of releasing the storytelling master in Spielberg – the director who could make the three-hour Munich so gripping – Bridge of Spies brings out his earnest, big-studio-era, socio-sentimental side. Janusz Kaminski’s period cinematography is gorgeous and vivifying, but the movie behind it is as glazed as Always, his 1989 remake of A Guy Named Joe, with Richard Dreyfuss in the Spencer Tracy part. And this time around he’s got Tom Hanks, who plays Jim Donovan as if he were Tracy.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Revisiting The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

What is a Witcher? With the roaring success of this year’s medieval fantasy The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, most gamers know all about Geralt of Rivia and his flair for demon hunting, but it wasn’t too long ago that we were asking ourselves this question. In 2011, Polish video game developers CD Projekt RED released their first crack at a console game, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Assassins of Kings took a relatively unknown story from a relatively unplayed PC game (simply titled, The Witcher) and ran with it. Obviously, CD Projekt RED had a lot of narrative gaps to fill in for their rapidly growing fanbase.

Acclimatizing the Pontar Valley’s sudden influx of Xbox 360 gamers to The Witcher 2‘s environment was no easy task but CD Projekt RED delivered. With the help of gorgeous cinematics (my favourite, an introductory one titled “What is a Witcher?”), a detailed inventory menu, and the expansive journal entries favoured by the best lore-heavy RPGS, Projekt RED rendered playing The Witcher 1 almost entirely unnecessary. For newcomers looking to immerse themselves in The Witcher 3’s award-winning open world, however, Witcher 2 is a crucial starting point –  not just for the backstory it offers but also because it’s a really phenomenal game in its own right.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Winter's Tale: A Riveting Reinterpretation

Piotr Stanczyk and Hannah Fischer in Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter's Tale. (Photo: Karolina Kuras)

In choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s riveting reinterpretation of The Winter’s Tale, a new full-length ballet which the National Ballet of Canada presented this past week at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre, the dancer portraying King Leontes, the troubled and troubling monarch at the heart of Shakespeare’s brilliantly convoluted story, collapses the palm of his hand and ripples the fingers in imitation of a spider. It’s not a move typically associated with ballet but on this occasion it serves as a fluent example of the art form’s ability to communicate powerful emotions and universal themes without the use of words.

The expressionistic gesture renders in physical terms the metaphor of the spider conjured by Leontes in the play when describing an onslaught of jealousy. Suspecting that his good wife, Hermione, is having an affair with his best friend, Polixenes, King of Bohemia, the suddenly sick-at-heart King of Sicilia says he feels as though he has drunk a cup “with a spider steep’d” and this has cracked “his gorge, his sides,/With violent hefts.”

Leontes’ deluded belief that an infidelity has indeed occurred is the pivot on which the rest of the play turns, veering sharply from a scene of domestic bliss to one of tragedy. Shakespeare’s late career problem play will later shift back to comedy mode once the King, in a sense, kills the spider gnawing at his sanity. The antidote will be love and forgiveness whose powers of redemption Leontes rediscovers in due time. These are large ideas, fundamentally Christian in nature, and the wonder of The Winter’s Tale is that they endure even when translated into the mute art of dance.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Falling for Dance, Canadian Style

DanceBrazil performed Jelon Vierira’s Malungos at Toronto's Fall for Dance North festival. (Photo: Andrea Mohin)

Toronto fell big time for the inaugural Fall for Dance North festival that took over the city’s Sony Centre earlier in the autumn. An initiative of artistic director Ilter Ibrahimof and executive director Madeleine Skoggard, the two-part program showcased exciting new dance creation from across Canada, and other points around the world including New York where the Fall for Dance franchise launched in 2004. Like the original, Fall for Dance North (so-called because of the event’s revamped presence north of the 49th parallel) offered up a variety of dance styles at a cost of $10 a ticket. The Sony Centre, which seats approximately 3,200, was sold-out for each of the three performances that took place from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 – proof that if you make dance affordable the people will come. But that wasn’t the only reason the festival packed them in.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Steve Jobs: Turn It Off

Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs.

In Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, released a couple of months ago, you can feel the documentarian Alex Gibney struggling to find a shape for the story of this icon – a way of bridging the gap between his narcissism and callousness and the heroic status he occupies in the minds of millions of people. And the impossibility of building that bridge becomes the focus; the tone of the doc is as quizzical as it is critical and astonished. I found the movie’s ambling approach a little frustrating, but mostly I admired its refusal to pretend to have worked out a finished portrait of Jobs, and the material Gibney comes up with is fascinating. By contrast, the dramatic feature Steve Jobs, written by Aaron Sorkin (based on Walter Isaacson’s biography) and directed by Danny Boyle, exudes an air of gleaming confidence and it has a carefully groomed look – I’d say vellum-bound. (The production design is by Guy Hendrix Dyas and the cinematography is by Alwin Küchler; Elliot Graham edited it.) But these two A-list filmmakers and their A-list star, Michael Fassbender, don’t even get close to creating a convincing portrait of Jobs or of the empire he created, was exiled from, and eventually returned to as its reigning monarch.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Talking Out of Turn #39 (Podcast): Doris Kearns Goodwin (1987)

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin at her home in Concord, Massachusetts in 2014. (Photo: Steven Senne/AP)

From 1981 to 1989, I was assistant producer and co-host of the radio show On the Arts at CJRT-FM in Toronto. With the late Tom Fulton, who was the show's prime host and producer, we did a half-hour interview program where we talked to artists from all fields. In 1994, after I had gone to CBC, I had an idea to collate an interview anthology from some of the more interesting discussions I'd had with guests from that period. Since they all took place during the Eighties, I thought I could edit the collection into an oral history of the decade from some of its most outspoken participants. The book was assembled from interview transcripts and organized thematically. I titled it Talking Out of Turn: Revisiting the '80s. With financial help from the Canada Council, I shaped the individual pieces into a number of pertinent themes relevant to the decade. By the time I began to contact publishers, though, the industry was starting to change. At one time, editorial controlled marketing. Now the reverse was taking place. Acquisition editors, who once responded to an interesting idea for a book, were soon following marketing divisions concerned with whether the person doing it was hot enough to sell it.