California Literary Review

Classics

Book Review: Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm

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December 30th, 2012

The value of Pullman’s new translation, I believe, lies in his willingness to encompass the darkness as well as the light in the tales, and his determination to retell them in language that does not belong to any particular historical moment or sensibility.

Book Review: The Other by Thomas Tryon

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November 15th, 2012

The summer of 1935 is a hot and languorous one in Pequot Landing, Connecticut. Elms yet untouched by the Dutch Blight shade the old houses, The Good Earth and Anthony Adverse are in heavy demand at the public library, and the headlines feature Bruno Hauptmann’s trial for the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby.

Book Review: The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes

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August 29th, 2012

As befits a former poet, Hughes’s writing is economical yet stylish, atmospheric without being fussy. And as with almost any vintage detective novel, there are many pleasures to be had in the details of an earlier America.

The Weekly Listicle: A Question Of Identity

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February 18th, 2011

Identity is a wonderful device for deception and suspense in storytelling. In some cases a whole plot hinges on whether or not someone is who they claim to be. The quest for identity, whether inwardly or outwardly direction, may lead to all manner of obsession, danger, and mischief.

Brighton Rock Rises Again. Graham Greene Abides.

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December 20th, 2010

Acclaimed screenwriter Rowan Joffé will try his hand at the directing game next year. For his debut, he has selected an auspiciously high-profile story. Brighton Rock, adapted from Graham Greene’s 1938 novel, is a captivating crime thriller and a chilling exploration of the human capacity for love, betrayal and violence. If all goes right, this will be one beautiful and scary film.

A Watchful Eye On… Sherlock Holmes

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December 15th, 2010

Sherlock Holmes as a strict Victorian period piece is over and done with, but the character still has potential in a new context. The only rule is not to stray from the unique faculties that make Sherlock such a distinctive and popular hero. If the story’s focus ceases to be the detective’s brilliant deductive logic, then the magic is lost and the character wasted. If, however, due attention and respect are paid to this detail, the rest is free and open to broader interpretation.

The Weekly Listicle: Misleading Movie Titles

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December 3rd, 2010

Sometimes a movie’s title appears to be a secret known only to the writer. Sometimes it is based on a very subtle detail in the story, which only becomes clear after multiple viewings. Sometimes a flaw in the film’s execution simply fails to bring out the significance of the title. And sometimes movies just have stupid titles. This week, William Bibbiani and I (Dan Fields) meditate upon the sticky subject of Movie Naming.

Movie Time Nostalgia, Part 4: We Are All Children Of Paradise

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November 9th, 2010

A movie can do a lot of things to an audience. It may move them, amuse them, disgust them, terrify them, or in all too many cases bore them. One thing only a handful of films can do is inspire wonder. Every once in a while, a winning combination of writer, director, designers, composers and cast meet in perfect harmony. Such, I feel, is the case of Marcel Carné’s 1945 epic romance, Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise).

The Weekly Listicle: “On This Very Night…” Spooky Tales for Halloween

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October 28th, 2010

It’s almost Halloween, folks! Aren’t we supposed to be having fun? Rather than dwell further on the shortcomings of modern horror, we salute the spirit of the campfire tale, the ghost story, and the urban legend in this nostalgic look at great horror stories in film and television. Join me – Dan Fields – and my fellow campers Julia Rhodes and William Bibbiani, as we pass the flashlight and torch a few marshmallows.

Book Review: Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

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October 18th, 2010

Pasternak ranges the individualism of Zhivago against the heartless society that is being erected by the Bolsheviks on the grave of Tsarist Russia. Where Zhivago questions his every deed from the standpoint of conscience, left-wing leaders like Lara’s husband, Pasha Antipov, who styles himself as Strelnikov or “Shooter,” kill without blinking or thinking.

History of Madness by Michel Foucault

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August 8th, 2007

By the 1700s the “correctional” metaphor prevails and most of them are placed in moral and physical restraints in order to correct their aberrant attitudes or behaviors. Many of these souls were chained as animals in appalling conditions which would get us convicted if we treated our dogs similarly today. Such unfortunates included those convicted of debauchery, crime, and sexual license “where reason was the slave of desire and a servant of the heart.” (I suppose all of us would require sequestration under those criteria).

Denial of Death by Ernest Becker

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April 11th, 2007

According to Becker, man is torn between his symbolic, self-conscious awareness and his animal nature. The same creature that names himself, imagines, explores and speculates is in the end, food for insects.

The Collector by John Fowles

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April 11th, 2007

Fowles was a writer who always seemed content to remain in the shadows, on the edge of things. He would emerge now and again to play the part of the cantankerous recluse, but he was, in essence a private, even hermetic man.

Fahrenheit 451: Avatar of the New Man

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March 26th, 2007

Francois Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 begins with a striking narration of the film’s credits. The premise is simple: talk becomes the natural medium in an illiterate state. When the firemen, that is, the book burners, arrive at a high rise with orders to burn books we are immediately struck by the stark and vulgar aesthetics of the buildings that are so typical in totalitarian countries – globs of spiritless, unimaginative, state-commissioned modernism.

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