Friday, July 8, 2011

Authors on film, on recordings, & on your patio

Sholem Aleichem, the great Jewish writer whose stories were the basis of Fiddler on the Roof, is profiled in the new documentary Laughing in the Darkness. This trailer has some superb images of Aleichem and his milieu.

 Thomas Edison filmed this footage of Mark Twain and his daughters in 1909.

Of course audio has its place too. That you can get from the behemoth set One Hundred Greatest: The Greatest Speeches, News Stories, Personalities, Scandals and Sports Moments of the Last Century. I gravitated to the 100 Greatest Personalities CD, where George Bernard Shaw issues a pacifist manifesto; Ernest Hemingway broods on the solitude of the writer; and James Baldwin accuses people who ask what black people want of a "fantastic" dishonesty and cowardice because "they're asking if I would please be quiet and not really insist on being a human being because it's not that important."

If you could wave a magic wand, which author(s) of the past would you like to see and hear in action? Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and Virginia Woolf come to mind for me.

A recent survey of our neighbors up north revealed that Margaret Atwood is the author most Canadians would invite to a Canada Day barbeque. I would invite comedian Paula Poundstone because she's so hilarious and because technically she's a writer, even though There's Nothing in This Book I Meant to Say had to be dragged out of her. But if Atwood would deign to grace my humble patio, I'm all for it. What writer would you invite?


  1. Paula Poundstone and Mark Twain my two favorite humorists. No, really!

  2. I'd also love to see and hear Jane Austen. I also would pick Shakespeare - perhaps for once and all he could settle the matter of if he is the TRUE author of those magnificent plays and sonnets.

  3. Great question! I'd save my one flick of the wand to hear Emily Dickinson recite her favorites. However, barbecues are for entertainment, so I'd probably go for Dorothy Parker or Hunter S. Thompson... the commentary and stories would be epic!!

  4. Dorothy Parker is an inspired choice!

  5. George Bernard Shaw sitting next to Mae West...
    I'd pay for that dinner!

  6. Mae West is also a favorite. I hear Carole Lombard was a hoot. Remember that show where people actually impersonated figures from history and had discussions? I think Steve Allen was involved. The possibilities are endless ... Caryl Churchill did a play called Top Girls w/ an assemblage of women from different periods that included (from Wikipedia): Pope Joan, who, disguised as a man, is said to have been pope between 854-856; the explorer Isabella Bird; Dull Gret the harrower of Hell; Lady Nijo, the Japanese mistress of an emperor and later a Buddhist nun; and Patient Griselda, the patient wife from The Clerk's Tale in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.