Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Dreams with Sharp Teeth" (Documentary on Harlan Ellison).

I'm not recommending this, although if you have any interest
in the guy or in outsized writer-personalities in general, you'll
likely get a kick out of it. I'm not a fan of him or his over-the-top
writing, but the film does humanize him, unexpectedly for me. I'd
looked forward to a portrait of a completely toxic obnoxious narcissist,
but I was sort of charmed by the cat. His rage seemed mostly transparent,
in a good way, and reminiscent of a stand-up comedian whose schtick
is rant against The Man. I hope I have his energy when I'm 73.

One funny part: Harlan's in the middle of an anti-TV rant and
he's telling the story of when he and his wife were watching
the Weakest Link, a game show. The female contestant is asked
a question about the film version of Lawrence of Arabia. The
clue is the letter "S" and the correct answer is Omar Sharif.
The woman's answer is "Naomi Campbell." So Harlan got a kick out
of this, how the answer was utterly nonsensical, how Naomi Campbell
doesnt even have an "s" in it, etc.
What Harlan didnt catch was that the contestant obviously thought
"Lawrence of Arabia" was a clothing designer, as in
"Valentino of Beverly Hills." Hence, the first model that came to
mind: "Naomi Campbell."

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Anonymous said...

wow. if your book is as poorly written and thought out as your column is, you will probably have to pay the publisher for the loss of prestige they suffer.

and next time you want comment on what or how someone else "obviously" thought, perhaps it would be best if you took a few seconds to think yourself.

Anonymous said...

Watch out--the Ellison fanboys are going to be all over your case for writing this.

Richard Martin.... said...

Hey, comments is comments. My own on Harlan seem pretty innocuous to me. I don't care for his writing, the little I've read. At the same time I don't care that other people might not be moved by the writers I love. I did enjoy the film & like the guy more now than before. That's good. And "Lawrence of Arabia" is still not a fashion designer. For Harlan fans, what's the absolutely best piece of fiction he's written?

Anonymous said...

Interesting interpretation about the contestant's likely train of thought, at so far a remove. One little problem with it, though -- the question was not about "Lawerence of Arabia".

Kristian said...

Harlan is a polarizing figure, of that there is no doubt. I can't recommend one entire piece of his fiction over another, but I can point you to what I feel is one of the finest attempts at capturing loneliness with the written word.

It's from the opening of Lonelyache, and it can be read here, reproduced with permission. (Towards the end of the page.)

Love him or hate him, Harlan is a force of nature. And, it's hard to argue against the fact that that he's one of the few true craftsmen working in the writing mines today. Give his enormous body of work some consideration, and you may just walk away from it better for having had the experience.

Richard Martin.... said...

Kristian, that passage from Lonelyache was moving. A primal fear, losing the beloved. Thank you.

Anon3: I may not be understanding you, but in the version I saw on Sundance, the question was definitely about Lawrence of Arabia, specifically the name of an actor from that film. It's also referenced here:

I see the poster who linked to this blog said of my comments: "THIS may be the STUPIDEST thing I have EVER read about DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH..."

I demand a recount.

Anonymous said...

3 here -- apparently you aren't the only one who misheard/misremembered, then. The correct answer was Sharif, but as Harlan tells it, the question was about a "long-running bridge column". No mention of any movies. HTH

Richard Martin.... said...

Well, you're right. The question was indeed about a bridge column, but Lawrence of Arabia is mentioned in both the question & in Harlan's answer. This guy got it down (not quite halfway down the page):


"The best part of the film was when he talked about watching the game The Weakest Link. A young woman was asked the question 'Which S who was in Lawrence of Arabia wrote a long running newspaper column about bridge?' The woman's answer? Naomi Campbell! That is so wrong on so many levels, a) She wasn't in Lawrence of Arabia, b) I don't think she knows what bridge is unless it's crossing a river, and c) Her last name doesn't start with S. The only thing I can think of is that because Campbell is considered a supermodel, well that starts with S."

I am still fond of my mindreading of the poor bewildered contestant. I often feel like a poor bewildered contestant in this world. Peace.