Thursday, July 19, 2007

Slouching Towards Hollywood

The DVD release of The Panic in Needle Park got me thinking about Joan Didion as a screenwriter. I've now written about the subject for Slate:
And though Dunne wrote the first draft, The Panic in Needle Park feels more like a Didion work. It opens with Helen, played by Kitty Winn, looking overwhelmed on a crowded subway. We soon learn that she has just gotten an abortion—a "free scrape," as her artist boyfriend (a young Raul Julia) calls it. As Roger Ebert has noted, this calls to mind Maria Wyeth, the protagonist of Didion's 1970 novel, Play It as It Lays, whose own abortion precipitates her decline into drugs and disaster. (Didion was finishing that novel just as she and Dunne began the Needle Park screenplay.) Helen's youth, and the bohemian trappings of her boyfriend's apartment, meanwhile, call to mind the subjects of Didion's nonfiction—in particular, the drug-addled adolescents in "Slouching Towards Bethlehem," written just a couple of years earlier. Like them, Helen seems lost and uncertain, someone who was "never taught and would never now learn the games that held the society together," as Didion writes in her famous essay.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Felony Theft and a Lot of Taunting

My review of Soon I Will Be Invincible, in the San Francisco Chronicle:
While earlier superhero narratives (most notably, Alan Moore's brilliant graphic novel, Watchmen) have brought out the darker sides of their heroes, Grossman lowers, drastically, the evil quotient of his villain. Though he speaks of destroying the world, Dr. Impossible mostly engages in some felony theft and a lot of taunting. Strangely for a book about superheroes, no one dies.
And a response from Dwight Garner, senior editor of the New York Times Book Review.