Tuesday, October 26, 2010

“There’s no sound people make when drama’s working.”

Another online addendum: New York magazine’s culture website, Vulture, has put up a longer version of my conversation with Judd Apatow. I liked this answer of his in particular:
Funny People seemed to show that influence in terms of writing about your own experience, even when it’s dark, and still being funny. Are you working on anything now that is moving in that direction?

We’ll see. Sometimes you make a movie and your intention is to make people deliriously happy. And when you’re working on a movie like that you understand the rules: The 40-year-old virgin needs to get laid, and when he does, the audience should be happy. And you’re trying to make every scene as unique and funny as you can. You know, with Funny People, I was trying to get big laughs, but also talk about issues which are not usually talked about in a comedy, and some of it is not meant to be entertaining as much as thought-provoking. And it’s a very different experience to try to walk that line than to make a movie where the final judge of every moment is, “Did it get a laugh?” There’s no sound people make when drama’s working. I wish there was. At a preview for the movie, maybe every time a dramatic moment’s working they could make a sort of squeal-y noise. But they don’t … I found that to be a very fulfilling experience, but it’s also painful because you’re really putting your heart into something and putting yourself out there. There are people who really take to it and see what you’re going for, and there are people who say, “Why isn’t it funnier?”
Read the rest. Above: Apatow again (a couple of times).

Monday, October 25, 2010

What Makes Judd Apatow Laugh?

I talked to Judd Apatow about the new book he edited, the pilot Conan O’Brien wrote for Adam West, Frederick Exley’s A Fans Notes, Raymond Carver, and, among a few other subjects, Woody Allen:
I did notice there’s nothing [in the book] by Woody Allen.
I continue to follow everything he does. He’s very up-front about making movies to avoid existential issues, and I try to think of myself as someone who’s more along the philosophical lines of James Brooks and Cameron Crowe—writers who are looking to say something positive about our time on earth. I’m not as old as Woody, and I still want to feel that life is good and you don’t need to make 90 movies to avoid your fear of death. As much as I love him, I wish he would tell me that things are going to be okay at some point. But I don’t think he will.
Read the rest. (Above, Apatow gets Barbara Walters to give thumbs down to Jay Leno.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Off the Road

A small addendum to the review posted last week: on the LRB blog, I explain why Tao Lin sort of reminds me, just a little bit, of Jack Kerouac (pictured left... singing?).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Kind of Gnawing Offness

In the latest issue of the London Review of Books, I take a look at Tao Lin’s new novel, Richard Yates, along with his five previous books—and I consider his method for rendering online experience in his fiction (more successfully, I think, than Daniel Kehlmann does):
In an email exchange published earlier this year, David Gates asked Jonathan Lethem: ‘If I write about people for whom the internet is—as far as the reader can see—peripheral or nonexistent, am I not essentially writing historical fiction?’ If the answer is yes, then nearly every major author in America is now writing historical fiction. Writers seem stuck on the challenge of depicting the seamlessness with which the internet is already woven into our lives. Lin’s solution is to do what writers have done with handwritten letters for centuries. He quotes from instant messaging conversations extensively in both Shoplifting from American Apparel and Richard Yates, but he punctuates them the same way he punctuates the other dialogue, and everything is spelled correctly. This sacrifices some degree of verisimilitude—there are no real-life typos, and capital letters (unusually for him) are in the proper places—in order to show that online conversations don’t stand out anymore for many of us; they certainly wouldn’t for Lin’s characters. And they don’t stand out in his prose either.
If you subscribe to the LRB, you can read the rest here. If not, well, Lin has put up the whole thing on his site, so...

(Above, Tao Lin poses for a parody of this Jonathan Franzen/Time magazine cover.)