Lunch Poems (mini-review)

I know this will be controversial, but I’m not the biggest fan of Frank O’Hara’s masterwork Lunch Poems. This small collection of poems contain countless references to New York City and the popular culture of the 1960’s. Without Wikipedia handy many of the poems are inaccessible. I believe great art should stand on its own.

When Walt Whitman writes: “I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love / If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.” You know that he was completely overwhelmed by the natural beauty around him. Where Whitman composed those lines is irrelevant because his words can be appreciated by anyone who’s had a similar feeling. But when O’Hara writes: “If I rest for a moment near The Equestrian / pausing for a liver sausage sandwich in the Mayflower Shoppe / that angel seems to be leading the horse into Bergdorf’s.” I know that O’Hara is writing about Central Park South, but would someone who doesn’t know New York City appreciate those lines? And his references to Bette Davis, William Morris, and Hart Crane are completely lost on me.

To be fair, there is a lot of brilliance here too. O’Hara articulates the fear of fatherhood brilliantly, “and do I really want a son / to carry on my idiocy past the Horned Gates.” And the poem “A Step Away From Them” brilliantly describes the feeling of an afternoon walk on a hot New York City afternoon. But in general, I feel that Lunch Poems demonstrates the weakness of modern art, and all things “meta”; if an audience can’t appreciate a work forty years after publication, who will appreciate it in a hundred or two?


Astonishing X-Men: Part One (micro-review)

If you like comics and superheroes buy this now! Joss Whedon’s writing is clever and his story is full of plots twists that will keep you guessing until the final issue. But the true standout is John Cassaday’s artwork. Astonishing! Cassaday fully exploits the comic medium and allows page breaks to setup some of Whedon’s most powerful plot twists. And the duality of Wolverine and Beast has never been explored more subtly (be sure to checkout the Cassaday spotlight interview in the back) through art. I thoroughly enjoyed Part One and can’t wait to read the next volume.


Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (micro-review)

“I want you on your feet and slugging, sweetheart, because I’m going to knock you around, and I want you up for it,” says George to his wife Martha in front of their house guests, Nick and Honey. To me, this line best encapsulates Edward Albee’s horrific portrayal of a marriage in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Of all the plays I’ve read so far, this one has shaken me to my core. Albee gives form to every cynical fear I have about marriage, which is basically that the institution serves as a vessel for individuals to offload their frustrations and shortcomings onto someone else, until death.


Gone Girl (micro-review)

I thoroughly enjoyed Gillian Flynn’s roller coaster of a book Gone Girl. When Amy Elliott Dunne goes missing all signs point to her husband, Nick. But alternating between the husband’s and wife’s journal entries it quickly becomes apparent that both sides of the story may not be reliable. Flynn cleverly inverts the age old “boy meets girl, boy loses girl” story structure and keeps you guessing until the very end. Do yourself a favor and pick this book up for some fun summer reading.

Media Theory Reviews

Scene Counts & Contemporary Plays

I’m noticing a trend that I wanted to share. It seems like the contemporary plays I’m reading have much more scenes than the older ones. For example:

Bethany – 2013 – 10 scenes (and only 43 pages!)
She Kills Monsters – 2011 – 17 scenes
Reasons to be Pretty – 2008 – 8 scenes (with 4 optional monologues)

Long Day’s Journey into Night – 1956 – 5 scenes
Streetcar Named Desire – 1947 – 11 scenes (in 3 acts)
The Little Foxes – 1939 – 3 scenes

In addition, the transition between scenes of the contemporary plays feel like “cuts” as opposed to self contained story units. My guess is that this is the influence of film/television on theatre. Honestly, I don’t like it. She Kills Monsters for example feels like it wants to be movie.

I think this also separates the films of someone like Quentin Tarantino, from his peers. Inglourious Basterds certainly feels like a play with its long scenes of endless dialogue.