Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Zane Grey; Bob Levinson; Richard Wheeler

Say it ain't so...
From the New York Times
Rider of the Purple Prose


Among the few remaining unpublished writings of Zane Grey (1872-1939), the once mega-selling author of westerns like "Riders of the Purple Sage," "The Light of Western Stars" and "Code of the West," is a series of 10 small journals locked away from public view, along with several hundred photographic prints and negatives, by an anonymous collector identified only as X. Written in code, the diaries graphically chronicle - and, through the photos, graphically illustrate - Grey's sexual exploits, stretching from his college years to his sixth decade, with more than a dozen women possibly excluding his wife of 34 years though not, alas, her relatives.

Readers whose eyebrows have failed to rise will be forgiven, since the exposure of writerly peccadilloes, like those of politicians and celebrity tarts, is by now familiar background noise, the static we half expect to find as we dial through an author's oeuvre. But Grey's case is different. His novels - however denigrated by critics as empurpled froths of "virgins, villains and varmints" - were only part of the allure that fixed his name in the hearts of millions of Americans. Billed at his death as "the greatest selling author of all time," with his work exceeded in sales "only by the Bible and the Boy Scout Handbook," Zane Grey was as much a brand as a writer - a brand that would eventually come to encompass films, television series, a monthly magazine, a saltwater fishing reel, even a Pacific sailfish by the name of Istiophorus greyi. And behind that brand stood the man: a self-made model of rugged rural virtue overimbued with what the critic Heywood Broun acidly called "the sanity, the strength and the wholesomeness" of his novels; a teetotaler opposed to the "jiggle and toddle and wiggle" of jazz-age dancing and all the era's other "rotten sensual stuff"; and a staunch champion of clean outdoor living and hard work and righteous, simple codes of conduct.

And also, as it turns out, quite the swinger. The revelations about Grey's blue cache of journals and photos - and about Grey's considerable harem of mistresses, who openly shared him with his wife and one another - make Thomas H. Pauly's biography a major correction to the wholesome image Grey enjoyed for almost a century. "The cowboys all had secrets," Grey once wrote, and, as Pauly freely (though not assaultively) admits, the spilling of this cowboy's secrets was a central reason for this book. The last and only full-scale biography of Grey was Frank Gruber's "Zane Grey: A Biography" (1970), long out of print and widely dismissed as unreliable hagiography. Grey's readership has dramatically ebbed since then. "One of the ways I find out how old people are," Grey's son Loren said a few years ago, is to "ask them if they've heard of Zane Grey. If they're over 50, they have. If they're under 50, they haven't." Which presents us with one piece of evidence as to where Grey's audience has steadily been vanishing: the grave. Yet the cultural forces that wiped westerns off our movie and television screens also took their toll on Grey's legacy, as did the content of Grey's novels themselves. Grey's archaic, overheated prose was a throwback when he wrote it, as if he'd plundered a time capsule stuffed with the discarded sentences of James Fenimore Cooper, and the decades since his death have only widened that aesthetic distance. That is, if aesthetic questions can ever be applied to prose like this:

"I am an outcast. I am hunted. If I made you my wife it might be to your shame and sorrow. . . .'Take me,' she cried, and the soft, deep-toned, passionate voice shook Adam's heart. She would share his wanderings. 'Goodbye, Oella,' he said huskily. And he strode forth to drive his burro out into the lonely, melancholy desert night."

read the rest of the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/01/books/review/01miles.html

------------More on Isabelle Adjani from Bob Levinson

Hi, Ed...

Many, many congratulations on #24!

An Adjani story for the heck of it: Years and years ago, maybe 24, a producer pal and I were settling in for lunch at one of those show biz company credit card flavor-of-the-month Valley bistros. Surveying the modest patio, I spotted this beautiful creature about four tables away, by herself at a table for two. It was Adjani. She caught me staring and stared back long enough for me to convince myself she desired me. Who was I to deny Adjani? I was deep into working on how to break the news to my wife when she was joined by some guy who clearly didn't deserve her. Alas, we were destined never to meet again...

Happy New Year!


--------------From Richard Wheeler--More Literary Atrocities

Publishers toss Booker winners into the reject pile
Publishers and agents have rejected two Booker prize-winning novels
submitted as works by aspiring authors. One of the books considered
unworthy by the publishing industry was by V S Naipaul, one of Britainís
greatest living writers, who won the Nobel prize for literature.

The exercise by The Sunday Times draws attention to concerns that the
industry has become incapable of spotting genuine literary talent. Typed
manuscripts of the opening chapters of Naipaulís In a Free State and a
second novel, Holiday, by Stanley Middleton, were sent to 20 publishers
and agents. None appears to have recognised them as Booker prizewinners
from the 1970s that were lauded as British novel writing at its best. Of
the 21 replies, all but one were rejections.

Naipaul, 73, said the 'world had moved on' since he wrote the novel,
adding, 'With all the other forms of entertainment today there are very
few people around who would understand what a good paragraph is.'

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1965623,00.html -
The Times


Blogger Bill said...

The story about the Booker prize winners being rejected reminds me of the one several years ago when someone sent out Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird, which was rejected by everybody who received it. And when they were told what they'd rejected, they'd never heard of Kosinski.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Juri said...

Kosinski's novel is a great work, true masterpiece, but wasn't all of it fake? Kosinski tried to convince everyone it's him he was writing about, but it turned out - after his death? - that it wasn't so. Nevertheless, truly absorbing read.

11:44 PM  

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