Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Dead Man

I suppose I should have some sympathy for my replacement at Saint Rose for the coming year. She’s going to spend the year staring at the Dead Man poster on the back of my office door (not to mention the Mark E. Smith Stop Mithering! picture as well). The thing with the Depp poster is that the gun follows you around the room. When I’m meeting with students, the door is open so you can’t see either of those items.

But I know they’re there.

In Dead Man, Depp plays William Blake, a mild mannered Cleveland clerk heading out into the wild West for a job opportunity. His surrealistic journey begins on a rough train and gets increasingly bizarre, dangerous and finally lethal. Depp plays Blake like a holy innocent adrift in a muddy world of cutthroats and degenerates, bemused and constantly off-kilter. The star-studded cast keeps surprising you — one of Robert Mitchum’s last roles, and he is simply wonderful in it — and Blake, who inevitably ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and usually covered in blood, passes through the events uncomprehendingly.

Stop Mithering!

He’s rescued (sort of) by a mysterious man called Nobody (played by the amazing Gary Farmer), an exile from his tribe who has traveled through the white man’s world and mistakes Depp’s character for the poet of the same name, though he notes, “It is strange that you do not remember any of your poetry, William Blake.” Blake tries to deny that he is that Blake, but as circumstances lead them into increasingly bizarre adventures, even he begins to wonder. As Nobody says, “You were a poet and a painter, William Blake. But now, you’re a killer of white men.” The reluctant (and confused) Blake eventually resigns himself to the error, and in the moment captured by the poster, claims his name and asks the man he’s about to shoot, “Do you know my poetry?”

It’s a truly strange film and not one that will suit many viewers. I’m a sucker for a film with both Johnny Depp and lots of lines from William Blake’s poetry, but I know that makes me something of a rara avis. It tanked when it opened despite the illustrious cast and the evocative soundtrack by Neil Young. Perhaps my fave among the cameos is Michael Wincott, who turns in a gut-bustingly funny performance as a chatterbox bounty hunter; his best line, “‘Course you can’t put much stock in a man who spends the most part of a conversation talkin’ to a bear… talkin’ to a goddamn bear!” He drives Lance Henriksen’s more taciturn bounty hunter around the bend. Look for Iggy Pop in a dress. Hee.

See Todd’s blog for the round up of TOFs!

Things to Celebrate

UPDATE: I’ll be reading as the narrator for the College of Saint Rose Women’s Initiative’s presentation of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues Saturday night at 7pm. The show plays on Sunday at 3pm with my fabulous colleague and friend Angela Ledford as narrator. Tickets benefit Equinox. Girls Next Door will be performing at the interval.

The desk wombat announces (though the odd angle makes it look like a two-legged creature, eh?) that there is some news to share. First, that my William Blake-inspired short story “Eating the Dream” has received the FEMSPEC: The Best of the Second Five Years first prize in fiction. They’re going to announce the prizes at the Popular Culture Association Conference in San Antonio and also at Wiscon, but I won’t be able to be there. FEMSPEC also gave prizes for criticism, memoir and poetry. A big party has been planned to celebrate. Congratulations to all the winners!

The other good news is that I have my ticket to Rome for spring break where I will be staying with the fabulous Alessandra. I can’t wait! I’ve never been to Italy. I was hoping to go last fall, but things didn’t quite work out. So tell me your useful Italian phrases and recommendations! I definitely want to see the Caravaggios and probably the Coliseum and the catacombs and who knows? Dance in the Trevi Fountain! I want to relax and eat good food and drink good wine and laugh and talk. Whatever happens, I’m sure I will have a wonderful time.

Kit Marlowe has been busy, too, talking about making book trailers at Tease Publishing’s blog and she’ll be reading from The Mangrove Legacy for the Tuesday Talking Teaser this coming week over at JoJo’s Books.TODAY! Kit is the Friday Guest at Isabel Roman’s blog: stop by!

BitchBuzz: Jane Austen Writes

My BB column this week revisits the Jane Austen exhibit at the Morgan which I enjoyed so much last week (and yes, the William Blake exhibit is still on for a few more weeks). It’s such a delight to see Jane’s own handwriting and little pieces of her life gathered together for this exhibit, which offers a good sense of the Regency period in which she lived:

Through March of next year, the Morgan Library & Museum in NYC features an excellent exhibit, “A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy” which contains her handwritten script of Lady Susan as well as many letters, mostly written to her beloved sister Cassandra, and other personal effects.

While it seems impossible that we don’t know everything there is to know about Jane (which isn’t as much as most fans would like), it’s a revelation to see so much written in her own hand.

Sure, there’s the fannish squee of being so close to something Jane herself touched (then again, I’m a medievalist who shed a tear upon seeing for the first time the one and only Beowulf manuscript), but it’s also an intimate window on the world in which she lived: one where paper was so precious that she used up every bit of surface area in her letters by writing across her own lines with further perpendicular lines (known as “cross-hatching”)...

As usual, you can read the rest at BB HQ. Please help spread the news be retweeting, sharing and linking here!

Bill, Lenny & Bob

I headed down Thursday to Bard for a talk about Blake’s quiet years that promised to fill in the missing details. I had been surprised to hear about an event at Bard before the actual day of the event, a rarity. However, when I got there and found the room, I also found a note saying the lecture was delayed. I decided not to wait around and went to Robert’s, where he was making a tasty dinner — much better. If the lecture’s any good, it’ll be published, right?

The next morning we headed down to the Cloisters to get a little medieval. If you haven’t been there, the museum located in the lovely Fort Tryon Park offers a nice little taste of the Middle Ages in Manhattan with artifacts, bits of chapels, tombs and other treasures. After having a good wander around the grounds, we headed over to the New Leaf Café, which Robert informed me was run by Bette Midler, but we didn’t see her in the kitchen, but we were able to enjoy a really good lunch while supporting the New York Restoration Project.

We took the A train downtown in order to get to the Morgan. As we passed through the 42nd Street station, Robert helpfully pointed out the tubes that were part of the internet, which as we all know is a system of tubes. Quite knowledgeable my brother. Why the Morgan? Well, they’re having a Blake exhibit which more than made up for the missed lecture. It had so much more than I expected, not just pages from his books, but letters, manuscripts and watercolors. Wonderful!

Of course, the main event was seeing Leonard Cohen at Madison Square Garden. The sold out show featured most of his hits which pleased the crowd (full of an awful lot of balding heads we could see from our vantage point up near the top), but the energy and exuberance of Cohen and his band really impressed me. Although 75, he was dancing and skipping on and off stage during the 8pm show which lasted until 11.30. He seemed truly joyful, telling the audience, “I don’t know when we’ll be passing through here again, so I want to tell you that it is our intention to give you everything we’ve got tonight” — and they did. Fantastic band all around, including his frequent collaborator, Sharon Robinson and an amazing Spanish guitarist. Everyone got a turn in the spotlight, but the crowd was there to see Cohen and he gave them everything, turning songs like “I’m Your Man” from intimate love songs to an offering to the thousands assembled. You can find videos for many of the songs like “So Long, Marianne”, “Tower of Song”, my fave “Famous Blue Raincoat” and the perennial fave, “Hallelujah” but I am so glad I was actually there. Some nights are just magical — and this was one.

Of course getting back was less than magical — not only was there a rail replacement bus for the A train uptown, but it was pouring and we had to drive back to Hudson. But we kept each other awake, listening to Peter Cook until we finally made it back to Robert’s about 3.30am. Totally worth it.

To Spring

O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down
Thro’ the clear windows of the morning, turn
Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!

The hills tell each other, and the listening
Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turned
Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth,
And let thy holy feet visit our clime.

Come o’er the eastern hills, and let our winds
Kiss thy perfumed garments; let us taste
Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
Upon our love-sick land that mourns for thee.

O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour
Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put
Thy golden crown upon her languished head,
Whose modest tresses were bound up for thee.

~ William Blake

Which British Romantic Poet are You?

Well, duh!

What British Romantic Poet are You?

Your Result: You are William Blake!
 

Like Blake, you believe in the union of opposites: “Without Contraries, there is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence.”

You are John Keats!
 
You are George Gordon, Lord Byron!
 
You are Percy Shelley!
 
You are William Wordsworth!
 
You are Samuel Coleridge!
 
What British Romantic Poet are You?
Create MySpace Quizzes

Happy Natal Day, Mr. Blake

I still have my WWWBD? page with the red dragon pinned to my bulletin board. It’s good to remember how filled with pain and rejection his life was, yet he soldiered on, confident in his vision. My co-editor and I have finally received a thumbs down on our Old English charms volume from the publisher who has been reviewing it since May, so we begin the slow process of submitting it to a new academic publisher and then once again waiting, waiting. So it goes.

…A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the Lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for Joy and Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the World we safely go…

Every Night and every Morn
Some to Misery are Born.
Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight.
Some are Born to sweet delight,
Some are Born to Endless Night…

(from Auguries of Innocence)