That said, since Updike died two weeks ago, and I'd been feeling a bit, well, bitchy, about being so against his writing. I tried to read the Rabbit novels over two summers ago, and found them to be the most boring novels I never finished. I gave him yet another shot with The Centaur, and again with Pigeon Feathers. Nothing stuck. However, The New Yorker dedicated practically an entire issue to their fallen colleague, and in reading some of the bits and pieces of his work that they compiled, I thought to myself, well Jessica, maybe you'll have to give him another go. Are there any Updike fans out there? Is there a novel, or a collection of short fiction you'd recommend that won't make me puke from its total and complete neglect of the fairer sex, or fall asleep from sheer boredom?
(Sorry, Roth, you don't get another chance).
Anyway, you're probably wondering who this dude is in the photo up top. His name is Michael Shannon. He's an actor that was most recently seen in the aforementioned movie version of Revolutionary Road. David Edelstein (the film critic over at NY Mag) recently wrote a profile of him, and I highly recommend reading the whole thing (it's not that long, you have no excuse). Shannon plays John Givings, the mentally ill and violent son of Kate and Leo's neighbors. Apparently his performance is the film's best. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I plan to when I finish the book in the next few days.
I'm so tired of non-actors who just play around with this Hollywood shit. Shannon strikes me as an angry young man, who, like so many fantastic actors, finally figured out that he could work through his shit in a healthy way and be creative by being an actor. The result, of course, is that he's actually an actor.
Over lunch in Carroll Gardens, near his Red Hook apartment, Shannon recalls how badly he’d wanted the part. In his audition, he explains, he pulled out every stop when it was time to tell his controlling mother (played onscreen by Kathy Bates and in the audition room by the casting director) to shut up. When it was over, she told him that in all her years in the business, she’d never felt so personally wounded by an actor’s reading.
He thinks a moment. “I guess for years and years, I’ve been wanting to tell my mother to shut up, and I finally got an opportunity to do it. One of the great things about acting is you can do things that in real life would get you in trouble. I think that’s something I figured out pretty early on. ’Cause I had some issues … ”
Does anyone else find this totally refreshing?
That was a side-track, really. It doesn't connect at all to my point about misogyny. So far, in the book, Frank Wheeler gets all the face time. And he's pretty pathetic. I haven't gotten to know April, his wife, nearly as well, and I find this a bit problematic. We'll see. But there's an underlying disgust and suffocation in the tone of this book that has nothing at all to do with gender. It reminds me of The Bell Jar. And for someone like Richard Yates, I can't think of a greater compliment.
Book / movie review coming soon!