Wednesday, January 2, 2008

FIVE-WORD LIST

In talking to friends about the movies of 2007, I realized that the ones I talked most about—LARS AND THE REAL GIRL, because it may be my favorite so far, and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, because it disappointed me the most and therefore pissed me off the most—had five-word titles. Which seemed unusual to me.

Until last night when in my usual falling asleep ritual, I came up with an alphabet list of creative works that I love that also happen to have five-word titles. The first popped into my head instantly, and I was off and, as always, I got a little carried away.

So here ‘tis, the first list of the new year:

ADVENTURES IN THE SKIN TRADE (Dylan Thomas’s novel, almost completed by the time of his death)
BRANCH WILL NOT BREAK, THE (James Wright’s breakthrough book of poems)
CONFESSIONS OF AN IRISH REBEL (Brendan Behan’s great memoir) and THE CORNERS OF THE MOUTH (early book of poems by Elaine Equi and still a favorite)
DOCUMENT FOR AN ANONYMOUS INDIAN (this odd book by Arn Hendersen is as far as I know unknown by just about everyone, a more or less book-length poem with photos, it is one of my all time favorite books and has been since I first discovered it in the 1960s) and DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL (St. John of the Cross, first major poem to have a big influence on me, in translation of course)
EVERY DAY I GET THE BLUES (I think that’s the name of that blues tune, which I dig the Jimmy Rushing with the Count Basie Band version best)
FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, THE (an underrated late Robert Mitchum flick—early 1970s—in which Richard Jordan played a minor hood that all my friends said reminded them of me at the time)
GREAT BOOKS OF THE 1950S (an atypical, yet somehow emblematic “poem” by Tim Dlugos, and one of his own favorites)
HUMAN LANDSCAPES FROM MY COUNTRY (Turkey’s great poet, Nazim Hikmet’s novel in verse)
I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC (Walt Whitman’s revolutionary, at the time and in many ways still, poem) and I’M NOT A JUVENILE DELINQUENT (the Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers 45 that came out when I became a teen and identified with totally, not poet Jerome Sala’s first book which had the same title except he dropped the contraction making it six words and so ineligible for this list, phew!)
JOURNAL OF ALBION MOONLIGHT, THE (poet Kenneth Patchen’s mid-20th-Century American version of a surrealist novel that had a major impact on me as a young man)
K? (all I could think of was THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS, a flick I didn’t dig that much)
LARS AND THE REAL GIRL and LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (the Eugene O’Neill play and Katherine Hepburn movie made from it)
MORNING OF THE POEM, THE (James Schuyler’s title poem from his Pulitzer-Prize winning collection, which, full disclosure, mentions me in it, but is not great only because of that—little humor there) and MOUNTAINS AND RIVERS WITHOUT END (Gary Snyder’s lyrical book-length poem that took most of his adult life to complete)
NOTEBOOKS OF JOSEPH JOUBERT, THE (Paul Auster’s translation of these 17th century aphorisms is one of those rare mostly unknown literary—and philosophical—treasures)
ODE ON A GRECIAN URN (Keats’ famous poem with the line “Beauty is truth, truth beauty” or something close to that—he was a big influence on me as a young man)
POEM READ AT JOAN MITCHELL’S (a great Frank O’Hara poem) and POEM TO PISS EVERYONE OFF (a great Maureen Owen poem, a poet way underrated these days, but one of the most original poets of my, or anyone else’s, generation)
QUIET NIGHTS AND QUIET DAYS (was that the title of that bossa nova song or am I getting mixed up?)
RETURN OF MARTIN GUERRE, THE (great Gerard Depardieu flick) and THE REMAINS OF THE DAY (the Anthony Hopkins/Emma Thompson tour de force)
STEP AWAY FROM THEM, A (Frank O’Hara’s great elegiac poem) and SONG OF THE SILENT SNOW (the collection of short stories by Hubert Selby Jr.)
THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD (Zora Neale Hurston’s amazingly lyrical novel) and THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE (William Saroyan’s still great play) and THINGS TO DO IN PROVIDENCE (Ted Berrigan’s great poem)
UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, THE (Milan Kundera’s masterpiece novel)
VERY THOUGHT OF YOU, THE (Nat King Cole’s version, beautiful)
WHEN NEW YORK WAS IRISH (Terence Winch’s great Irish-American anthem)
X?
YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME (a very romantic song when I was young, for which Gene Kelly wrote the lyrics! and sang it in either SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN or AN AMERICAN IN PARIS I think))
ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH (the great Johnny Mercer tune from SONG OF THE SOUTH, not exactly five words, but not exactly not either—they’re not exactly syllables so…?)

3 comments:

AlamedaTom said...

Devil in a Blue Dress

Great book by Walter Mosley. Terrific, and very underrated, movie adaptation directed by Carl Franklin and starring Denzel as Easy Rawlins. Cheadle as Mouse almost steals the movie but that's hard to do when Denzel is on. The movie is worth it if only for the recreation of the milieu of Los Angeles in 1948 from the black perspective.

Lally said...

I totally agree. And the soundtrack's great too.

Unknown said...

every day i got the blues. 6 letters.