Sunday, October 26, 2008


After doing the recent one word/one syllable list of works of art I dig, when the garbage trucks woke me up early this morning, I figured I’d make up a new list with titles at least five words long (I looked up some of the details this morning, like the full title to the R. B. Kitaj painting that I knew began with “Cecil Court”):

“AUTUMN BEGINS IN MARTINS FERRY, OHIO” (my favorite James Wright poem and one of my favorite poems period)

BY THE WATERS OF MANHATTAN (first a novel by Charles Reznikoff, one of the earliest paperbacks—1930—and then in the 1960s, the title for his selected poems, both books favorites of mine since I first discovered them in the ‘60s)

CECIL COURT, LONDON WC2 (THE REFUGEES) (an amazing painting from the 1980s by R. B. Kitaj—it personifies what impresses me most about his work, the mix of all kinds of 20th century approaches to painting with traditional approaches as well as some uniquely his own)

DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (still an impressive movie with knockout performances and a true snapshot of the times despite its limited range and almost claustrophobic sets) (the title song too)

EARTH, DAY, NIGHT, SELF, THE (an early William Saroyan story from his first major collection and one of my top ten all time favorite books, THE DARING YOUNG MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE, this story being as atypical as most of them, a variety unprecedented and unequaled since, in my opinion, but still characteristically what most of the world in his day could recognize as a Saroyan story)

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS (not my favorite Hemingway book or Gary Cooper movie, or Ingrid Bergman movie either, pretty predictable and uncharacteristically sentimental for Hemingway, but despite all those caveats, the story still always works)

GENIUS OF BUD POWELL, THE (CD compilation of the great bop piano maestro)

HUMAN LANDSCAPES FROM MY COUNTRY (the Great Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet’s unique novel/poem, the Randy Blasing /Motlu Konuk translation)

IF I WERE A BELL (the Frank Loesser song from GUYS AND DOLLS, but the version I always loved the most is an instrumental one by Art Farmer from a late ‘50s LP featuring a sextet as I remember it (don’t have it anymore) led by Art playing tunes from that musical, I woke up this morning hearing it in my head perfectly, and I haven’t heard it for real in several decades!)

JAZZ ON A SUMMER’S DAY (this black and white documentary about a late 1950s Newport Jazz Festival is worth it for Anita O’Day’s performance alone, but also for a true take on the style and escapism of a time about to change dramatically)

KNIFE OF THE TIMES, THE (the first story—and also the title of the first section—in THE FARMERS’ DAUGHTERS, William Carlos Williams’ collected stories, and a great introduction to his style and subject matter, a slice of early 20th Century history but an otherwise never reported on slice and never as intimately rendered)

LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece and actually, for me, a great read, as well as a unique movie with one of Katherine Hepburn’s most amazing performances)

MERCY OF A RUDE STREAM (the series of autobiographical novels Henry Roth wrote late in life to cash in on the decades-late popularity of his early novel SOME CALL IT SLEEP, these are much more raw and scathing and to my taste vibrantly original)

NOTEBOOKS OF MALTE LAURIDS BRIGGE, THE (Rilke’s novel had an enormous impact on me as a young man and has remained one of my top ten, I reread it every few years, the best contemporary translation is Stephen Mitchell’s)

OH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING (the great opening song of OKLAHOMA! which was always a favorite since I was a boy, especially the movie version with Gordon McCrae, but the best version was my oldest son’s when he was in middle school chorus—before a concert he kept it from me that they were doing that song and that he was soloing on it, needless to say I was surprised as well as moved and delighted by the song, and even more so by his solo on what he knew was one of my all time favorites)

PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, THE (Carl Dreyer’s 1928 silent film classic that I once saw at one of the smaller outdoor amphitheaters in Hollywood in a refurbished print and was spellbound for the entire flick)

QUICK AND THE DEAD, THE (this movie may seem campy to some, but it’s a really unique film, not only because Sharon Stone plays the lead gunslinger in it, but because she’s playing against (and with) Gene Hackman and Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe in what was really his American debut in many ways (in a part I auditioned for at the time) and they all do their usual fine job with material that is a cross between a 1960s spaghetti Western and a 1990s reconfiguring of old genres to fit a more feminist agenda of female heroines replacing the tired old male ones, worth watching)

RECOLLECTIONS OF MY LIFE AS A WOMAN: The New York Years (the first volume of poet Diane di Prima’s memoirs and the best take ever on what it was like in the 1950s New York downtown/Beat/avant-garde/street scene)

SURREY WITH THE FRINGE ON TOP, THE (another great song from OKLAHOMA!—,especially the version Ahmad Jamal recorded on his c. 1960 LP POINCIANA, which is the version I copped and played for years, still do)

THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD (Zora Neale Hurston’s lyrical, tough, unique novel)

UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, THE (Milan Kundera’s masterpiece and still one of the great books of the 20th Century)

VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE , A (Sidney Lumet’s film version of the Arthur Miller play, melodramatic but some great performances, especially Maureen Stapleton)

WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT, THE (another favorite song, with lots of great versions including many by Sinatra and one instrumental version in particular on a Thelonious Monk/Sonny Rollins Prestige CD re-release of some early 1950s studio sessions)


YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (the movie adaptation of the play, one of my all time favorites)



RJ Eskow said...

For X, how about "X: Live in Los Angeles"? Haven't seen the DVD but I hear it's pretty good.

And it fits ...

Lally said...

Totally. I haven't seen it either, but may have been at the show or shows on it, and I'm sure if it captures a tenth of their sound and originality it's terrific. .