a) three hours of honest work each day,
b) one social call every four days,
c) three phone conversations a day, none to exceed 10 minutes,
d) evening walk, between 45 minutes and 1 hour long,
e) one short blog post every two days,
(all in addition to meals of course),
it should take me somewhere between 172 and 175 years to get through the whole thing. Now this is clearly impossible, but I figure if I eat healthy I might live long enough to finish nearly three of the eight DVDs. Will start effective today so stop calling/emailing me please.
Update: having accepted the futility of reading the New Yorkers in an ordered way, I’ve been browsing the old film reviews across the discs. Fun to see how some movies universally considered masterpieces today were roundly dissed by the Critics back when they were released. My favourite example so far is Russell Maloney’s trashing of The Wizard of Oz in 1939 (arguably the greatest year in Hollywood history). Maloney writes:
“I sat cringing before MGM’s Technicolor The Wizard of Oz, which displays no trace of imagination, good taste, or ingenuity…It’s a stinkeroo…The vulgarity of which I was conscious all through the film is difficult to analyse.”
It’s a fun mini-review, Maloney allowing his personal prejudices to show, waspishly protesting a scene where the Wicked Witch says “You keep out of this!” on the grounds that witches don’t talk like that, period.
Then there’s good old John McCarten who, in a composite write-up in June 1960 (another good year for Hollywood), brushes off two of the most powerful, enduring films ever made, Hitchcock’s Psycho and Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. Of Psycho he says:
“Hitchcock does several spooky scenes with his usual éclat, and works diligently to make things as horrible as possible, but it’s all rather heavy-handed…”This isn’t really shocking, for Psycho was trashed by almost everyone when it was first released. But The Apartment was one of the most well received films of its time, loved by audiences and critics alike, winner of the major Oscars for 1960. McCarten’s sniffs at it; it’s “not particularly stimulating”, he says.
Must look through some of the other reviews. But on a more serious note this reminds me of a discussion I was having with a friend a few days ago. Both of us are avid reviewers but we were mulling over how misleading even the most honest, dedicated reviews can be; we both had examples where we’d written something about a book or film in all sincerity and then, just a couple of weeks later, found we’d completely changed our minds. Meanwhile, of course, the review had neatly been printed with our bylines, a permanent, official record of what we thought; a summary judgement, by us and on us.
Another problem is that even when a review is favourable on the whole, the few criticisms in it stand out; readers tend to remember them, especially if the reviewer has succumbed to the temptation of being over-clever. More than once I’ve had the experience of writing about something I’ve really enjoyed, and then having the editor coming up to me and saying “Oh, so not such a good film, huh?”
I’m not saying Messrs McCarten and Maloney ever revised their thoughts, or that they should have, but it’s a little scary that so often a whimsical, fleeting opinion gets set in stone as one person’s final word on a subject. It’s almost never that simple.