On The Road With America

In honor of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer, here’s a repost of a piece I wrote back in October, when The Road seemed like a metaphor for our national trajectory. Not much has changed: A portion of my evening reading has been keeping me up deep into the night, placing me in the uncomfortable territory between sleep …

Kurt Vonnegut’s Greatest Generation

Kurt Vonnegut proposed an alternative version of World War II glory, a writhing and brutal portrait of internal turmoil and loss and madness that manifested its horror in a seemingly charming and picaresque line: foot-soldier Billy Pilgrim had become “unstuck in time.” Slaughterhouse-Five belongs to the rarified antiwar prose of the post-war writing generation that …

In Search of Harry Potter

I’ve never read a Harry Potter. But JK Rowling is among my favorite living authors. I owe her a deep and simple debt – the love of reading, and literature, and story-telling that all of my children have embraced. Rowling didn’t do it all, of course; there was Seuss and Stevenson, Tolkien and Margaret Wise …

Rock’s Greatest Covers: Patti Tops the List

Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine… When Van Morrison wrote the classic Gloria as the B-side to Them’s 1964 hit Baby Please Don’t Go, he couldn’t have suspected what a kid from New Jersey would do with his song a decade later. But I suspect he was thrilled. After all, Patti Smith’s cover …

The Replacements Come to Monday Nights

I’m writing here about a television series I have never seen, but intend to, as my schedule allows. It’s a replacement series – your garden variety mid-season fare – except that two critics I respect had completely opposite initial reactions. And that suddenly got me interested in a network series I might otherwise have ignored …

Pete Townshend: Who, He? (and Us)

Pete Townshend is writing his memoirs. Or rather, he’s blogging them. This differs from a decade ago, when Townshend signed with Little Brown to write his autobiography. Work commenced, but the book wasn’t finished. So now, Pete’s blogging his memoirs – on one of two blogs he’s launched in the last week or so to …

A Bad TV Show About Good Movies

Today we focus on movies by way of a glitzy, Vegas-style revue show that has almost nothing to do with brilliant film-making. It’s Hoillywood celebrating Hollywood with schmaltz, and it’s evolved from a rather subdued black tie dinner at Sid Grauman’s theater to a megcast shown around the world and widely reviled for its length, …

Walking the Red Carpet: When Stars Were Stars

When I was young, the Academy Awards still retained an unmistakeable aura of glamor and remove. There in one big room for one long evening, we all watched American royalty – the truly big names. The real stars. Cary Grant. Katherine Hepburn. Jimmy Stewart. John Wayne. Bette Davis. Lauren Bacall. Henry Fonda. Burt Lancaster. Bing …