July 6th, 2008



I forgot to mention that I saw The Adding Machine by Elmer Rice, produced as a musical last week at the Minetta Lane Theater--a small venue in Greenwich Village. I'd never read or seen the play before and knew very little about it but that a friend of mine who had seen it a few months ago hated it. But because it won some awards and it was cheap (through TDF) I decided to take a chance. I enjoyed it. It's dated, but as a snapshot of boring, numbing, bookkeeping work in the 20s it was interesting, and I liked the production. Middle aged guy with horrible screeching, complaining wife goes to work daily and does numbers with a woman helper who obviously is interested in him. Boss fires him, guy murders boss and ends up on death row. Dies and instead of the Hell he expects he ends up in what seems like Heaven, a place he can do whatever he wants. Freedom. Plus, the co-worker (who he was interested in) kills herself because with him gone she has nothing to live for--and she ends up where he is. They CAN live happily ever after, but he freaks out and would rather go back to being a cog in the machine...

Today I went to a matinée performance of Clifford Odets' The Country Girl, with Morgan Freeman, Frances McDormand, and Peter Gallagher. Directed by Mike Nichols. I thought I remembered the play getting mixed reviews --I'll have to check--but it was brilliant. Great performances (some of you might have seen it as a movie with Grace Kelly --who I'd think would have been totally miscast--, William Holden, and Bing Crosby. I've never seen the movie). Once good actor who has been a lush for at least ten years is given a chance by a producer to star in a new play. The actor's wife, the "country girl" of the title, is either a support or hindrance, depending on who you believe.

The last two episodes of the first season of Deadwood--and yes, it keeps getting better and better; I Can't Sleep, a thought-provoking French film by Claire Denis about several "outsiders" in Paris whose lives connect interestingly--told against the background of a series of murders of old ladies based on real murders in the early 1990s.

And Swimming With Sharks, with a vicious Kevin Spacey as a movie executive, Frank Whalley, as his green put upon assistant, and Michelle Forbes (who I'd never seen before but has apparently been on a lot of tv series including "Lost" and "In Treatment") as a producer who is trying to get a deal for her script. Nasty nasty film.

A Public service reminder

For anyone attending the World Fantasy Convention in Calgary this October, be aware the Election Day is November 4th and you may not be home to vote in time....so remember to apply for an absentee ballot. I don't know about other states or cities, but in NYC you can apply for an absentee ballot by printing out a pdf file from here:

absentee ballot NYC

Thomas M. Disch RIP

I've just found out that Tom Disch committed suicide in his apartment on July 4th. He was found by a friend who lives a few blocks away.

I'm shocked, saddened, but not very surprised. Tom had been depressed for several years and was especially hit by the death of his longtime partner Charles Naylor. He also was very worried about being evicted from the rent controlled apartment he lived in for decades.

I last visited with him about a month ago, when I ran into him shopping at the Greenmarket across the street from where he lived (he rarely went out because he had trouble walking). He invited me up for cheese and bread which we bought together at the market and I visited for an hour or two. He seemed more optimistic about his work than he'd been for at least a year as he had three books/novellas coming out over the next year.

Tom wrote wonderful stories (I only read one or two of his novels but kept meaning to read more) and if you haven't ever read the collections Getting into Death or Fundamental Disch you need to find and read them.

Tom, as much as you were a bitter, sometimes mean curmudgeon--I'll miss you.

John Clute on Tom Disch

And possibly the best obituary by Elizabeth Hand on