April 18th, 2007

Literary Themeparks

Ysabeau Wilce, author of Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog, a first novel every bit as good as its title is long, posts on her excellent blog, The Califa Police Gazette, about the opening of Dickens World, a UK park "Based Upon the Life, Times, Books and Characters of Charles Dickens." 

Oh boy, I can't wait for the Edwin Drood opium-den ride, or the Heaps O' Rubbish-o-coaster in Our Mutual Friend Park!

Why stop there?  Ysabeau has some hilarious suggestions, from Moby Dick Sea World to Heart of Darkness Land...

My dream would be a trip to Dhalgren Land, where visitors enter "to wound the autumnal city" and howl out for the world to give them a name . . .  

The thing about Dhalgren Land is . . . once you go in . . . you can't come out.  The exit "beyond holland and into the hills" loops back into the entrance, so you just keep entering over and over again!  Naturally, a new entrance fee is charged each time. 

This is also the case with Finnegans Wake World, so choose carefully: you can't do both. 

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

It's a truism that re-reading (or re-viewing) material after a long interval is an illuminating experience. As you change, so, mysteriously, do the "texts."

I just had this confirmed last Friday, when Deborah and I sat down to watch A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM (1966).


I saw this film first when it appeared on television, back in the days when the only option for catching an older film after it had expired in the first-run theaters was TV or the art house venues. When would that have been? Probably no earlier than 1967, a year after its debut. So let's call this the fortieth anniversary of my initial--and only--viewing.

(Maybe not the only viewing. The scenes were so engrained on my brain that perhaps I saw it twice, back to back. But that was still forty years ago.)

Deborah had never seen the film at all, so of course had no idea what to expect, or any nostalgic freight going in.

The adolescent DiFi found the film to be the height of sophisticated wit, slapstick, superb songs and sexy shennanigans. Despite a congenital aversion to Broadway musicals, I heartily enjoyed the Stephen Sondheim music.

(A CD of the songs from the original 1962 Broadway show is still available: http://tinyurl.com/2vvolv )

The "mature" DiFi still heartily enjoyed the film. For long stretches, I was transported back across the years to an arguably more innocent decade. But in truth, the film's quotient of sexiness and sophistication had somehow dropped by quantum levels (although the scene where Zero Mostel auditions slave girls remains quite hot), but it has weathered the decades as a fast-paced, funny romp, still full of great one-liners and hummable melodies. If you want a sample, check out this number on YouTube:


But you'd better hurry: just a few days ago, there was a second clip available that I was going to link to, but it's been removed for copyright violations.

And of course the film, despite its setting in ancient Rome, is a primo Sixties artifact. How could it not be, when it was helmed by Richard Lester:


the fellow who brought us such films as HELP (1965) and A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (1964).

Be sure to watch the trailer, via IMDB.

"Comedy tonight!" That's just what we could use.
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Facing the Future

As we step forward into new days ahead, bearing new bloody burdens, we have to reaffirm the lifeforce, as I did with that post of a bounteous Valerie Perrine, after the somehow gentler death of Kurt Vonnegut--an instance of mortality somehow less traumatic than the cruel untimely death of Jamie Bishop.

Out of all the lovely, empathetic, sorrowful comments here at the blog on this tragedy, I'll single out one from Ron Drummond as exemplary of this attitude.

"Life is too wicked by half. Thank God it is also too good by half, or there'd be no hope."

Amen, brother!