Saturday, November 21, 2009

NOV/DEC 2009: The Earrings of Madame De; Bluegrass; MUTTS; Ivy Pochoda; Swan Dive; Memoir of Mozambique; Me & Orson Welle

8 PM, Fri. Nov 27
Film Screening

Introduced by Ophuls scholar Laurence Mintz
To celebrate our recent influx of Criterions, we're screening this sumptuously restored print of French master Max Ophul's most cherished work. The Earrings of Madame an emotionally profound, cinematographically adventurous tale of false opulence and tragic romance. When the aristocratic woman know only as Madame de (the extraordinary Danielle Darrieux) sells her earrings, unbeknownst to her husband (Charles Boyer), in order to pay personal debts, she sets of a chain reaction, the financial and carnal consequences of which can only end in despair. Ophuls adapts Louise de Vilmorin's incisive fin de siecle novel with virtuosic camera work so elegant and precise it's been called the equal of that of Orson Welles. Followed by a discussion. FREE!

8 PM, Sat. Nov 28
Live Music

In addition to original blues, gospel, and bluegrass tunes, you'll hear fingerstyle covers of Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Jimmy Reed, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams. Expect some outstanding slide work and a handful of banjo jokes that may only be funny to pickers (what's the difference between a banjo player and a little boy? One knows his pick, the other picks his...well, you get the idea).

2 PM, Sun. Dec 6
Reading/Signing/Chalk Talk

In 1994, McDonnell created the award-winning comic strip Mutts, which now appears in more than 700 newspapers in 20 countries and has been anthologized in books all over the world. It was described by Peanuts creator Charles Schulz as "one of the best comic strips of all time." A coffee table book of his life and work, Mutts: The Comic Art of Patrick McDonnell, was published in 2003. In 2005, McDonnell wrote his first children's book, The Gift of Nothing, which was a New York Times best seller. The Best of Mutts, a ten year celebration of the strip introduced by acclaimed novelist Alice Sebold. In 2007. McDonnell again returned to the New York Times bestseller list with Hug Time, featuring a kitten named Jules who goes around the world hugging endangered species. His sixth children's book, WAG, a tale of wiggling and waggling, fwipping and fwapping, and GUARDIANS of BEING, a collaboration with Oprah endorsed spiritual teacher Eckart Tolle, were just released this fall. All of his books are printed on recycled paper. He is involved with many animal and environmental charities, and is a member of the Board of Directors for both The Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals. Books on sale at the event. Books on sale at event. FREE!

8 PM, Fri. Dec 11

In keeping with my previous efforts to bring accomplished Bennies to Metuchen (Pultizer Prize finalist David Gates, South African author Sheila Kohler, travel writer Rolf Potts), I've invited Ivy Pochoda to read at The Rac. Bennington is a place where the students are almost as accomplished as the faculty, and Ivy, like Rolf, is a fellow MFA candidate. She was in my workshop during the June residency and we were teammates during a softball game played on the Commons Lawn (Prose vs. Poetry). Here's the intro paragraph from her recent Vanity Fair interview: "Ivy Pochoda is the best squash player in history to ever to pen a novel. Pochoda, a sharpshooting southpaw, grew up at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn, played No. 1 at Harvard for three years (where she majored in classical Greek and English), and won the national intercollegiate title her senior year. After college, she was based in Amsterdam and played on the international pro tour, reaching a world ranking of 38. For many years she was one of the top U.S. players, coming in third at the nationals in 2007. Last month, St. Martin’s Press published her debut novel, THE ART OF DISAPPEARING. Following a magician and his muse in Las Vegas and Amsterdam, it brillantly blurs the line between reality and the imagination." ART, which has been compared to The Time Traveler's Wife, has been called "wonderful and wonder-filled," by The New York Daily News, "Terrific!," by Elle Magazine, and "Wistful," by The New York Post. Author Peter Hedges (What's Eating Gilbert Grape) said, "It's a magical story, full of passion, heartbreak, and wonder." FREE! Books on sale at event. To read Ivy's VF interview, click HERE.

8 PM, Sat. Dec 12

This is the first novel by Michael Burke, a sculptor famous for silvery, spare pieces filled with singular geometries. Burke, a son of the prolific literary critic, philosopher, and writer Kenneth Burke, grew up in a radically creative, intellectual household. The elder Burke called himself an “agrobohemian” and moved his family to northwestern New Jersey when Michael was young. Musicians, writers, and artists visited frequently, including poet William Carlos Williams, novelist Ralph Ellison (who read excerpts from what would become Invisible Man on the back lawn), and literary critic Malcolm Cowley, a longtime family friend who entertained with bawdy songs after dinner. There was no electricity, running water, or telephone, but they did have an Alexander Calder in the outhouse. “He made us a holder for the toilet paper,” Michael Burke says. “It was one of his bent-wire hands, with the middle finger raised." In SWAN DIVE, Burke has shown a remarkable ability to connect contemporary hardboiled crime tropes with ancient mythology (the nude-nuzzling swan on the cover telegraphs the Greek conceit of his debut).The result is sexy, thought-provoking, insightful, and a damned good read. FREE! Books on sale at event. Signed books make great holiday gifts!

8 PM, Thurs. Dec 17
Born and raised in Zimbabwe, travel writer Douglas Rogers escaped a dull future clerking at his parent's game farm/backpacker lodge for far-flung adventures abroad. But when Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe launched his violent program to reclaim white-owned land and Rogers' parents were caught in the cross fire, everything changed. Lyn and Ros, the owners of Drifters–one of the most popular budget resorts in the country–found their home and resort under siege, their friends and neighbors expelled, and their lives in danger. But instead of leaving, as their son pleads with them to do, they haul out a shotgun and decide to stay. On returning to the country of his birth, Rogers finds his home transformed: pot has replaced acres of pruned white roses; hookers, not backpackers, occupy the beds; and soldiers, spies, and teenage diamond dealers guzzle beer at the bar. Rogers' decision to write about his parents' lodge and the people who find refuge there as violence erupts and the economy turns catastrophic brings him close to all kinds of people, black and white, from war veterans and politicians to farmers and squatters. Travelogue, adventure yarn, political intrigue, tragedy, and high-wire journalism, Heart of Darkness by way of Groucho Marx, THE LAST RESORT is a corrosively funny love story about the author and his homeland, Zimbabwe. She is by turns ineffably beautiful, unspeakably hideous, insanely rich, desperately poor, democratic, brutally autocratic, violent, corrupt, dysfunctional, and absurd, even though, in person, her people seem to be, one and all, hardscrabble heroes and survivors. FREE! Books on sale at the event.

7:30 PM, Sun. Dec 20
Featuring Robert Kaplow.
NPR alum Robert Kaplow’s novel Me and Orson Welles, a beautifully rendered and hilarious valentine to the burly thespian, was recently turned into a movie by indie filmmaker Richard Linklater (Dazed & Confused). Set in 1937 New York, Kaplow's novel tells of a teenager hired to star in Welles' production of Julius Caesar. Opening wide in a week, the film stars Zac Efron, Claire Danes, and Christian Mckay as Welles. The New York Times described McKay's performance as one of "seductive power and full bore charm," Roger Ebert called the picture, "one of the best movies about theater I've ever seen," and the New Yorker's David Denby included it in his "Top Ten Films of the Year." The most recent review, from The San Francisco Chronicle, said: "Christian McKay, as Orson Welles in Me and Orson Welles, gives what I believe is the most exact and uncanny screen portrayal of a historical figure, EVER." Meet Kaplow and find out how a cantankerous bouncer at a local New Brunswick bar cast the man playing Welles. Naturally, Kaplow will read and sign, but he'll also narrate a slide show of unseen production/opening night photographs. Books on sale at event. To read the Times review of the film, click HERE. Plus: food, wine, and egg nog marbled with gold swirls of Barbancourt. (The film's period music has also received a lot of praise and Kaplow has promised to burn a CD of swing songs from the film to soundtrack our party). FREE!Signed books make great holiday gifts!

Sheila Kohler (Fri. Jan 22)