This is the next batch of 50 films counting down my Top 1000 Films of All-Time.  The films down through Footlight Parade all earn an 86 while the rest of them earn an 87, which is high ***.5.  I recommend reading the introduction first.  For the previous installments, click on the Top 1000 among the tags at the top of the post.

(more…)

RICHARD: You’re getting old. One day you’ll have me once too often.
HENRY: When? I’m fifty now. My God, boy, I’m the oldest man I know. I’ve got a decade on the Pope. (p 48-49)

My Top 10:

  1. The Lion in Winter
  2. Rosemary’s Baby
  3. Belle de Jour
  4. Closely Watched Trains
  5. The Odd Couple
  6. Hunger
  7. Rachel Rachel
  8. Pretty Poison
  9. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
  10. War and Peace

Note:  My list is 14 long this year.  My #13 (The Fixer) and #14 (Oliver) are reviewed below because of award nominations.  The other two are listed down at the bottom.  You could make the case that 2001: A Space Odyssey should be listed but the Oscars treated it as original and I do the same.  You can find plenty of places on-line that explained the complicated history of its script. (more…)

The 1st Edition of the Modern Library Giant of Anna Karenina (1935).

Anna Karenina  (Анна Каренина)

  • Author:  Leo Tolstoy  (1828  –  1910)
  • Rank:  #16
  • Published:  1877
  • Publisher:  The Russian Messenger
  • Pages:  838
  • First Line:  “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
  • Last Line:  “I’ll get angry in the same way with the coachman Ivan, argue in the same way, speak my mind inappropriately, there will be the same wall between my soul’s holy of holies and other people, even my wife, I’ll accuse her in the same way of my own fear and then regret it, Ill fail in the same way to understand with my reason why I pray, and yet I will pray – but my life now, my whole life, regardless of all that may happen to me, every minute of it, is not only not meaningless, as it was before, but has the unquestionable meaning of the good which it is in my power to put into it!”
  • ML Edition:  #37  (four dust jackets – 1930, 1931, 1942, 1966), Giant #23  (three dust jackets – 1935, 1963, 1966), tan cover, gold hardcover, Modern Library Classics
  • Film:  many, including 1935 (***), 1948 (***), 1967 (***), 1997 (**) and 2012  (****)
  • First Read:  Summer, 2000

(more…)

My collection of Pevear / Volokhonsky translations.

When I began these For Love of Books posts, I began them with a specific purpose.  Because I love books.  Not just the words inside, but books themselves.  And I hate the Kindle.  I don’t hate all E-readers, and I can understand why people flock to them on some level.  But for me, they will never replace books.  My specific hatred of the Kindle stems partially from the concept, but mostly from the fact that Amazon has replaced Microsoft in my Holy Trinity of Wrong (it now sits alongside Walmart and the Yankees).

I bring this all up here, because this specific post deals with books that you can buy as opposed to e-books that you can get for free.  My guess is that it is relatively easy to get the great Russian novels – the works of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov – for free.  They were almost all written in the nineteenth century and even the English language translations have long since passed out of copyright protection.

But, those free novels that you’re getting aren’t the whole piece of the puzzle.  Certainly they are worthy of reading and you will experience, through one literary vision, the great Russian works.  My guess is that that vision is the vision of Constance Garnett.  Garnett translated 71 Russian works over the course of her career and we should be thankful for how much we can read in English thanks to her.

But, they are no longer the last word.  They are no longer the best translations out there, as is made obvious with every new release.  Granted, I have no knowledge of the Russian language.  But I know the English language and I know literature.  And there’s a magical world available to us now, thanks to the work in the last 25 years of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.  They are the husband and wife team that has brought out new translations of the best works in Russian literature (excepting Fathers and Sons). (more…)

the 1960 Modern Library dust jacket for War and Peace

War and Peace (Война и мир)

  • Author:  Leo Tolstoy  (1828  –  1910)
  • Rank:  #61
  • Published:  1869
  • Publisher:  Russkii Vestnik
  • Pages:  1273  (Pevear / Volokhonsky translation)
  • First Line:  ” ‘Eh bien, mon prince, Gênes et Lucques ne sont plus que des apanages, des estates, de la famille Buonaparte.’ ”  (Well, my prince, Genoa and Lucca are now no more than possessions, estates, of the Buonaparte family.)
  • Last Line:  “In the first case, the need was to renounce the consciousness of a nonexistent immobility in space and recognize a movement we do not feel; in the present case, it is just as necessary to renounce a nonexistent freedom and recognize a dependence we do not feel.”
  • ML Edition:  MLG #1 – three dust jackets  (1937, 1960, 1969); current Modern Library paperback  (all ML versions are the Constant Garnett translation)
  • Film:  1956  (***); 1968  (***.5)
  • First Read:  July, 1996 (more…)
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - Rest in Peace at #20

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – Rest in Peace at #20

I meant to post this list late on Sunday when I heard that Solzhenitsyn had died, since he’s on the list, but a truck hit a telephone pole and killed our Internet, Cable and phone until a few hours ago.

Anyway, for this list, I have abandoned the idea of limiting it in any way. I cut the list off at 25 because that’s where quality starts to take a dive. The most glaring omission is going to be Don Quixote, because I have never finished reading it. After that, I suppose people might lament the absence of Les Miserables, but while it’s a great story (I’m actually re-reading it), it’s twice as long as it should be. And Thomas Mann. But he is boring as can be. The foreign language Henry James (as Eliot put it so succinctly about James: “a mind so fine no idea could violate it.”).

Before I get to the list, I feel the need to mention the power of a great novel. If you truly find yourself wrapped up in a novel, it can affect how you feel. I’ve been on edge the last couple of days and I realized why: I was re-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and it is so good, so compelling, does such a good job of making you feel in danger and on edge, that you end up feeling that way. The only other book that ever made me feel so on edge while reading it was The Stand by Stephen King. They produce the same kind of effect that The Trial and Crime and Punishment do. Harold Bloom can dump on Rowling (and King) all he wants, but if a novel is that good at making you feel on edge, it has certainly done its job

(more…)