Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

I wonder if Oscar Hammerstein could have turned a few of my favorite things into lyrics?

Briefly, and in no order, here are some:

My Boys - Simon and Schuster - I'm the only person I know who named his cats after a publisher (who happened to be Carly Simon's father and his business partner).


Hitchcock: YES (Just about anything).
Scorcese: NO (with the exceptions of RAGING BULL and AGE OF INNOCENCE).

Favorite Actress: BETTE DAVIS. In 1966 I saw a re-release of WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? - (remember when movies used to be re-released to theaters?) - it provided my introduction to both BETTE DAVIS and JOAN CRAWFORD - my life hasn't been the same since - What an introduction! I'm a big fan of Kate Hepburn as well, and of Audrey Hepburn, and Greer Garson. My favorite contemporary actresses: Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett.

The Voices: JUDY. Barbra. Liza. Shirley. Bernadette. Ella. Ethel. Lena. Cleo. Johnny. Matt Munro..

I love British dramas and mini-series (the Masterpiece Theater variety) - UPSTAIRS/DOWNSTAIRS, THE FORSYTE SAGA (the original 1967 black-and-white version), THE PALLISERS, THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN, I CLAUDIUS, HOUSE OF CARDS/TO PLAY THE KING/FINAL CUT - the recent CRANWELL was brilliant, and I've been catching up on some Masterpiece Theater Viewer Favorites that I've missed: PRIME SUSPECT 1 and THE ADVENTURES AND MISADVENTURES OF MOLL FLANDERS (the latter featured more heaving bosoms, tremulous thighs and bucking buttocks than I've seen outside of a porn movie, but it was fun nevertheless). And I love the BritComs as well - ARE YOU BEING SERVED?, TO THE MANOR BORN, KEEPING UP APPEARANCES, etc.

There is nothing like a Dame: Eileen, Helen, Judi, and Maggie. . .

I tuned out on American television somewhere in the late 1980s or early 1990s - I've never (or barely) seen SEINFIELD, FRIENDS, MURPHY BROWN, HOME IMPROVEMENT, ROSEANNE, FRASIER (other than a few minutes of a rerun that happened to be on), and that pretty much goes for American television drama as well. And don't even think about mentioning "American Idol" around here, okay?

I was raised on the classic horror films of the 1930s - 1960s, from Universal to Hammer - I still love them, have them on VHS or DVD, and revisit them all every 2-3 years. You could say that growing up my best friends were THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, THE MUMMY, DRACULA, and FRANKENSTEIN - the friendships have endured to this day.

RUTH RENDELL: My absolute favorite writer, regardless of genre. The only writer I like better is RUTH RENDELL when she writes as BARBARA VINE - something really incredible happens when Rendell becomes Barbara Vine - her Vine novel ASTA'S BOOK (retitled ANNA'S BOOK for the U.S.) has become my favorite novel - at last count, I've read it 11 times since its publication in 1993. I've read almost every Rendell twice (a "Rendell" being her 21 Chief Inspector Wexford novels, along with about 25 stand-alone novels of psychological suspense), and I've read several of the 12 Vines published so far (a 13th is due in August), such as A DARK-ADAPTED EYE, A FATAL INVERSION, HOUSE OF STAIRS and THE BRIMSTONE WEDDING, anywhere from 3 to 5 times each. I'm known to some as "Ruth Rendell's #1 American Fan" and it frustrates me that, even though she's been published here in the U.S. for 43 years, she's still an unknown quantity to many readers here. It's a personal mission with me to make sure they find out!

As far as other detective fiction goes, I'm also a big P.D. James fan. I cut my mystery teeth on Agatha Christie, of course - I still collect her, and have a soft spot for Christie Classics such as THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD and AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.

I Knew Him When Department: American crime novelist James Lee Burke was my college writing teacher back at Miami Dade Community College in 1977 - I caught on to his Dave Robicheaux series when the first one was published and knew it was a winner - I've enjoyed his success very much - I haven't met a former student of his who doesn't. When he used to do a book signing in Atlanta, former students would drive in from hundreds of miles away.

Some of my favorite books (aside from Rendell): LOST HORIZON and RANDOM HARVEST by James Hilton (I re-read both every 4-5 years), THE BAD SEED by William March (a favorite since I was in 6th grade in 1969 - one of the best novels of psychological suspense ever - forget the movie!) - TIME AND AGAIN by Jack Finney (the best time-travel novel ever), TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (which I recently re-read for the umptieth time). I loved McEwan's ATONEMENT and thought the film made from it was excellent - they did a good job considering that the book couldn't have been easy to adapt. I used to be a big fan of James A. Michener and Larry McMurtry, too. On the less-than-literary side, last year I re-read THE CARPETBAGGERS by Harold Robbins and PEYTON PLACE by Grace Metalious, and neither can be topped for sheer entertaining storytelling. Ditto Irwin Shaw's RICH MAN, POOR MAN which I re-read a couple of years back and couldn't put down. Honorable Mention to Jackie Susann and VALLEY OF THE DOLLS - it just doesn't hold up quite as well as Robbins and Metalious.

I love good biography and history - David McCullough does both brilliantly (THE GREAT BRIDGE, THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS, TRUMAN, JOHN ADAMS) and so did the late William Manchester (THE GLORY AND THE DREAM, AMERICAN CAESAR, THE ARMS OF KRUPP, DARKNESS VISIBLE).

My hero and heroine are Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt - both made lemonade when life handed them lemons, and that's putting it mildly.

Oh yes, I'm a Sondheim fan from way back - I used to think he'd read my mail when he wrote songs that seemed to be about me: "Losing My Mind," "Anyone Can Whistle," and "Being Alive." FOLLIES remains the greatest show I ever saw on Broadway - I saw the original 1971 production about 2 weeks into its Broadway run.

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