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February 11, 2003

Free Reads--Wiggle Room


The indispensable Polly Frost at her website “Velvet Crypt” put me on to a website you should check out, called “Wiggle Room” (here). It contains the collected works of one Ray Sawhill, who seems to have been both a detached and involved observer of movies, books, and what he describes as “other media” for a number of years now. He’s at least old enough to remember the movie “Nashville”, so I assume he’s a rough contemporary of ours--or, gasp, even older (if that's possible.)

Reading his description of what film watching felt like—at least to a film afficianado—in the 1970s does take me back a bit to my misspent youth:

It was a cuckoo time. There was an intoxication about filmmaking and filmgoing -- a euphoria and a fever. For many people, an interest in movies and movie history provided a way into the arts and a framework for exploring them. Films like "Nashville," "The Conformist" and "The Godfather" were peak experiences that seemed to bring together all your interests in the arts -- high and low, visual, auditory and literary. A figure like Godard or Altman or Coppola opened up new directions and led you into discoveries not just in art but also in your life, in terms of sex, philosophy, love, fantasy and friendship. So these figures meant something to you personally. They transformed you; they made a difference in your sense of what was possible.

(All right, so maybe he’s a little starry-eyed about the old days—go ahead and shoot him.) If you want to check out the rest of his essay on “Nashville at 25” you can find it here. There’s also tons of other interesting stuff, including short reviews, extended essays and some wacky dialogues. It’ll give you a few hours of very intelligent and civilized diversion, at the least.



posted by Friedrich at February 11, 2003


Thanks for pointing this out. Sawhill seems like a real burnt-out case to me, but I like the site's name, and I like the fact that he put the writing up there. Maybe there's a little life left in him yet.

I wonder why more critics/journalists/profs/whoever don't do something similar with their essays and profiles and reviews. Commercial publishers barely publish collections at all anymore. Smaller, nonprofit and university presses seldom do, and the process is an agony with no money at the end of it. So why not make what you've done available on the web?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 12, 2003 9:25 AM

I think that this kind of vanity site might have been all well and good a few years ago, but that it's now quite obviously been superceded by the rise of the blogosphere. Why should I read Ray Sawhill on movies, when I can come here and read Michael Blowhard instead, who (a) is up-to-date, (b) provides hyperlinks, and (c) actually responds to comments? And if it's long, thought-out essays I'm after, can't I get those from Friedrich?

Besides, Sawhill turns out to be an old hanger-on of that notoriously boorish self-publicist Toby Young, a prime example of the arrogance and self-regard still, depressingly, displayed by the increasingly anachronistic English upper classes.

Still, if Sawhill ever woke up to what century he was in and started a blog, I'd add it to my list: he might be interesting occasionally. Doubt it, however: he seems a little too, well, crusty for that.

Posted by: Felix on February 12, 2003 11:02 AM

Yeah, a walking anachronism, that's for sure. Crusty reactionaries have their own venues -- dusty libraries, namely. For the forward-looking, it's the blogosphere.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 12, 2003 11:57 AM

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