Thursday, May 11, 2006

Two fascinating finds. Author’s Galleys anyone?

It happened, if memory serves, about a couple of years ago or, maybe, a little longer. Near where I live and close to the Central Plaza is a book distributor’s showroom in the basement of an old and dusty shopping mall. I used to be a fairly regular visitor there for years off and on to look at the new stuff. That fateful day, they’d a couple of uncorrected proof copies of forthcoming titles lying in the stack. I offered to buy them. They said, take them with the compliments of the house. Lucky me. The first one happened to be The Travels of a Fat Bulldog by George Courtauld, was the memoirs of a Queen’s Messenger. It’s an absolutely fascinating read, fast-paced, at times hilarious, at times lyrical, always gripping. Get a feel of the world of uncorrected proof or ‘Advance Reading’ copies aka ‘Author’s Galleys’: And, a feel of the QM’s job of transporting “bags marked 'HM Diplomatic Service' … made from sturdy white canvas by prison inmates” here:

The second find was equally fascinating. But first, a little build-up for it in the good ol’ Hollywood-of-‘50s style. Once upon a time, somewhere in the golden age of Hollywood, a reporter of The New Yorker had the temerity to opine in print something outrageous. It was perilous, went his argument, for a man who had quit school after the eighth grade to be in charge of making films which disseminated so many ideas to people. Both Gregory Peck and Nunnally Johnson did not share this opinion about the cigar-chomping Darryl F Zanuck who did try half-heartedly to resume his war-interrupted education at the Los Angeles Manual Arts High School in September 1919. “Just as his contemporary and sometimes friend and colleague Walter Winchell was the first newspaperman to see that the reappropriation of journalese through slang was a form of empowerment (both for the man who wielded the pen and for his readership), Zanuck was the first producer in the sound era to realize that by making films culled from daily tabloid headlines, you could speak to the public in stylized versions of its own speech,” writes George F Custen, Professor of Communications, The College of Staten Island in his Twentieth Century’s Fox: Darryl F Zanuck and the Culture of Hollywood. P.S.: I wonder what the nameless reporter of The New Yorker would have to say were he to watch some of the handiwork of today’s Bollywood, though. Speechless in Manhattan?

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