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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Department of Book Reports 41: Diversions

After reading the dense and brilliant Tree of Smoke (still by Denis with one n Johnson), I decided to go with less intense fare. And what could be less intense than The Annotated Godfather: The Complete Screenplay (Black Dog and Leventhal $29.95), authored by Jenny M. Jones?

There has been an on-going debate as to the best American film ever made. Many argue the virtues of “Citizen Kane”, its innovations in cinematography, its non-linear narrative, the fine acting ensemble, and the remarkable screenplay. I love that film. But, really, how many times do I hanker to watch it again? Not often. Others advocate “The Godfather”, a film that bears many repeated viewings, with new discoveries to be made each time. (The other film that holds up well to time and repeats is “Blade Runner”, but that’s another story.)

The book does, indeed, have the complete screenplay and includes scenes either not shot, or filmed, but ending up on the cutting room floor. There are profiles of the actors, producers, the director, and essentially the whole production history. Of course, it is lavishly illustrated with photographs from the film and from the shooting sets. If you loved the movie (and I clearly do), you’ll love the book.

The other book I’d like to point out is David Shenk’s The Immortal Game (Anchor Books $14.95). That game is chess, and here we have a very readable history of it. Shenk centers the history on a game played in 1851 between two masters, with commentary (And, speaking of Blade Runner, it is this game that the replicant Roy uses against Tyrell in order to gain entrance to the building.). It explores some of the players, many of whom were just plain crazy, and others, like Marcel Duchamp, who were obsessed. And like other books on games, it is really the story of obsession. My one caveat would be that to enjoy the book, you really have to like chess, unlike, say, enjoying Stefan Fastsis’ fascinating look at Scrabble in Word Freak (Penguin $15.00). But if you have even a just passing interest in chess, you’ll enjoy The Immortal Game.

democommie™™™™®© is on strike. He thinks he needs to earn $200k for his contributions here. Hah! Send in the goons! Or better yet, send in your receipts to carpe your per diem.

As always, these fine volumes are available at Jackson Street Books and Fine Independent Bookstores Everywhere.

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