Saturday, January 17, 2009

Judith Thurman on People You Meet Playing Online Scrabble

I have probably met more interesting strangers playing online Scrabble than I have in a lifetime of travel to exotic places. A Ghanaian taxi-driver from Brooklyn invited me to Prospect Park, where his Scrabble club held weekend tournaments. A tattoo artist in Alberta surprised me, between plays, with her knowledge of Gerard Manley Hopkins. An Oxford don beat me soundly, but so did a used-car salesman. I have played Aussies and New Zealanders (Scrabble is popular in the antipodes), an impertinent prodigy who confessed to being eleven, a cardsharp in Las Vegas, a lawyer in Bangalore who traded places with his wife for the endgame ("She's the family closer," he said), a corgi breeder, and a Jane Austen fan ("elizabennet") who added a few words that Jane never used -- "feeb," "ottar," "vas," and "zineb" -- to my vocabulary.
--p. 29 of Judith Thurman's January 19, 2009 New Yorker article, "Spreading the Word."

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Donald Westlake on Translating a Character from Book to the Big Screen

In a filmed interview called "The Hunter," [Donald Westlake] pointed out that three very different actors played his antihero in the first three films -- Karina in Pop art dresses for "Made in USA," Lee Marvin in a '60s suit for "Point Blank" and the rugged Brown for "The Split."

As Westlake recalled: "A friend of mine said, 'So far, Parker's been played by a white guy, a black guy and a woman. I think the character lacks definition.' "

--From Scott Timberg's January 8, 2009 L.A. Times article, "Hollywood rarely did Donald Westlake justice."

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Friday, January 02, 2009

A.J. Liebling on Partying Like its 1952

It was a sixteen-story cooperative building with two apartments on each floor, and the woman just above us, with whom our landlord had left the key, said it was as friendly as an old-time boarding house. "All the apartments are laid out just alike," she told us, "and that makes it homey, because no matter whose apartment you're in, you know where everything is. Last New Year's Eve, eleven of us got together and gave a party in all our eleven apartments, one above the other. One apartment was South American, with a rumba band, and another was Wild West, with a square-dance caller, and another French, with an accordionist, and you just took the elevator from one to another, and lay where you fell."

--From a profile of Chicago by A.J. Liebling in the January 12, 1952 issue of The New Yorker, called "Second City."

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