Monthly Archives: August 1985

Olaf Stapledon: The Father of Modern Science Fiction

Published under a pseudonym in the August 1985 issue of High Times. As I recall now, the main reason for the pseudonym was my unhappiness with the editor’s thoughtless editing; I’ve tried to repair a little of the damage here, and also added a few details.

I can happily report that Stapledon’s work has garnered a lot more attention since 1985, and all the fiction discussed here is currently in print, which wasn’t true back then. (Dover has excellent editions pairing Last and First Men with Star Maker and Odd John with Sirius, and An Olaf Stapledon Reader, edited by Robert Crossley, which Syracuse University Press published in 1997, includes all of The Flames and samplings from the others.) Although I don’t have much to say here about Odd John, this novel may actually serve as the best single introduction to Stapledon’s work.

One anecdotal epilogue to Jorge Luis Borges’s interest in Star Maker, cited at the end of this piece. I was lucky enough to attend a public discussion with Borges at the University of California, Santa Barbara shortly before his death, and asked him at the time to comment on this book. He said that he hadn’t reread it since the 60s, “but of course, once you’ve read it, you can never forget it.” — J.R.Read more »

GARBO TALKS (1985 review)

From the August 1985 issue of Video Times. — J.R.

(1984), C, Director: Sidney Lumet. With Anne Bancroft, Ron Silver, Catherine Hicks,  Carrie Fisher, Howard Da Silva, Hermione Gingold. 104 min. PG-13. Hi-Fi, CBS/Fox, $79.98. Three stars.

Perhaps the most delightful single aspect of thus warm, contemporary New York comedy is the degree to which it suggests anything but a movie of the present. From the animated cartoon behind the opening credits to the winsome conclusion in central Park, Garbo Talks registers more like a Hollywood film of the sixties or seventies than an expression of today’s sensibilities. (Where’s Poppa?, an absurdist comedy of 1970, provides a useful cross-reference.) The fact that scriptwriter Larry Grusin and director Sidney Lumet both seem perfectly aware of this adds a tang of irony to the film’s pleasure. They know, as we do, that lovable, eccentric radical like Estelle Rolfe (Anne Bancroft), who would have seemed almost commonplace in a movie 10 or 15 years ago, comes across as an audacious concept in the mid-eighties.

The plot of Garbo Talks is built around Estelle, and the role fits Anne Bancroft like a glove. The movie manages to milk the maximum out of her performance — one of the best in her impressive career — without keeping her onscreen any longer than is absolutely necessary.… Read more »