Daily Archives: April 7, 2019

The Countercultural Histories of Rudy Wurlitzer

From Written By 3, no. 11, November 1998. — J.R.

Let me start this off with an update: a plug for Wurlitzer’s most recent novel, a sort of Buddhist Western that grew out of an unrealized script, and a truly haunting page-turner. — J.R.


“What’s your name?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I mean, I don’t know how to answer that.”
I was suddenly afraid of losing the anonymity that existed between us, as if once we knew our names         the erotic focus we were falling into would dissolve. I curled my lower lip.
“We’re overloaded as it is.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” she said.
– Rudolph Wurlitzer, Quake (1972)

SQUIER  We must move southward. Only by expanding can we hope to avoid a civil war and save those in
situtions we hold most precious.
DR. JONES  I assume you are including slavery?
SQUIER  I certainly am. We must not be sentimental if we wish to preserve that which is most precious to
The camera cuts to Ellen, enraged by the conversation. As her eyes dart around the room, she and Walker begin to move their hands in sign language. We see for the first time that Ellen is deaf.… Read more »

Soul Brothers (A FAMILY THING)

From the Chicago Reader (April 12, 1996). — J.R.

A Family Thing

Directed by Richard Pearce

Written by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson

With Robert Duvall, James Earl Jones, Michael Beach, Irma P. Hall, David Keith, Grace Zabriskie, Regina Taylor, Mary Jackson, Paula Marshall, and James Harrell.

If good quiet movies seem as rare as hen’s teeth nowadays, one reason is that they’re gone before most of us get around to seeing them. As a rule, it’s the loud movies, good and bad (usually bad), that claim our attention first — the ones that yell at us from afar through monster ad campaigns tricked up with socko clips and hyperbolic quotes. Those that speak to us in a normal tone of voice, without flash or filigree, seep into our consciousness more gradually — and gradual discoveries are fast becoming impossible given that the commercial fate of a new feature is often sealed the opening weekend.

The first time I saw A Family Thing — not only the best but pretty nearly the only good quiet Hollywood movie I’ve seen this year — was at a press show in late February, back-to-back with The Birdcage. It took me completely by surprise — unlike The Birdcage, which had been shouting from the rooftops for months — and when I finally got around to seeing it a second time I found it every bit as affecting.… Read more »