Thursday, October 17, 2002

On a more pleasant note, this afternoon I came across the New Republic review of Anthony Lane's new book, Nobody's Perfect, which I was reading recently; this inspires me to make a whole-hearted recommendation. Lane, of course, is chief movie critic at the New Yorker, & the book is a collection of the reviews & other pieces he's written for the magazine over the last nine years. It reaffirms my faith in the civilising values of intelligence, wit & curiosity.

Lane is one of my very favourite writers. When each new issue of the NY arrives in the post the first thing I do is check whether he has anything in it; if he does, it must be read at once. But, coming across him only every other week or so these last nine or ten years, I didn't realise till I got Nobody's Perfect how deeply he'd insinuated himself into my reading mind. I rediscovered pieces that I could have read once or at most twice, five or six years ago, but which were shockingly familiar, so fresh & perfect were their phrasing or their wicked line of argument. (I also had not realised just how much his review of Before Sunrise—again, I must have read it once, years ago—has influenced the way I experience & think about the world.) Actually, Anthony Lane is too good to be frittering himself away on the kind of movies we get these days—his book reviews & profiles, also collected here, prove that. I'd rather read one of his sentences than a sentence by anyone else alive. He's simply more fun than anyone else—that's why he consistently leaves me gasping for laughter-starved breath—but his humane brilliance (humaneness & brilliance are not so often conjoined), the spectacle of a brain showing what brains are really capable of, is what sometimes leaves me—dare I admit it?—misty-eyed.

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