Monday, November 8, 2010

Harlan Ellison's Watching

It's funny - this is probably the only book I've ever read where the author manages to work his name into the title.

I've been a fan of Harlan Ellison since way back in my college days when, on a quiet summer evening, my dad handed me a copy of a Harlan Ellison book and said I would probably like it, since I like Stephen King.

Having read pretty much everything King's written, and perhaps a little over 1/3 of Harlan, I'm not sure the two compare. King considers Ellison an influence (and talks about Ellison's greatness in the now long-in-the-tooth "Danse Macabre") and Ellison, at least by the time "Watching" hit the stands, considers King a friend.

But beyond the fact that Ellison sometimes dabbles in scary stories, I can't say the two compare. I mean, they both use words to make head-pictures, but beyond that...

At any rate, "Watching" is now about two decades old. The copyright for the book says it came out in '89, and earliest columns contained therein (it is, more-or-less, a book of film criticism) date all the way back to the 1960s.

And what does that mean?

Well, it means that some of the book might as well be in Chinese, for all it will ever mean to me.

Video, of course, has preserved just about everthing that came out since about 1980 or so, but even talking to a friend who was around at the time the movies came out? He had no clue, either. Even "Joe," which Harlan praised to the skies, and which came out in 1970, well... it meant nothing to him.

And then there are the movies I have heard of. Stuff he hated, a lot, include "Back to the Future" and "Star Wars."

Then he turned around and gave a really loveable hug to "Dune," which, by all accounts, is not a very good movie and makes little to no sense unless you've read the book. And then, on top of that, he talks about all the lost footage, which he thought would fix whatever flaws the film had.

I'd love to have him take a look at the extended version, now on DVD.

And to me, that's what made this book intersting: It's the lense of age, now long cracked. I'd love to see an updated version with his lost coluns, and a re-comment on all the movies contained therein.

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