Wednesday, 24 February 2016

A Movie Review: Julia

A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

Last week in Hunting Lodge Thespians we had our first look at Dave Sim's notebook #29, which said it was for Cerebus #255, and we saw pages #2 and 3. Well, what about page #1? Was it blank? No, it wasn't blank, but I couldn't make heads or tails of it. It looked like Dave was writing a letter to someone.

Notebook #29, page 1
As an example, if you are Lillian Hellman I see no reason why you should not write a story about a writer and give her a brave friend name Julia and write your story about a writer and her brave friend Julia so that it is inspirational and makes people say "Bravo" and perhaps try to be a little brave themselves. To me, however it is quite another thing to tell people that you are the writer you are writing about and to make yourself as brave as your made up Julia in your story. A story about a made-up Julia which is inspiring and makes people say "Bravo" and perhaps be a little brave themselves is a very good thing. I think, to do. A story you make up about being brave yourself when the bravest thing you ever did was to be around Dashiell Hammett when he was very, very drunk because you needed him to fix your amateurish writing anonymously is a very, very bad thing, I think, to do.

So issue #255 was dated March 2000, so this notebook entry could've been written in the late 1990s. I had to google the names as they didn't ring any bells.

Lillian Hellman was a writer, who died in 1984 at the age of 79. She had written a book entitled Pentimento: A book of Portraits published in 1973 which one of the stories was turned into a movie, Julia, starring Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave. It was nominated 11 Academy Awards and won three, but it turned out there was a controversy regarding the veracity of Lillian's story.

Perhaps Dave was thinking of it because Martha Gellhorn, Ernest Hemingway's third wife, had just passed away in early 1998? Or perhaps he had come across some mention of Hellman and Hemingway's dinner to raise money for anti-Nazi activists? Or perhaps he just read about Gellhorn's opinion's on Hellman?

It looks as if Dave didn't care about if the basis for Julia was made up or not, but he didn't care for Lillian making up stories about herself.


Travis Pelkie said...

You know, it reads to me like an attempt by Dave to "do" Hemingway. That run-on sentence structure reminds me of the bits in the "To Ham and Ham Not" note section, and that would have been about the right time, wouldn't it?

CerebusTV said...

If you know the history, it's not nothing to have stood by the tragic, principled, brave Hammett for decades, at considerable personal and career risk. Sure he helped her. Why wouldn't he? Not just the most original of the mystery and hard boiled detective writers, most famous for The Maltese Falcon, a movie almost identically scripted to the book it was based on, from which argot Humphrey Bogart's screen persona was created, Hammett remains the stunning originalist of The Glass Key. Caught up in the McCarthyist witch hunt, subsequently imprisoned and his health ruined for his principles in refusing to denounce others to the House Unamerican Activities Committee, Hammett came by his politics and his writing honestly. In his formative years, Hammett himself was the prototype for his own Continental Op, the fictionalized Pinkerton agent, who experienced first hand the organized murder of workers by exploitative mine owner executives and corrupt officials, in places like Butte, Montana, thinly disguised in Poisonville and Red Harvest.

Jeff Seiler said...

I agree with Travis. This is totally Dave "doing" Hemingway. I could tell that before I finished the first sentence which was a very good sentence in the way that you use an opening sentence to make a point that feels right and true in a very real and good way.

As to the content, I think this is just another example of the sort of deep research that Dave tended (and tends) to do, while practicing his Hemingway "voice" which is a very good and real...

Nah. I won't do it twice here.

Jim Sheridan said...

Nicely done, Jeff!

Unknown said...

Comment from yesterday: testing. Will I be allowed to post a comment?

Unknown said...

Comment from yesterday: re: CHURCH & STATE II. Diamond still has copies of the previous printing, so I thought I should clarify: Sandeep is scanning and Sean is restoring pages in order because it all needs to be done. PUBLISHING the material is another matter. We're monitoring the sales on C&S II now that C&S I is back in print, but we won't get the go-ahead from Diamond until the inventory levels on the previous printing drop. Which is apt to be a while since everyone is waiting for the restored version.

Unknown said...

As I said to Jeff on the phone yesterday, SOME day those will be the rare "skinny" C&S II copies and will probably sell for a premium price (assuming all the future printings are "fat" editions, which is a safe bet, I think). But for the moment, they are going to be a tough sell. So the 91 copies might last literally years.

Which is fine by me. Paying to have C&S I and II restored and C&S I printed last year -- three quarters of the way through the C&S "bulge" caused a roughly $40K book loss for the company for 2015. Taking a few breaths before the last quarter of that "bulge" is the closest I'm going to come to a vacation.

The next PUBLISHED restoration will be READS because it's the only one that's out of print.

Yes, that's me practicing my Hemingway voice. I thought it would be funny because Hemingway and Hellman were both American quasi-(and not so quasi) communists. One of the reasons that Peter Manso's MAILER: HIS LIFE AND TIMES is one of my favourite books. The "how many aparatchiks (sp?) can dance on the head of a pin" internecine discussions. Very distinctive voice.

I'll be paying to scan and restore JAKA'S STORY long before that one is published. I've still got copies in stock and so does Diamond.

But the book still needs to be scanned and restored, so there's no point in waiting until printed copies are needed or we'd never get anywhere.

Jeff Seiler said...

Thanks, Jim. It wasn't too difficult because I recently read all of A Farewell To Arms for the first time, forcing myself to finish it. Still, bad writing isn't all that easy to emulate. Right, Dave?

Jeff Seiler said...

BTW, while we were on the phone the other night, Dave suggested that my buying all 91 remaining copies of the most recent printing of C&S II might expedite the printing of the remastered C&S II.

We (I) laughed and laughed and laughed. And, then, I said, "No, one copy will do me for the proofreading." It's one of four phonebooks I don't have.

I ordered it yesterday from Jeremy, at Titan Comics, in Dallas, who always has all 16 volumes in stock.

So, when it comes time to proofread C&S II (or Minds, Guys, or Rick's Story, waaaaaaay down the line), I know I can always count on Jeremy, at Titan Comics, somewhere online.

Go check him out.

He's got a lotta cool stuff.

And? He almost always answers the phone his own self: "Ti-tan Comics!!"

A heckuva nice guy!

I miss that shop so much...

Alex Krislov said...

The problem with "Julia" is not just that Hellman "made things up," but that she stole another woman's story. A _true_ story as it happens.

Steve said...

Why the idea that the 'skinny' volumes would someday sell for a premium?

How many thousands of them were printed, altogether? I think it's safe to say there's more copies available than there are people interested in reading and keeping a copy.