Readers’ Corner: Books of the Convention

During Chelsea Clinton’s speech at the Democratic convention on Thursday night, she peppered her recollections of childhood in the Clinton family with a couple pointed references to books. In addition to the expected childhood classics (Goodnight, Moon) she singled out a certain novel by Madeline L’Engle:

Growing up, conversations around the dinner table always started with what I learned in school that day. I remember one week talking incessantly about a book that had captured my imagination, “A Wrinkle in Time.” Only after my parents had listened to me talk, would they then talk about what they were working on: education, health care consuming their days and keeping them up at night.

WrinkleInTimePBA1Spencer Kornhaber writes, this wasn’t just an invocation of a classic book beloved by many pre-adolescents, it was a clue as to the personalities of both Chelsea and Hillary:

The parallels between Meg Murry [the book’s protagonist] and adolescent Chelsea Clinton are obvious from that quote alone, right down to the description of braces and unruly hair … Meg is an introverted, brainy heroine rather than a spunky, hotheaded one, a distinction that likely appeals to both Clinton women. And Meg, like Chelsea, is the daughter of two very high-powered parents … There are extra-textual comparisons to be made, too: L’Engle once said that the novel was originally rejected by dozens of publishers, partly for the reason that it “had a female protagonist in a science-fiction book, and that wasn’t done”—a gender barrier of a different sort than the one broken last night…

Clinton’s reference to L’Engle’s novel was greeted by a distinct cheer from a certain segment of the audience. You can imagine for yourself whether a similar literary call-out at the previous week’s convention would have elicited anything but silence.

Quote of the Convention: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Hillary Clinton (State Department) with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (NBA) in 2012
Hillary Clinton (State Department) with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (NBA) in 2012

This is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar introducing himself at the Democratic convention last night:

Hello, everyone. I’m Michael Jordan, and I’m here with Hillary. I said that because I know that Donald Trump couldn’t tell the difference.

Side note: Abdul-Jabbar has done some writing since he left the NBA. Among the books to his name is Mycroft Holmes, a Sherlock Holmes novel he co-wrote with Anna Waterhouse. Abdul-Jabbar has been a Sherlock fan for decades.

Weekend Reading: July 29, 2016


Screening Room: ‘Bad Moms’

The summer’s latest rowdy-femme comedy hits screens tonight, so get ready.

My review of Bad Moms is at Film Journal International:

Five years after Jake Kasdan’s Bad Teacher found easy jokes in the then-taboo sight of middle-school teacher Cameron Diaz showing up to work hung over and mocking her students, the pocket genre of films and TV shows about women in positions of authority shirking their responsibilities (“Bad Judge,” anyone?) seems to have hit a peak. In Bad Moms, writing and directing team Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (The Hangover, Four Christmases) spin the recent trend of just-relax books and blogs extolling “moms who drink” and the backlash against overscheduled childhoods into a rebellious party epic. It’s not exactly for the ages, but it’s not exactly The Hangover Part II, either…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Zero Days’

zero days2

With all the news the last few days about not just the thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee but the possibility that the hack was directed by a foreign power (and a certain presidential candidate’s request that that power do yet more hacking), the as-yet mostly theoretical idea of cyberwar has suddenly hit the mainstream.

zero days-posterIn a rare convergence, Alex Gibney’s prescient documentary Zero Days hit theaters just a couple weeks ago. My article, “DNC Hack Could Make Zero Days the Year’s Most Prescient Film,” is at Eyes Wide Open:

Zero Days does not directly relate to the kind of offensive cyber operation that is alleged to have happened with the DNC. However, in his deep-undercover, whistleblower-thick narrative, Gibney does paint a picture of the types of motives and capabilities that directly relate to what is potentially happening now. It serves as a kind of road map for the new geopolitical battleground that many of us might have just gotten a glimpse of in this sweltering summer of unease…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Cafe Society’


Jesse Eisenberg goes to 1930s Hollywood in Woody Allen’s latest time machine romantic comedy. All the outfits are fantastic and the jazz (of course) is hot.

cafe-society-Theatrical Poster_rgbCafe Society is playing now in limited release. My review is at PopMatters:

Café Society is nearly done before it gets off a halfway decent joke. Not that it’s been trying too hard before then to be funny, or anything much in particular besides reheat some old Allen material and stir it around before calling it a day. You get the sense that he was already plotting out his next film while still dashing off dialogue for this one…

Here’s the trailer: