My Wonderful World Of Slapstick (Da Capo Paperback)

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My Wonderful World Of Slapstick (Da Capo Paperback)
Publisher: Da Capo Press | English | ISBN-10: 0306801787 | August 22, 1982 | File type: PDF | 340 pages | 31.33 mb

First of all, the book is not called Autobiography or My Life, but My Wonderful World of Slapstick. Oddly enough, that is its subject. So, if you are expecting to uncover deep and dark secrets, you got the wrong book. Buy a biography instead.

But you got the wrong person too. Mediocre people think that artists are guys who are lucky enough to have a sudden inspiration right at the moment when they have a pencil in their hands and a white sheet of paper in front of them, or some millions in a friend’s bank account to make a movie. These people can’t understand that the way Keaton made his pictures was the only way possible for him; badly put: the way he saw life. In this book we get exactly what we are promised: a world full of anecdotes, accidents, shows and practical jokes.

On page NUmbER 3 he warns those readers who like sniffing the rotten meat under the carpet: “I’ve had few dull moments and not too many sad and defeated ones. In saying this I am by no means overlooking the rough and rocky years I’ve lived through. But I was not brought up thinking life would be easy. I always expected to work hard for my money and to get nothing I did not earn. And the bad years, it seems to me, were so few that only a dyed-in-the-wool grouch who enjoys feeling sorry for himself would complain.”

If after reading this your first thought is: he’s lying, then probably you are the kind of person who delights in other people’s misfortunes but, most important, one who sees misfortunes where they’re not. After all, every life is unique and if you are going to compare Keaton with, let’s say Chaplin, who had always control over his films but, after the 20’s were gone, made one worst than the other Then I don’t know how and who is to judge if a life is a failure or not.

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There are other things in Shawn Marengo’s review. He says the book is full of mistakes. But they are all about movie titles, and they were all corrected in the later edition so big deal. Then he puts in evidence his lack of understanding by asking how could Keaton have forgotten the name of his first short-film. Answer: probably because once he did something he didn’t bother to see it again, like so many artists. The Reviewer upstairs then asks, “Why would molasses be sold in a butcher shop?”. A: because it’s only a movie. And then he confuses an anecdote Keaton tells about something that happens “off-camera”, with a similar anecdote that is in one of the films, and he says there’s something “screwy” in the writing of this book. I think there’s something screwy in your reading.

This reviewer also complains of not hearing “nothing about the probable horror of his serving in France during World War 1”. But Keaton spent in France only the last seven months of the war. His group was the last to arrive, and they saw (as he says right there) “little but rain and mud.” No wonder he doesn’t talk about the “probable horrors” And he does talk about his losing his hearing and how he almost gets shot by an American guard for not having heard him say, “Who goes there?” Isn’t tat enough horror for you?

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And then there is the silly idea that publishers know better than writers what they book should be like. “If the book were written 20 years later, the publisher would have demanded a more in-depth study of his life, and if Keaton refused, they probably would not have released it”, he says. Nonsense. Publishers are as good an artist as a movie producer, and we know that Buster made his best films when least bothered by them. I don’t see why this case would be any different.

And last: if you already know the facts of his life for what you have read in other books or on the internet or anywhere else: Why do you keep asking to read the same thing again? Why should Keaton elaborate extensively on the failures of his second marriage, for example? You don’t own Keaton: you owe him. Take the book for what it is, and if you are going to criticize it (which is perfectly all right), do it for what the author wrote, not for what TV Guide readers would like to see in it.
This is a fun book to read, and it’s perfectly in line with the rest of Buster Keaton’s art. Read it as you would watch the “talkie” he never directed.
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