Dateline – 10 April 1952, Washington DC. Critically acclaimed film director, co-founder of ‘The Actor’s Studio’ and the darling of Broadway, Elia Kazan, appears before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). Kazan testifies that he was a member of a clandestine Communist cell in 1934 and names eight fellow actors as his comrades in this revolutionary cadre. Informing on colleagues meant Kazan was free to continue his stellar.Hollywood career; the fate of colleagues who were snitched on were bleak – personal and professional ruin. The Joseph McCarthy engineered ‘Red Scare’ in post-war America was buttressed by film studio chiefs who blacklisted any artist suspected of being a ‘Commie’. Richard Schickel’s Elia Kazan: A Biography shows how Kazan’s decision to appear as a friendly witness in front of the Committee influenced his work, the history of American cinema and how it has tainted his artistic legacy.Opprobrium generated from Kazan’s decision was instant, pervasive and brutal (Elia ‘snitch-fink-grass-rat-tout-stoolie-squealar-turncoat-Judas Iscariot-scab-quisling’ Kazan). Two days after his appearance in front of the Committee, Kazan felt compelled to take out a full page advertisement in the New York Times justifying his decision to appear in front of HUAC. Kazan’s reasoning was that it was the correct course of action for an American patriot to root out Soviet Communism from American soil. Kazan’s defence and justification of his actions became the dominant theme of his future work.Dateline – 8 October 1954. On the Waterfront (1954) directed by Kazan, premieres in the USA. The hero of piece, Terry Molloy (Marlon Brando), is a Jesus Christ character who informs on local Union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb – appeared as a friendly witness in front of the HUAC in 1951) to save his community and the American way of life. Written by Budd Schulberg (appeared as a friendly witness in front of the HUAC in 1951), On the Waterfront has been described as a self-serving justification for Kazan’s betrayal of his friends. It is also considered to be on the pantheon of great 20th century American films. The director utilises the ‘Method’ acting technique inspired by Konstanin Stanislavski and developed by Kazan and his blacklisted contemporaries in the Group Theatre in the 1930’s, resulting in a work of cinematic greatness. Over the next seven years Kazan reached a creative zenith. From East of Eden (1955) to Splendor in the Grass (1961) Kazan laid claim to the cinematic auteur without parallel. Schickel explores whether Kazan’s HUAC testimony inspired the director to great artistic heights – the schism and antagonism caused by his behaviour are used by the director to imbue his films with dissonance and conflict. Post 1961 - a long and steady decline – a creative and artistic aridness becalmed his output.Dateline – 21 March 1999, Los Angeles. A physically frail Elia Kazan is awarded an honorary Oscar (usually awarded to artists who have never won an Oscar – Kazan had won Oscars for both his screenwriting and directing) – a number of attendees including Nick Nolte and Ed Harris refuse to applaud and the ceremony is blighted by demonstrations outside the Dorothy Chandlier Pavilion. Whilst his erstwhile friend and collaborator, Arthur Miller acknowledged the greatness of Kazan’s canon in the context of the honorary Oscar, he commented: ‘ The public exposure of a bunch of actors who had not been politically connected for years would never push one Red Chinaman out of the Forbidden City or a single Russian out of Warsaw or Budapest.’ Victim of the Hollywood Blacklist, the award winning director Abraham Polonsky commented before the ceremony ‘I’ll be hoping someone shoots him.’Dateline – 28 September 2003, Elia Kazan – R.I.P. Obituaries: Philanderer. Visionary. Ambitious. Patriot. Leader. Revolutionary. Titan. Traitor. The HUAC testimony hung around Kazan like a thick fog enveloping the docks in Hoboken, New Jersey.CODADateline – 14 January 2020. Actor Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of Elia) appears on a panel discussion to promote a TV adaptation of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America – the novel is set in the counter factual milieu of rabid anti-Semite and crypto-Nazi Charles Lindberg becoming US President in 1940. A journalist asks Ms. Kazan about ‘her family history during this period’. Note – a number of the people that Mr. Kazan named in front of the HUAC were Jewish. Note – no journalist asked about the genius of her grandfather. Ms. Kazan’s reply was accomplished and measured, however one could imagine Elia quoting Terry Molloy from On the Waterfront to the journalist:‘You’re a cheap, lousy, dirty, stinkin’ mug. And I’m glad what I done to you, ya hear that? I’m glad what I done!’.Elia Kazan: A Biography by Richard Schickel is available to download on Borrowbox. Access eBooks/eAudiobooks on your phone, tablet or reader. Once you have installed the app, search for Dublin in the ‘Library’ field provided and then sign in using your library membership card number and PIN. Watch our how to video on Borrowbox. Members of other library authorities will need to log in using a different link.Submitted by Tom in Drumcondra Library.
Charles Dickens, one of the most popular and accessible novelists died 150 years ago in June 1870. His novels are still popular and they have been adapted for television and cinema. They have been turned into popular musicals on stage and screen. Many novelists have acknowledged his influence and expressed admiration for his novels.At the age of twelve he was sent to work in a blacking factory by his affectionate but feckless parents. From these unpromising beginnings, he rose to scale all the social and literary heights, entirely through his own efforts. When he died, the world mourned, and he was buried - against his wishes - in Westminster Abbey. Yet the brilliance concealed a divided character: a republican, he disliked America; sentimental about the family in his writings, he took up passionately with a young actress; usually generous, he cut off his impecunious children.Dickens created an array of memorable characters - Miss Havisham dressed in her wedding finery every day since she was jilted at the altar in Great Expectations. The contrasting characters Mr. Micawber and Uriah Heep in David Copperfield. In David Copperfield, the novel he described as his favorite child, Dickens drew revealingly on his own experiences to create one of his most exuberant and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure. One of the most swiftly moving and unified of Charles Dickens’s great novels, Oliver Twist is also famous for its re-creation through the splendidly realized figures of Fagin, Nancy, the Artful Dodger, and the evil Bill Sikes of the vast London underworld of pickpockets, thieves, prostitutes, and abandoned children. Victorian critics took Dickens to task for rendering this world in such a compelling, believable way, but readers over the last 150 years have delivered an alternative judgment by making this story of the orphaned Oliver Twist one of its author’s most loved works.His novels were originally published in instalments in weekly or monthly magazines. This is the reason there are some dramatic “cliffhanger” scenes which made the reader want to know what happened in the next instalment. This helps to make them “pageturners” for modern readers. (It also allowed Dickens to get feedback from his readers about what they thought of his stories and characters before he had finished his novel!)There are 24 ebook and eaudiobook copies of Dickens’ novels available on Borrowbox and you will also find there an excellent biography of the author by Claire Tomalin.Claire Tomalin is the award-winning author of eight highly acclaimed biographies, including: The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft; Shelley and His World; Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life; The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens; Mrs Jordan's Profession; Jane Austen: A Life; Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self; Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man and, most recently, Charles Dickens: A Life. A former literary editor of the New Statesman and the Sunday Times, she is married to the playwright and novelist Michael Frayn.Submitted by Philip in Finglas Library.Access eBooks/eAudiobooks on your phone, tablet or reader. Once you have installed the app, search for Dublin in the ‘Library’ field provided and then sign in using your library membership card number and PIN. Watch our how to video on Borrowbox. Members of other library authorities will need to log in using a different link.
Survival tips gleaned from Nelson Mandela to get through Covid-19
Do you feel like a prisoner? Are you cocooning, in isolation or finding the 2km rule difficult? On returning from a 2 km walk through Dublin’s Irishtown Nature Park, known for the many species of birds and its richness in fauna and flora, a place for those who like walking trails and thickets with panoramic views across the bay, my thoughts came to those who are cocooning or self isolating.I wondered how I’d cope if I had to go into lockdown and couldn’t get out for a walk. Thinking of the many people who had been imprisoned for long spells and those doing ‘porridge’ currently, my mind came to the great statesman Nelson Mandela. I decided to do some research and read up on his prison time checking for survival tips. Despite spending twenty seven years in three different prisons for conspiring to overthrow the state of South Africa he managed to emerge not unscathed but maintaining fully his integrity and his strong sense of solidarity.Prison Terms:Robben Island: 1964-1982: hard labour, lime quarry, death of family members, verbal and physical abuse.Poolsmoor Prison: 1982-1988: improved conditions, isolation, ill health.Victor Verster Prison: 1988-1990: comfortable house, pool and gardens.Recognising that a prisoner’s first duty is to escape Mandela regarded the study of the enemy and its culture as an essential part in his preparations for a protracted war against Apartheid. His time in Robben Island was the most difficult of his prison terms and one of the hardest things he had to endure was the death of his mother and son and the refusal of authorities to allow him to attend the funerals. In Poolsmoor he was isolated and missed the camaraderie of fellow prisoners on the island terribly. Always social as well as political he sought to keep in touch with friends and comrades.When permitted he wrote to politicians all over the world recognising communication and shared knowledge through letters, newspapers, prison visits etc. as the key to freedom. In the second half of his prison sentence he was allowed to work as a gardener which he enjoyed and he created a roof garden in Poolsmoor Prison and later he worked in the Victor Verster gardens. He studied whenever the prison system allowed. Self discipline became a watchword for him and he followed a strict regime of daily exercise.This discipline included a commitment to do basic tasks like making a bed or washing delph and he maintained these practices throughout his life in an effort to remain grounded. He claimed he was born an optimist but as always in wishing to share his optimism with people he went on to describe it as “keeping one’s head toward the sun and ones feet moving foreward.” Mandela like many before him used Isolation as a time for self-revelation and discovery.During such a period which he called ‘splendid isolation’ in Poolsmoor Prison at the peak of ANC resistance to Apartheid when atrocities were occurring on both sides rendering his beloved South Africa ungovernable, he realised it was time to talk. After much effort talks began resulting in the release of many of his compatriots. It was a marvellous achievement but left Mandela alone to deal with his continued isolation and imprisonment always in the hope that it wouldn’t be forever.There are parallels in Mandela’s prison survival techniques that we can and do apply today. We can learn much from the ‘Father of The Nation’s’ time in prison. But the plight of the bereaved in Covid times remains as inhumane today as it was for him in his cell on Robben Island. The inability to say goodbye properly and restrictions around the burial however necessary make for a lonely journey to be taken by the broken hearted. We as covid fighters can use Mandela’s coping skills and learn from his tactics in the struggle against Apartheid as we engage in what is beginning to look more and more like a protracted war against the Coronavirus. Our sympathies to those who have been bereaved in these very difficult times.Submitted by Liz B. in Pearse Street Library.Access eBooks/eAudiobooks on your phone, tablet or reader. Once you have installed the app, search for Dublin in the ‘Library’ field provided and then sign in using your library membership card number and PIN. Watch our how to video on Borrowbox. Members of other library authorities will need to log in using a different link.