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3:10 To Yuma

Several years ago (more than several, actually) I had the notion of watching the old-time Westerns that are considered classics. I went through several of them--The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and maybe a couple of others. I was somewhat disappointed, especially as I loved Western stuff when I was a kid, and didn't go any further. 

The other day something reminded me of another film that's usually ranked with those others, 3:10 To Yuma, from 1957. I found it on the Criterion Channel, which I have not used very much and am wondering whether I should cancel, and watched it, in two roughly 45-minute sessions.

I really liked it, and it's definitely my favorite of its type at this point. It's a good story, pretty convincing for the most part in spite of the conventions of the time. It's about a rancher who ends up, more or less against his will, solely responsible for getting a captured outlaw on that 3:10 train, with the outlaw's gang trying to stop him. Glenn Ford, atypically, plays the outlaw, and is very effective--genial and charming with just a hint of menace. 

But what I really love about it is the photography. It's very crisp black-and-white, and full of the Western scenery that I love. The story is set in southern Arizona, and I think it may have been shot there, or perhaps in some part of southern California where the landscape is similar. You can get a sense of the quality in this Criterion Collection trailer:

The song, by the way, has nothing at all to do with the plot, except for the title reference. 

The movie is based on an Elmore Leonard story by the same name. Being an admirer of Leonard, I was curious about the original story, and found it at the local library in a collection called The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories. I suppose I have to say that I was disappointed in the story. It's pretty slight, its action including only roughly the last half of the movie. It's a case where you could argue that the movie is better than the story, though I don't really trust my judgment there, since I encountered the movie first. Some of the other stories in the collection are really good, though. And they have a sort of potato-chip, can't-eat-just-one appeal. I think I've read half of them now, and I only got the book a couple of days ago, with no intention of reading more than the one story.

There's a 2007 remake of the movie which apparently got pretty good reviews. I may watch it sometime. My interest was dampened a bit by a clip which I saw on YouTube, thinking it was just sort of a trailer, which gave away the very different ending.

Many years ago in college I had a Southern Lit teacher who had a very old-style  genteel southern accent, and who once, when whispering and giggling broke out in class, said to the culprits "I fail to see the humor." Only in his accent it came out as "I fail to see the Yuma."  It's unfortunate for me that I still remember that after almost fifty years.

Comments

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Grumpy

The Plague is much better than I remember. I last read it as a teenager

Janet

I have a big, fat biography of Hannah Arendt that I came across when I was shelving books in the Senatobia, MS, which is a town of about 4000 in NW Mississippi, where nobody ever seems to check out anything that wasn't written by current popular authors. Sometimes, I wonder who ordered these books and how they could possibly still be in the library.

I am still on the pages that tell about her ancestors, which I dread in any biography of another time and place, because I will never be able to remember them or keep them straight. I'm eager to get to the meat of the book.

AMDG

Mac

I had totally forgotten how enjoyable it is to hear a child whine that his math problems are too hard.

Janet

I bet you gave some more great memories to come.

AMDG

Mac

I'm not quite sure of some of the details in that comment. Probably "gave" was supposed to be "have." But I am probably also giving some memories to come.

Mac

A couple of very mundane things I've read recently: a Ngiao Marsh mystery, Grave Mistake. Loved it for the characters and general good writing. She is such a deft and enjoyable writer. I don't remember having quite as enthusiastic a reaction to some of the other similar writers.

Also read a mystery by C.J. Box, recommended to me by the Cook's Pest Control girl who was checking our termite stations. Odd but very pleasant little person, possibly "trans"--very short hair, mannish clothes, gave me a masculine name, yet pretty clearly female, and *very* young--that's why I say "girl." Talking to me at the front door, she looked past me and said "You have a lot of books!" Then started telling me about this mystery series she's reading about a game warden in Wyoming. I thought that sounded interesting and read Open Season. Pretty good, not outstanding. Interesting depiction of conflict between environmentalists and natives. Never talked about books with the termite inspector before.

Janet

Ngaio Marsh is my favorite. I set out to read them all in order once, but I am not sure I got to the end.

C. J. Box is very popular with men. They check out his books 4 or 5 at a time. I've been meaning to read one as part of my attempt to be knowledgeable about what our patrons are reading. This attempt is one reason why many of the books I have read lately are not worth writing about.

I have this vague memory of having a short discussion about something I was reading with the exterminator at the parish where I worked. I think it was by Dean Koontz and the bug guy was a fan.

AMDG

Mac

Open Season spoiler:

It involves a father saving his daughter's life, so on the basis of that one book it's good that men are reading Box. Not only does he save his daughter's life but he's a good man all around, not an anti-hero.

Mac

I was surprised when I realized that Grave Mistake was set in the '70s. I hadn't realized Marsh was still writing then. And it was as good as the previous one I read which was written in 1941. Her last one came out in 1982--and she was born in 1895.

Rob G

Speaking of big fat biographies, I'm about 1/3 of the way through Joseph Frank's bio of Dostoevsky (the one volume edition). Very interesting and quite readable. Also almost done with Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate, about the battle of Stalingrad in WWII. A little slow going, but it has some remarkable passages about Nazism, Stalinism, and the similarities between the two. The book was banned in the USSR when it was submitted for publication in 1960, but was smuggled out in the 70's and published in English in 1980.

As lighter fare I've been reading poet Donald Hall's String Too Short to be Saved, a memoir of his boyhood summers spent on his grandfather's New Hampshire farm during the 30s and 40's. Lovely stuff, beautifully written. I've never read any of Hall's poetry, but based on this book I ordered his selected poems.

Mac

I’ve never read much of Hall but have never forgotten a delightful and brilliant poem which was in my freshman English anthology: Six Poets In Search of a Lawyer, which describes six different varieties of bad or obnoxious poets.

Rob G

That rings a bell....I wonder if I've encountered that one somewhere too.

Re: books, betterworldbooks.com is having a 20% off sale on all in-stock books, with free upgraded shipping included. This is the outfit started by a couple Notre Dame grads which donates a book to charity for every one purchased. They mostly sell remainders, used books, and library discards, but you'd be surprised what you can find there at really good prices. I ordered nine books yesterday and the total including tax was a whopping $41.00. It's mostly stuff I've wanted for awhile but didn't feel like ordering individually, or couldn't find at a good price without having to pay shipping.

Stu

I had never heard of CJ Box, Janet. But was in Casper WY for a meeting and went into an excellent bookstore there, Wind City Books, and there was a big display of his stuff. He lives in Casper. I don't read very much genre fiction, so have not read any as of yet.

But speaking of genre fiction, I recently read five Stephen King books in a row, to the point that I am terribly sick of his writing right now. So I picked up something much more verbally challenging, The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis. Quite the wordsmith, and the book is not about a pregnant widow.

Stu

Oops, I scrolled back further, looks like Mac brought up CJ Box, not Janet.

If it sounded like at one point I was recommending The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, I rescind that recommendation. Book 4 was 700 pages of nonsense, that I have not yet fully recovered from. Some of these writers get too big for editors to be able to touch them. It should have been a 300 page book, and I would not now be feeling so resentful. :(

Mac

Well, I guess I'll continue to not read S King.

Never read any Martin Amis but I know he's supposed to be quite good. I did read a couple by his father, which were excellent in a bitter sort of way.

Thanks for the tip on that book sale, Rob.

Mac

An interesting reading list, none of which I’ve read, only one even heard of.

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2020/03/a-booklist-for-quarantine

Marianne

Three good books by Martin Amis that I've read: two nonfiction ones, Experience: A Memoir and Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million ("Koba" was a pseudonym used by Stalin), and a novel that made me laugh, when maybe I shouldn't have, Lionel Asbo: The State of England ("ASBO" in the UK is an "anti-social behaviour order").

Stu

I read the Martin Amis memoir, Marianne. I think before I read any of his fiction. I really liked it. Then I read London Fields and I think that is all until now. I thought perhaps I should be re-reading War and Peace just in case I am knocked off by the coronavirus. I know that sounds a tad fatalistic. At least we are in Lent, which means I am praying more fervently than usual. Sigh.

Rob G

I read a lot of S. King in the 80s and 90s, but lost interest around 2000. When he's at his best he's very good, but he's been too prolific to keep up a high standard, imo. The last novel of his that I really liked was Desperation, which came out in the mid 90's, I think. I remember it as having a fairly prominent religious element, which surprised me at the time.

It's been 20+ years since I've read him, though, and I'm not sure what I'd make of him now. I do remember liking some of his early novels a lot.

Mac

Have any of you besides Janet read Dean Koontz? I know she has because she has recommended him to me pretty strongly. But I never have gotten around to him.

Mac

And, oh yeah, there was this:

https://www.lightondarkwater.com/2015/03/52-authors-week-13-dean-koontz.html

Stu

I've read a lot of Dean Koontz, but none for years. I thought his initial books were just typical horror genre fare, except his characters were not as well drawn. But then at some point there was a very positive shift, and I couldn't say when exactly, but it all got way more interesting - characters, plot, spirituality concerns. I'm sure Janet could talk more on that point, or perhaps she says in that post, that I don't have time to revisit right now. He is a very interesting author.

Marianne

Last night I picked up a gift book that's been sitting on my shelf for a while, A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr, one of his Berlin noir novels, which a blurb on the cover says are "first-class, as stylish as Chandler and as emotionally resonant as the best of Ross MacDonald". The setting of this one goes back and forth between Buenos Aires, 1950 and Berlin, 1932. So far, finished only the first chapter, which was very good.

Mac

That sounds like just my thing.

Mac

Kevin Williamson's newsletter of a few days ago had this remark, which made me think of Rob's comment about the Dostoevsky biography:

"I have made a point of not learning too much about the lives of writers and artists I admire and whose work I enjoy."

I'm of similar mind. I don't think biography is irrelevant by any means, but I don't think the few literary bios I've read did much for my appreciation or understanding of the writer's work, apart from the "oh, that's why he was interested in that." Dostoevsky I suppose might be an interesting enough character in his own right to make the bio interesting. And I guess Frank has a lot more to say than just facts.

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