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February 17, 1988 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1988-02-17

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The Michigan Daily Wednesday, February 17, 1988 Page 8
Geoffrey olff finds fictionintruth
Jennifer BrOstromPost and Newsweek, as well as a literary critic and contributing editor facts" and actual occurrences.
for New Times and Esquire. Currently, Wolff is a literary critic and It is Wolff's clear, witty style - a style of writing that is never
Art is above all a process of repudiation, whereby the chaotic this- contributing editor for The New England Monthly. alienating - that helps to reveal the character's personality. Wolff
esA s a boveha llroess of lfa resh pditon, ereby thre, caoti this- Although Wolff is currently at work on a biography of Herman characterizes his father: "...and it began then, waiting for those blue,
ess and thatness of life are shaped into a semblance of order, and this is Melville, a decidedly "major" figure, Wolff's past interest in writing tissue-thin envelopes (not so many of them, either), covered like a fa-
true of a 'real' book - biography let's say - as of anTunreal' book, biographies has largely been geared toward exploring what is interesting natic's bumper with gummed instruction, warnings, expostulations:
Cite Henry James' Washington Square, Charles Dickens' Tale of Two about the "minor life" of an individual "that seemingly has no major FRAGILE ... DO NOT BEND... RUSH! ... SPECIAL HANDLING...
Accrins To eath in Vice r significance to other lives." URGENT COPY ... EXPEDITE! My father actually believed that
According to Geoffrey Wolff, a biographer and novelist, there is a In his biography Black Sun, for example, Wolff describes the special requests received special treatment. In fact many of his letters
aruith"inction between the "truth" fwriting a biography, and the "minor life" of Harry Crosby: a man who lived a reckless, fearless life, never arrived. That is, some checks never arrived. That is, my mother
eitd" involved in writing a completely fictional story. In his essay and wrote many poems ("only a few of them not awful") before had my father's assurance that he had sent -PRIORITY- some checks
Scientific fact" is "unavailable to literary narrative," even if that narra- committing suicide. The disappointed response of some critics was, that never arrived. Perhaps they drew too much attention to
ii bihfwho would care about such a man? Who would write about him?"themselves.
lveA s iograp. hIn his essay, "Minor Lives," Wolff responds that "Simply: his story Wolff is, above all, consistently honest in his portrayal of individual
At the same time, however, there is a different kind of truth stuck in my mind." In Black Sun, Wolff "hoped to understand a man, character, in biography as well as fiction. At the end of "Minor Lives,"
oncerning the feelings and motives of human beings that may be not to have unriddled the secret of man." he states, "There is a kind of truth that should be within reach of a par-
rithin the reach of both the biographer and the writer of fiction. A similar interest in understanding an individual's personality, and ticipant in the events of his narrative, however difficult that truth may
hrough his extremely honest narrative style, Wolff will demonstrate what causes him to live a certain way, is revealed in The Duke of De- be to grasp. It is the kind of truth that can be won by a willingness to
his aspect of his art when he reads today from his nvel-in-progress, ception: Memories of my Father. The biography/autobiography reflects distinguish between what a writer feels he should have felt at a particu-
'he Final Club.Y
Wolff is the author of the novels, Bad Debts, The Sightseer, Wolff's effort to understand who his father was, and to understand the lar moment, and what he really felt."
Inklings, and Providence; and the biographies, Black Sun, andThe impact of his father's life and death on his own life. Like a work of GEOFFREY WOLFF will read today at 4 p.m. in the Rackham
Duke of Deception. He has taught at several universities and is also an fiction, this biography reveals an attempt to discover and understand an West Conference Room as part of the Visiting Writers Series. In the
experienced journalist. Wolff has been Book Editor for The Washington individual's true character, as well as a biographical recounting of "real same room at 8 p.m. STEPHEN DUNN will read from his poetry.


s Oscar tim

By David Peltz
Though it may be hard to believe,
spring is not that far off. Trust me,
it isn't. And with the melting snow
and warmer temperatures comes the
inevitable slew of awards for our
Hollywood heroes. Earlier today, the
nominations for this year's Academy
Awards were announced in Los
Angeles, in anticipation of the
March 27 ceremony. Glittering
gowns, endless speeches, stale
production numbers. Yes, prepare
the family limo and find the No-Doz
-it's Oscar time again.
The Academy award nominations
generally bring little surprise. It's a
time for the Jack Nicholsons and
Meryl Streeps of the world to break
put the smiles and crank up the
modesty. As is the case with the
other major entertainment awards,
(Grammy, Emmy, and Tony), the
Oscar is held captive by a most-
conservative panel of judges, and
emancipation for the little gold
statuette doesn't appear likely in
1988. Though the nominations were
unavailable as of press time, certain
rames are almost guaranteed to turn
up, names like William Hurt, Albert
brooks (Broadcast News), Elaine
$tricth (September), and Olympia
Dukakis (Moonstruck).

Don't get me wrong. These are
all great actors, and their respective
performances may indeed warrant
such high praise. But the Academy
will invariably continue their
longstanding tradition and omit
several other equally qualified
candidates. The reason is simple;
certain types of film are viewed by
the Academy as being inferior, and it
has become customary for the actors
who appear in these films to be
convienently overlooked when it
comes time to hand out the awards.
In 1985's Runaway Train Jon
Voight and Eric Roberts were
brilliant as two vicious escapees
from a maximum security prison.
Both actors received Oscar
nominations, but neither won. The
absence of an award for Voight's
performance was particularly glaring,
as it was undoubtedly the finest of
his career. You can be sure that the
reason for Voight's exclusion had
little to do with his acting ability.
He was left out because Runaway
Train was an action/adventure film,
and thus it didn't meet the
Academy's 'high standards.' But of
all of the genres routinely neglected
by the Academy, it is the comedy
film which may be the most under-
represented of them all.
Since the Academy Awards were
first presented in 1929, comedies
have rarely emerged victorious in the
Best Picture catagory. When Frank
Capra's It Happened One Night
captured all five major honors (film,
actor, actress, director, and
screenplay) in 1934, it became the
first comedy ever to receive the top
prize. Since then, only seven other
comedies have achieved such a

e agail
distinction, the last being Woody
Allen's classic 1977 comedy/drama
Annie Hall, and James L. Brook's
1983 blockbuster, Terms of
Endearment. In the latter, Nicholson
and co-star Shirley Maclaine were
able to walk away with the top
acting honors, but that, too has been
the exception and not the rule.
The Academy seems to look at
comedic acting as being somehow
easier to pull off than drama, and
outstanding comedy performers have
been overlooked throughout the
history of the awards. Even a
brilliant comic talent like Charlie
Chaplin, whom George Bernard
Shaw claimed "was the only genius
developed in motion pictures,"
never once was able to come away
with the Best Actor stauette. Instead,
he received only countless
nominations and an 'honorary
Oscar.' Chaplin was punished for
making his craft look so easy. A
similar fate befell Dustin Hoffman
just six years ago, as his outstanding
work in Tootsie went unrewarded at
the 1982 Oscar ceremonies.
1987 saw two of today's top
comedic talents in the finest roles of
their careers. Steve Martin was both
hilarious and touching as C.D. in
Roxanne, and Robin Williams'
heartfelt performance in G o o d
Morning ,Vietnam was close to
stunning. The films showed the
actors at their very best, and
accolades came in from everywhere.
Both did tremendous business at the
box office, and the critical
community responded with an
almost unanimous 'thumbs-up'; it is
a rarity when any film, much less a
comedy, is able to garner support


cant t

hardly, wait

from both the public and the press.
But the real test will come today,
however, when the Academy hands
out its selections for the best of
1987. If recent speculation holds
true, Martin may indeed be rewarded
with a Best Actor nomination, and
there is even an outside possibility
that Roxanne may be selected as
one of the year's five best films.
Both are equally deserving of such
tribute, and a nomination for Martin
would finally earn him recognition
as one of Hollywood's brightest
But Williams may not be so
lucky. A nomination for the
Michigan native appears to be
highly doubtful. Like Chaplin,
Williams has been cursed with the
talent for making comedy look easy,
and this has never been more
apparent than in Good Morning
,Vietnam. Here, director Barry
Levinson set Williams free and let
him do what he does best - be
funny, and he does it so effortlessly
that it's often easy to forget he is
only acting. Williams' performance

is so convincing that it just may end
depriving him of a chance at the
coveted Oscar. If Williams is indeed
overlooked, it will be a crime of
monumental proportions, serving to
shed even more light on the already
glaring prejudices of the Academy of

Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Hurry up! Rent those tuxedos and
prepare yourself for the parparazzi. If
you listen closely, you can just
almost hear those acceptance
speeches now. Yes, the Oscars are
approaching. I can't hardly wait.

Wednesday, February
Hosted by Amazin' Blue

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Mendelssohn Theatre,
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All profits benefit Sickle Cell Anemia
Reserved seating $3.50
$4.00 at the door
Tickets available at
M.Union Ticket Office

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The University of Michigan Department of Recreational Sports





Slow-Pitch Leagues
Mass Meeting February 24-6:00 p.m.
Room 3275
Central Campus Recreation Building
401 Washtenaw
CHOICE playing fields
CHOICE location/lights/parking
CHOICE umpires
Single or double header leagues



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