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November 16, 1989 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-11-16

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Page 8 - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, November 16, 1989

Worst of the bunch

I can hear a radio now from the
next room, or maybe from two rooms
over. A woman is singing. It is not
Marlene Dietrich. My wife and I
first became acquainted in Paris,
after I was released from D.P.
camp.... She would come to my
room and listen to a record of Mar-
kne Dietrich that I had discovered
in a box of German record albums in
a used backstore.
Did you catch that? Author
Jerome Badanes, in the guise of his
hero Leon Solomon, just pulled a
fast one on you. Marlene Dietrich
was what brought on the recollection
of, his wife. But that woman singing
down the hall, she wasn't even Mar-
lene Dietrich, right? So where does
le get off talking about his wife?
Qut of which ripple in the grey mat-
ter did that memory crawl?
Memory, the keystone of
Badanes' The Final Opus of Leon
Solomon (Knopf hardback, $18.95),
happens to work that way.
Solomon's past life just bubbles out
of him in his "memoirs," written
from a run-down hotel room in mid-
town Manhattan. He goes on, ur-
gently, desperately about his hard-
ships in Holocaust-stricken Warsaw,
about his education, about his sexual
exploits, and and religious longing.
His ransacking through memo-
ries' darkest file cabinets has a pur-
pose. Solomon is looking for some-
thing. Call it, as the The New York

Evil East meets M6tley
I can just see the power lunch that spawned this one:
"So why have you brought us here, Mr. Rhee?"
"Well, I have this great idea for a movie. I want to
make a film about karate that's sort of a combination of
Rocky, The Green Berets, and The Bad News Bears.
It'll have plenty of action, drama and action."
"But will it have plenty of slow motion shots of fly-
ing spit in the big fight sequence at the end?"
"Of course."
"And what will the plot be like?"
"Well, it'll be about a ragtag band of cardboard char-
acters who, as the cream of the crop of American karate
champions, will have to fight the evil, faceless Korean
national team in a bloody, full-contact bout to win
American honor."
"Will this film have a moral?"
"Not exactly, but it will show how American hon-
esty, integrity and hard work will win over even the
coldest of Asian hearts. In the end even though our boys
will not win the championship they will still be win-
ners, having taught the Koreans a lesson about life,
love and international harmony."
"What will these characters be like?"
"The main characters will be a bunch of typical
Americans, each of whom is amusing and admirable in
his own way. We'll have an auto worker who's down
on his luck, an ethnic minority who is stupid but lov-
able, a Zen Buddhist nerd who - to the other charac-
ters' chagrin - still gets the women, our hero -
played by me, Philip Rhee - an intelligent Asian
American who holds a dark secret, and a racist asshole
"But of course these boys won't be able to compete
alone, will they? After all, they are social outcasts who,
like all true Americans, need strong leadership in order
to combat the evil Asians."
"Of course! Here is where the other two main card-

West in Best of the Best
tough, mean coach who holds the same dark secret as
the hero - played by me, Philip Rhee - and who is
driven to the brink of destroying the team before the
light of humanity and the need for plot acceleration
cause him to realize his mistake and to perform flaw-
lessly during the all-important final combat sequence.
He is of course not alone in this endeavor, he needs a
spiritual guide for the men in the form of a beautiful,
but powerful, female Zen master who remains effemi-
nate by wearing tight leotards and short skirts."
"Who can we get to play all of these wonderful char-
"I have already researched this extensively. It seems
that Eric Roberts - you remember him from all of
those art films of the mid-'80s - is short on cash ever
since he bought the rights to John Holmes' life story,
so he'd be perfect for the character of the auto worker.
James Earl Jones would be good as the coach because he
hasn't been doing much lately and so he probably needs
some quick cash and Sally Kirkland can still fit into a
mini, so she'd be good as the beautiful, but powerful,
female Zen master. Finally, I can't think of anyone bet-
ter suited to playing a racist asshole cowboy than
Christopher Penn, but I'm worried because he has
gained a lot of weight lately....
"Don't worry about that, we'll put him in loose
clothes and use a stunt double for the karate sequences.
Just tell me, what are you going to call this?"
"I was thinking of Flying Fists from Oregon, The
Karate Platoon or The Best of the Best."
"I like that last one, it'll give the reviewers some-
thing for their headlines and we can use it in a generic
guitar-laden theme song. Yeah, the more I think about
it, the more I like it. Let's call it The Best of the Best."
Note: the opinions expressed in this review are nei-
ther held by its author nor, necessarily, the Michigan
THE BEST OF TIHE BEST closes its run at Showcase
Cinemas today.

c L"ndb"om
Jerome Badanes, author of The Final Opus of Leon Solomon, writes well
enough to win a Hopwood. In fact, he did pick up one of the elusive little
buggers when he attended the University as an undergraduate.

Times Book Review does,
"Illumination." He is trying to illu-
minate some kind of sense in his
crazy life. Something to make it less
Not that it will do him any good,
because Leon Solomon is determined
not to leave that hotel room alive.
He will kill himself at the end of
three days in there, and as the book
starts we are already well along in
Day Two.
For Jerome Badanes, as for Leon
Solomon, memories are an obses-
sion. He began The Opus of Leon
Solomon after exploring survivors'
memories when he wrote a film
documentary on the Holocaust called
Image Before My Eyes. His own

memories, however, are far removed
from the horrors of World War II.
Badanes was born in a Jewish
neighborhood of Brooklyn and went
on to study English here at the Uni-
versity, where won a Hopwood for
poetry. Currently, he teaches Cre-
ative Writing at Sarah Lawrence
College and in the urban studies
program at Vassar.

board characters come in. Our boys

will be led by a

JEROME BADANES will appear at
Hillel tonight for $8, $Sfor students.
Tonight's event is being sponsored
by the Hillel Foundation and the
Jewish Community Center of
Washtenaw County.

Read Jim Poniewozik Every
T~l AkA

Continued from page 5
vantes? Because we have all been
told that Dickinson is a "great poet"?
Because she is consequently taught
in almost every survey class on
American literature? Is that enough?
What makes for good poetry any-
way? And who is creating the defini-
O.K. So what?
When it's your turn,
have them say cacarajicara,
and where is the Aconcagua
and who was Sucre,
and where on this planet
did Marti die.
And please:
make them always talk to you in

-Nicolas Guillen, "Problems of
So what is American literature? If
I am not going to accept traditional
definitions, what can I propose as an
alternative? But even phrasing the
questions in this way misses the
whole point. There is no such thing
as an American literary tradition, but
rather a series of such traditions,
stretching from Alaska to Chile,
from Nova Scotia to Baja California.
All of them should be part of any
American literary program, many are
arguably more important than New
England literary culture, and, finally,
all are part of what the United States
has arrogantly claimed for itself as
American literature.

Moreover, given that arrogance
and its devastating impact on the
history of this hemisphere, any
American literary program must be
structured around the theme of resis-
tance. In addition to celebrating the
richness of their own respective cul-
tures, literature by Chicanos and
African Americans, Salvadorans and
Asian Americans is a literature of
struggle - a conscious attempt to
reclaim lost songs and broken histo-
ries, forgotten languages and elabo-
rate rituals from those powerful his-
torical and cultural forces that work
to exclude them. The University
should work to reclaim and celebrate
them as well, rejecting its frequently
Eurocentric definition of American
literature for one that remembers at
what tragic expense that definition
has been forged.


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