Thursday, April 19, 2007


Oldboy is one of my favorite films, a South Korean thriller, and -- some are claiming -- a piece of the inspiration behind the Virginia Tech mass murder.

I'm certain this will reignite debate over whether violence in entertainment leads to real-life violence. Those of you familiar with my books probably can guess my position on that. The notion that a film or book would be the impetus to a mass murder (rather than merely providing sick-minded stylistic flourishes) seems to me inane. Back to the old saw about book censorship -- you never hear anybody say, "I believe this book should be banned because it might be harmful to ME." Does anyone out there believe they shouldn't see Oldboy in case they suddenly feel compelled to murder 33 innocents?

One of my favorite lines on this topic was given by A.M. Homes (one of my favorite authors). She wrote a brilliant novel called The End of Alice, which depicts a girl being stabbed to death. When asked by a reviewer how she would feel if her book was found in the house of someone who murdered a child, A.M. replied, "That’s like asking somebody who makes steak knives how they would feel if their knife was found in the home of someone who murdered someone."

Are we to believe, if we regard the constellation of illnesses and influences that turned Cho Seung-Hui into a mass murderer, that Oldboy was a major one? Or even the straw that broke the camel's back?

However, I do take issue with NBC's decision to air the self-aggrandizing footage Seung-Hui took time out to film between rounds of gunfire. Televised sports long ago made a decision not to air footage of streakers or people who storm the field or court. Because, hell, if it gets you international air time, it'll encourage more people to do it. NBC's complying with Seung-Hui's wishes that he be made a star hold him up, oddly, as a figure for other twisted minds on such a path to emulate.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Quotation of the Week

"I would live to study, and not study to live."
-- Francis Bacon

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Lookout

This movie is yet another reason to respect Scott Frank. The chess scene and the old man in the farm house (being purposefully vague for those of you who haven't yet seen it) are two examples of hitting precisely the right balance between emotion and subtlety.