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The Silent Gondoliers Go Up in the Air - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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December 1st, 2009


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11:13 pm - The Silent Gondoliers Go Up in the Air
As I learned recently, not everyone knows that The Princess Bride was based on a book. As I have also learned both recently and in the past, not everyone knows that The Princess Bride was not really written by S. Morgenstern and abridged by William Goldman, no matter how convincing the book is about this fact. What I didn't know until recently, however, is that the advertisement for The Silent Gondoliers in the back of the book was not just a joke: it's a real book!

The Silent Gondoliers by William Goldman purports to be a fable by S. Morgenstern, who researched the history of gondoliers in Venice to discover why they no longer sang. For, lo, many years ago, the gondoliers were the grandest and most beautiful singers in the world. People came from all over to hear them sing. The story focuses on Luigi, who is an expert gondolier but a terrible singer.

Unlike The Princess Bride, the story is told in first-person by Morgenstern, who, like Goldman, interjects at times to comment. As you would expect, the book is pretty funny, and it really does read like a fable. It's extremely short, a little over a hundred pages with illustrations, and you can read it in an hour. It's no Princess Bride, but it's cute and worth checking out.



Given what happened yesterday, today was either a very appropriate or a very inappropriate day to catch a free screening of Up in the Air, the new film by Jason Reitman of Juno and Thank You for Smoking fame. Since Diablo Cody has nothing to do with this picture, it is nothing like Juno (except for the presence of Jason Bateman and J.K. Simmons) and very much like Thank You for Smoking. George Clooney plays a man with an unusual job: he flies around firing people. And he's racked up a lot of frequent-flier miles. He lives for those things. He just loves flying, the whole experience. So when a young upstart—played by Anna Kendrick, who looked familiar but I haven't actually seen before, though she plays someone named "Jessica" in the Twilight movies—suggests they start working remotely instead, he is very displeased, so his boss asks him to take her around the country and show her how things are done. How do you tell someone they're let go? That their position is no longer available? That it's really a good thing, just read this informational packet?

Meanwhile, he hooks up with Vera Farmiga, who travels just as much as he does. Could this itinerant nomad really settle down?

Up in the Air tries to do three or four things at once, which leaves everything a bit underdeveloped. Is it a movie about what it's like to fire people? To be fired? Is it a commentary on a nomadic lifestyle? Is it a romance? It's more of a character study, a peek into the life of this man as he comes to understand some things about his life, and even if everything isn't wrapped up in a bow at the end, you feel better for having spent some time with him. He's George Clooney, after all.

If you liked Thank You for Smoking, you will like Up in the Air. If you didn't like Thank You for Smoking, you...still may like Up in the Air, since it's less cynical and has more heart. It's not as slick, but the main character is more likable, and although it's been a while, I think it's funnier. It's already getting Oscar buzz, so I recommend checking it out whenever the hell it actually comes out!
Current Mood: stressedstressed
Current Music: Stabbing Westward - Red on White
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(18 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:rachelmanija
Date:December 2nd, 2009 07:37 am (UTC)
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I am now not the only person I know who ever read that book! I feel about it the same way you do.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 2nd, 2009 07:46 am (UTC)
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I only recently learned it existed, so I need to make sure more people know it's out there to be enjoyed! It made me laugh, even though I wasn't fully satisfied with the "explanation" at the end.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 2nd, 2009 07:48 am (UTC)
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Anna Kendrick is pretty awesome in Up in the Air! I think you should see it. What else is Clooney in right now?
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[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 2nd, 2009 07:57 am (UTC)
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Aaaaah yes. I have heard the former is either good or terrible, and the latter is, indeed, fantastic.
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From:mawombat
Date:December 2nd, 2009 10:39 am (UTC)
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What happens when the most beautiful woman in the world marries the handsomest prince and he turns out to be a son of a bitch?

Best tag line ever.

I made friends by quoting Princess Bride and they quoted back. It's like a secret handshake.

I loved Thank You for Smoking.
[User Picture]
From:ethanvahlere
Date:December 2nd, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
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I was crushed when I first learned there was no S. Morgenstern, but in retrospect, being a fan of Goldman's at the time, I should have recognized his style.

Up in the Air opens in select cities this Friday - I can't wait. And The Fantastic Mr. Fox is indeed fantastic (the same, alas, can't be said for The Men who Stare at Goats - a good idea that goes nowhere). As for Anna Kendrick, she was also in a low-budget film called Rocket Science - apparently, it's what led Reitman to cast her.
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From:lynevere
Date:December 2nd, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
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Anna Kendrick was great in Rocket Science. (As a former HS policy debater, I had to seek that movie out.) She really nailed the spit and spew aspect of debate. Incidentally, the movie also features West from Heroes, who doesn't do nearly as well.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 2nd, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
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Cool, maybe I'll check it out. She's also in the Scott Pilgrim movie!
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From:behindpyramids
Date:December 2nd, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC)
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I spent years searching for The Silent Gondoliers...where ever did you find a copy?! I finally bummed it off of someone in college who also spent years searching for the book, found it in an indie bookstore in New York and bought two copies just because it was so hard to find.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 2nd, 2009 11:44 pm (UTC)
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I came across it in Borderlands, a sci-fi/fantasy bookstore! It looks like it's easily bought off Amazon, though.
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From:lynevere
Date:December 3rd, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)
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Huh. It was readily available at my library.
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From:chrryblssmninja
Date:December 3rd, 2009 02:55 am (UTC)
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ooh I want to try The Silent Gondoliers now.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 4th, 2009 05:36 am (UTC)
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I believe you! She practically steals the movie.
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From:ethanvahlere
Date:December 4th, 2009 09:58 pm (UTC)
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Although Kendrick was good, I actually thought Vera Farmiga stole the movie, which I enjoyed.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 4th, 2009 10:05 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, they both do their damnedest to steal the movie, honestly.
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From:radiotelescope
Date:December 6th, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC)
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_Silent Gondoliers_ is a small perfect book. Yes, I comment late.

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