For me it was a weekend of book lust. That new custom-made bookcase arrived, the one I'd ordered to service the ever-expanding overload, so I spent many an hour reorganizing my library, and I may as well confess here that fewer things make me happier in life -- well, the obvious things, of course, but I'll note that after a good bout in the sack, often my natural impulse is to reach for whatever book I've been reading, an impulse only stifled out of deference to those who'd rather talk and cuddle (Sally? Meet Harry).
Anyway, all of my alphabetizing, volume-fondling, spine aligning, et al, proved to be mere Part 1 to a more public orgy of book indulgence: the L.A. Festival of Books on the UCLA campus, where my fellow book-lovers abounded in major numbers. Tent after tent of books, books, books and the people who write, read, sell them -- overload of the best sort. I walked miles of aisles, picking up countless numbers of bright and shiny book objects, and did an hour's book-signing in the UCLA Extension Writers Program booth, which meant dispensing free advice (gave one aspiring novelist a new idea for his book' s opening and convinced one wannabe screenwriter that it might not be a bad idea to like, take a course in screenwriting before like, worrying about trying to get an agent).
Then I attended one of the many panels: friend Tod Goldberg (always entertaining) interviewing David Rakoff (smart'n'funny) and Sarah Vowell (a pip). I don't know if it's possible to not love Ms. Vowell, whose voice is so distinctively cartoonish that she inevitably became the voice of teen super-heroine Violet in The Incredibles, and whose predilection for investigating some peculiar (and homicidal) dead Americans gave us last year's mordantly witty tome, Assassination Vacation.
When Tod took questions from the audience, one guy asked Sarah about her love for the movie The Godfather, and she proudly cited herself as one of the few authors who could name the actor who played Moe Green (Alex Rocco: "Sonofabitch! Do you know who I am? I'm Moe Greene! I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!"). She went on to muse that besides its being such a great movie, its assertion of a certain code of ethical rules and regulations had been attractive to her amidst the all-bets-off moral tumult of the early '70s.
Interesting, but the undeniably cool thing about this was: girl talking about her love for The Godfather, which come to think of it, you don't hear every day. I came to think of this, more consciously, in the wake of reading this article in Sunday's L.A. Times. Some British researchers got hundreds of men and women to cite "books that changed their lives," and on the basis of their survey, came up with the top 5 fiction books of these men and women, along with some other provocative stats and observations.
On the one hand, the results are a bit Department of Duh! But on the other, it's surprising how stereotypically the genders divide. Sure, you'd expect Holden Caulfield to be a hero in one camp and Jane Eyre a heroine in the other. But no male authors made the women's top 5, and no female authors made the men's top 5, with only 4 books making both top 20 lists. And there are quirkier gender tendencies: women liked shared, hand-me-down books, whereas men liked new books and hardbacks (hmmm -- guilty as charged).
Other stuff matches one's expectations, such as the report that "Men answered the question of what book marked a watershed moment more reluctantly than women." What, you expected us to like, talk about our... feelings? Dude--!
Anyway, hearing Sarah and reading this has led to my question, one for which I genuinely have no clear answer: Does the same gender divide apply to movies?
I'm not talking about the traditional genre biases. Obviously women gravitate to romantic comedy, just as men are more apt to dig on Die Hard. But as I've been at pains to point out (it pains me, it really does), last year's supposedly "male" comedies Wedding Crashers and 40 Year-Old Virgin were both actually rom-coms in he-man drag (they're macho chick flicks). And this truly perplexing NY Times article notes that the new audience for gory slasher pics is girls:
Lionsgate, the studio behind the "Saw" series, said 32 percent of ticket-buyers for "Saw II" were women under 25, compared with 28 percent of men the same age. In another survey by the studio, more than two-thirds of teenage girls identified themselves as horror movie buffs, compared with only about half of teenage boys (who preferred comedies).
Odd (not as odd as anybody's great love for splatter in today's all-too violent world, but that's subject for another post). It makes me all the more curious, and thus, here's what will amount to one extremely un-scientific survey.
Help me out: ladies, please list for me 5 movies that changed your life (or that have had, at least, a memorable and lasting effect on you), and gentlemen, please do the same. For truest, most accurate results, make up your "top 5" list before seeing anyone else's comments (I'm hoping for more than two responses, optimist that I am, so that I can collate some vaguely gender-representative results).
Let's see if what was true for Brits With Books holds true for us Americans at the Movies.