Tag Archives: Red Sox

Casablanca, Hill of Beans

28 Feb

Books: Here’s looking at ‘Casablanca,’ with author Leslie Epstein

By Tom MeekFor The Patriot

This Monday, Leslie Epstein the longtime Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Boston University, debuts his latest work of fiction, “Hill of Beans: A Novel of War and Celluloid,” which like several of Epstein’s books weaves history and real life characters seamlessly into the fabric of fiction with a typical tight focus on the evils of the Holocaust and its repercussions across time. 

Epstein’s release party will be a free and virtual affair put on by the Brookline Booksmith at 7 p.m. Monday. The conversation will be hosted by writer/film critic A.S. Hamrah.

At the epicenter of “Hill of Beans” is Jack Warner — yes, one of THE Warner Brothers — and his epic struggle to get the film “Casablanca” made and exhibited to the world in a strategically timely and specific fashion. As the teaser tags it, “He has an impossible goal: to make the 1942 invasion of North Africa by British and American forces coincide with the film’s release.” That 1942 Warners classic about WWII refugees stranded in Morocco starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman and peppered with massively quotable lines — and an eternal Valentine’s Day offering at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square — was written by Epstein’s father, Phillip and his uncle Julius (along with Howard Koch, adapting Murray Burnett’s stage play). The brothers Epstein (twins mind you and an important plot point later in the book) factor into Epstein’s novel that both celebrates and digs into the not so pretty underbelly of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Told from multiple points of views, the book has a bit of Rothian swagger to it, as well as devious wit, deft humor and hard truths; Hitler, Stalin and Goebbels all get to express themselves in their own voices.

That’s a pretty unholy trio of historically reviled icons.  Churchill and Patton join the mix as does the infamous gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and many of Hollywood’s top personalities — Bugs Bunny included. No matter, Epstein hangs it all on his protagonist who he sees as a complicated man and potential stumbling block for readers,  “He was a  swaggering  male misogynist  and a racist, an all too typical figure of Hollywood and America of the 1930s and 40s, which may be a problem for the book, but he has so much exuberance and confidence and so much skill, I just fell in love with him.”https://8937e0d70ab4c2ceeec03fce0fd1533f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

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The Season that Almost Wasn’t

20 Mar
Published in Slippery Rock's Literary Journal, SLAB in 2007.

The Season that Almost Wasn’t

For thirteen years I’ve been a Red Sox season ticket holder, though last season, which began with a tantrum, almost was the season that wasn’t.

It was the third Sunday in March, and like every third Sunday in March, we were to gather at Jim’s apartment in the South End to divvy up the tickets. A decade ago, when the South End was still gritty and Jim lived in a cluttered split-level, this process had been easy. There were six of us, and four seats (Section 41, Row 17, Seats 20-23; perched atop the upper lip of the concourse entrance, they were the best cheap buckets in all of Fenway, a short hop to the beer stand and nothing before you but a railing and more legroom than anywhere else in the park, except perhaps the luxury skyboxes), but over the years, things became complicated. Jim upgraded to a penthouse loft. His girlfriend’s father moved to New Hampshire, bequeathing us (Jim, the pool) two pricey box seats, and, as Jim’s entrepreneurial ventures started to take off, it was not unlikely to find one or two new guys at Jim’s on that third Sunday in March. They essentially amounted to generic, J. Crew goons with over-starched collars, who got in because they fed Jim’s bottom line. I was never consulted about such additions, and hated paying double for two cramped slots under the batter’s net (and the rules of our draft deemed you had to pick them) when I could be out in the spacious wilds of the bleachers. By 2004 we had six seats, seventeen shares, a complicated draft process, and rules, on top of rules, on top of rules. In short, the one-hour booze fest had blown up into a three hour, consult my wife on the cell phone, pissing contest.  Continue reading