Monday, March 30, 2009

Marlene and the Foreigners

The Siren is still here, and apologizes to her patient readers for leaving them alone with the longest comment thread in Self-Styled history. She did have a small post recently, over at her dear friend Annie's place, Blogdorf Goodman. The post is about Marlene Dietrich's Lipstick, and if that doesn't prick up your ears nothing else the Siren has to say here probably will, either.

The update on the Foreign Film Resolution, weeks 8 through 10:

The Banquet (Feng Xiaogang - 2006)

Is it possible for a film to be too beautiful? There is much to admire about The Banquet, the color, the cinematography, and the score by Tan Dun immediately come to mind. There is much attention to detail, especially with close-ups of hands...So much of the action is seen in slow motion, whether it's knights galloping in battle, or with overhead shots of flowing, billowing robes. This is great looking stuff, but Feng seems unaware of the concept that there may be too much of a good thing.
--Peter Nelhaus, Coffee Coffee and More Coffee

Day of Wrath (Carl Dreyer, 1943)

The Siren saw this one at BAM. Utterly bloody magnificent. The Foreign Film Resolution is not a contest, and the Siren has liked all of the movies she has seen so far, and several she loves very much indeed. But this one...this was a real experience, and the Siren is so glad she saw it in a real theatre.

I can't imagine how it must have felt to sit in a crowded theater, watching Day of Wrath during its original release in 1943. Set in 17th century Denmark, when rising religious fanaticism gave church leaders the authority to execute those of "questionable" morality, the film must have mirrored, much too closely for comfort, the Nazi atrocities being waged just outside the theater door. In his liner notes of the Criterion DVD release, critic Jonathan Rosenbaum suggests that Dreyer cast the blonde actress Lisbeth Movin in a deliberate attempt to diminish the allegorical implications of Anne's plight, thereby diffusing a potentially dangerous situation. As with Arthur Miller's The Crucible (1953), however, it's nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction here. Day of Wrath is a damning critique of hypocritical authoritarian power told in very human terms, a modern fable that interrogates faith and sin, love and family, desire and its consequences.
--Darren Hughes, Long Pauses

Dreyer's camera tracks interior and exterior spaces to convey his characters' sensitivity to this nightmarish climate as well as what I take to be his own sense of the divine. In billowing fabrics and whispering winds, God or Satan or the dead menace the living, yet the way the light falls on suffering and ecstatic faces suggests a higher, more clement power. But far more chilling than this spooky expressionism are the simple pans down scrolls invoking God's word and the state's judgments. It's as if Dreyer was at war with words, answering their punishing certainties and limitations with the humanism of light and shadow delicately applied. Dreyer invites you to find in his flesh and blood friezes something a lot closer to God than those murderous texts. It's the only religion I ever wanted to join: the church of cinema.
--Steven Boone, The House Next Door

Late Autumn (Ozu, 1960)

"Aah, Setsuko Hara," remarked Peter Nelhaus once in comments. "She makes Meryl Streep look like a self-serving harpy."

Ozu is most concerned with generating a particular rhythm and tempo, with giving weight or accent to particular movements. The soundtracks of his films tell us much about this preoccupation. We often hear things gently clanging, lapping or chugging in the “background” of Ozu's soundscapes. These elements – heard particularly instructively at the beginning and ending of Late Autumn – create a gentle rhythm that is intimately related to the overall tempo of the film. The repetition and variation of these sounds – and their rhythmic correlations with the visual field, particularly in shots emphasising reflections of water or foliage moving in the breeze--heightens the experiential awareness of life cycles and seasonal change communicated by the film. Although they may seem conservative, even out-of-date in many of their social and cultural values, Ozu's characters routinely exude an exquisite sense of resignation and acceptance that is intimately related to the overall rhythm and pace of the films they appear in. The more things change in Ozu's world, the more they stay the same.
--Adrian Danks, Senses of Cinema

Friday, March 13, 2009

George and Bernard: Notes on a Scandal

Do you think George Sanders could have played Bernard Madoff?

Perhaps this unanswerable question is just the result of the Siren's two current obsessions, colliding. The Siren is superglued to the Madoff case, gobbling up each new detail and discovering, to her chagrin, that somehow friends and family do not share her fascination. Well, they're crazy. This is amazing stuff. It's Dickens, it's Balzac, it's Trollope.

But, perhaps, despite the actor's affinity for 19th-century material, not ideal material for the Sanders touch. The secret to why George Sanders is still loved is no secret at all--it is the same wit and sophistication that makes Ernst Lubitsch an enduring pleasure. Only, with Sanders, the wit becomes a stiletto.

If Bernard Madoff ever made a single witty remark, the Siren has yet to hear of it. Mark Seal's wonderful article for Vanity Fair strives to give you a picture of what the company of Bernie would truly be like. The answer: boring as all hell. This is a man with a world of ill-gotten gains at his disposal, who spent his spare time meandering from country club to country club, playing golf. Who went out on boats and just sat around. Who wore silly hats at parties, but never drank. Who could have purchased the best seats in the house, but who seldom went out at night and whose stereo was, unless better taste intervened, tuned to Neil Diamond. Who dined at the same restaurant, where he sat at the same table and ordered the same thing.

This isn't a Sanders character. This is the butt of a Sanders character's joke.

And there is little evidence that Madoff ever felt the self-knowledge, let alone the self-loathing woven into Sanders' best roles. Bernie had the soul of a smug, sociopathic burgher. He liked himself.

But then again...

With Sanders, the sophistication comes with a lip curled at the less wised-up. ("I know nothing about Lloyd and his loves. I leave those to Louisa May Alcott.") What pleasure did Madoff have in life, if not the ability to smirk at his own deceptions?

Alas, the Siren will never answer her first question with finality, unless the afterlife turns out to be a perpetual casting call. And she sweeps her eyes over the present-day acting profession and still has trouble casting Madoff. (Alan Rickman? Too elegant. Robert De Niro? Too menacing. Richard Gere? Hmm, maybe...) Someone should be cast as Madoff eventually, though. This is a saga begging for a screen treatment, provided the director has the requisite subtlety and can avoid turning it into the favorite American genre, the crime caper. This requires an eye not for criminal behavior, but for social dissection. You need Mikio Naruse--someone who can examine the role of social class and money, what people will do to claw out a piece of either, how they behave when both are snatched away.

Any movie about Madoff will have to answer the most important question about the scandal. In life, that question is "What happened to the money?" On screen, it would be "Why, Bernie?" And when it comes to that screen question, the Siren keeps thinking of two scenes that come late in two very different movies, made around the same time in the late 70s.

The first scene is from Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock. A group of schoolgirls in turn-of-the-century Australia go on the picnic of the title, and disappear. Only one, Irma, is found alive, but Irma has no memory of what happened.

It is late in the term. Irma has come to say goodbye to her classmates, before her parents take her away to Europe and they never see each other again. The schoolgirls, dressed simply in uniform, are lined up to bid farewell. Irma enters, wearing a fancy red cloak. She tries to smile at her old friends. They don't smile back. Instead they approach her, then suddenly surround her, and finally begin to attack her, asking a question that rises from a request to a half-crazed shriek: "What happened? Tell us. TELL US!"

The second scene is from Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery. In 1855, the theft of a shipment of gold from a moving train has been executed in meticulous detail, only to go wrong at the very end due to the simple fact of a torn coat. The mastermind of the robbery, played by Sean Connery, has been arrested and is on trial. The judge, indulging in the lawyerly vice of relishing his own oratory, thunders at the prisoner in the dock: "Now, on the matter of motive, we ask you: Why did you conceive, plan and execute this dastardly and scandalous crime?"

And Connery's reply comes back, delivered with a tinge of contempt for such obviousness: "I wanted the money."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Foreign Film Resolution, Cont. (Weeks 4-7)

Go on, admit it. You thought the Siren gave up on her foreign-film resolution. No way. She's behind, mind you, but she hasn't given up. We're nine weeks into her resolution so the Siren should have seen nine films. She has seen seven. Still catching up.

From the Mizoguchi set the Siren bought herself as a birthday present:

Women of the Night, Kenji Mizoguchi (1948)

"In Women of the Night (1948) a band of prostitutes gathers in a bombed-out church to administer a brutal beating to Fusako (Kinuyo Tanaka), one of their own who has dared to dream of going straight. These women are not saints or martyrs — for Mizoguchi, there is no next world in which they might receive their reward — but, more concretely and more movingly, mere human beings whose strength of character sets them apart, the true aristocrats of a fallen world."
--Dave Kehr, The New York Times

Street of Shame, 1956 (This was cheating a bit because the Siren has seen it already, but she couldn't resist. Such a great movie.)

"Kenji Mizoguchi's Akasen Chitai (Red-Light District, 1956) had the misfortune of being tagged with the silly title Street of Shame on its first American release, and it has stuck. Doubtless meant to imply a far more salacious treatment of its subject than Mizoguchi intended, the title has also promoted the prevailing view that he was making a political statement about the class of women he had so tenderly treated through more than 30 years of filmmaking. And while it was probably inevitable that Mizoguchi should return to his favourite subject in his last film-–courtesans and their floating world--Street of Shame is one last, devastating look at how life's cruelties are especially hard on women in Japan."
--Dan Harper, Senses of Cinema

This next was on TCM during 31 Days of Oscar. More movies like this one would really justify that whole month. Now March is, so help me, Ronald Reagan month, and the Siren wonders if TCM is actually mocking her. "Hey Siren, you thought last month was barren, huh? Try and find something here besides Kings Row, Santa Fe Trail and Dark Victory! Mwahahaha!" Anyway, on to

The Burmese Harp, Kon Ichikawa (1956). The real revelation of this go-round. Astonishingly beautiful and moving. The Siren wishes she had seen it on a big screen.

"The Burmese Harp is a haunting, poignant and serenely indelible examination of the aftermath of war. The film opens with the spare, enigmatic words: In Burma, soil is red, so are rocks. Using landscape as a metaphor for the isolation and suffering of the soul, Kon Ichikawa contrasts the chaotic, harsh realities of war with the tranquil expanse of nature: the mountain fortress attack; the discovery of a body leaning against a tree in the jungle; the mass burial of soldiers along the shoreline. Symbolically, Mizushima's spiritual transformation is reflected in a scene where the troop assembles for choral practice at a religious site, as Mizushima rests inside the hull (the figurative soul) of a Buddha statue. It is a reflection of his own enlightenment and sense of purpose after witnessing a great and senseless tragedy - a transcendence beyond his spiritual captivity - towards a lonely, indefinite journey, guided solely by humanity and personal conscience."
--Acquarello, Strictly Film School

I own this one but hadn't gotten around to watching it.
Day for Night, François Truffaut (1973)

"This really may be the Ultimate Opening Shot in many ways, because we actually get to go back into it and critique it in the movie itself. The whole thing looks perfectly random and natural (I don't want to know how many takes it really took), as if the eye (camera) were just alighting upon one thing and then another as its interest is piqued. But we soon see how carefully and precisely it's all choreographed. Day for night. Illusion for reality. Artifice in the service of art. Notice, too the use of strong colors like red (dress, car, little girl, etc.) and white (car, overcoat, etc.) -- the alternating colors of the awning in the background -- and black (suits, car roof, etc.) to focus our attention. Doesn't this just make you want to go out and make a movie?"
--Jim Emerson, Scanners

Monday, March 09, 2009

George Sanders: "Caddishness of Homeric Proportions"

A letter from George Sanders to Brian Aherne, reprinted in the latter's A Dreadful Man. The two men had quarreled after Sanders, fortified by vodka, expressed his low opinion of the acting profession, and when Sanders had to rush off to catch a plane, the argument continued via written correspondence.

December 31st, 1937

Dear Brian,

I was very happy to receive your angry letter, and I am glad I shook you up a bit. Ask yourself this question: If money (greed); loyalty to theatrical tradition (pernicious exhibitionism); rigid conformity to social convention (masochism), are incompatible with personal happiness--which should be sacrificed?

You talk about the theatre as if it had some cosmic significance. As a matter of fact it is pathetically sublunary; a drab and dusty monument to man's inability to find within himself the resources of his own entertainment. It is usually rather fittingly housed in a dirty old building, whose crumbling walls occasionally resound with perfunctory applause, invariably interpreted by the actor as praise. A sad place, draughty and smelly when empty, hot and sick when full.

I wonder which is the sickest, the audience which seeks to escape its miseries by being transported into a land of make-believe, or the actor who is nurtured in his struggle for personal aggrandisement by the sickness of the audience.

I think perhaps it is the actor, strutting and orating away his youth and his health, alienated from reality, disingenuous in his relationships, a muddle-headed peacock forever chasing after the rainbow of his pathetic narcissism.

My love and best wishes for a happy New Year.


This charming letter is Sanders to the core, from the command of the language to the marvelously tranquil closing--actors are pathetic narcissists, happy New Year!

No wonder Aherne had it framed.

You'll never go broke dissing actors, and indeed no one can bash actors quite like another actor. The Siren wonders, though, what it is about acting that makes some of its best practitioners value it so little. Those who possess genius in other fields usually don't question why they bother. The Siren spent a number of years working for some spectacularly gifted mathematicians, and these gentlemen did not sit around muttering "Oh Christ, I've thought of another theorem. How dreary." Is it the supposed subliteracy and philistinism of so much of Hollywood? Well, in the above letter Sanders was writing to Aherne about the theatre, which is usually taken to be a higher form of acting. Even given that Sanders had a career primarily in film, his lack of regard for acting is still striking. George Gershwin also did most of his work in a popular vein, and to the Siren's knowledge he never wrote letters suggesting that the beautiful melodies that poured out of him were useless.

George Sanders' low opinion of acting appears to have been as authentic as it was frequently expressed. There is a wonderful TCM clip of goddess Angela Lansbury discussing Sanders, in which she remarks on his intellect and says something to the effect of "Acting occupied such a tiny portion of his brain," illustrating said brain portion with a thumb-and-forefinger pinch you might see on a cooking show.

Early in her blogging career the Siren wrote a little piece about Sanders, which you can see here, in which she tried to look at the Sanders image. She read Aherne's book a couple of years later, and it simultaneously supports the vision we all carry of Sanders, and tears it down. Sanders was indeed a supremely intelligent, witty man, writing from Switzerland that news of Aherne's letters brings joy to all Lausanne--"laughter is heard," children skip around gaily, "monks in the monastery of Montchoisi start buggering one another with renewed vigor." Aherne also reprints a long letter Sanders wrote to his parents shortly after arriving in Hollywood, in which he discusses "practises such as jumping into Producers' cars and trying to rub them up the right way," and that part alone is worth tracking the book down.

As is the story about Sanders, confronted by Nigel Bruce at a party during World War II. Bruce demanded to know why Sanders hadn't contributed to the latest British War Relief Whatever. Sanders took a drag on his cigarette and replied with perfect sang-froid, "Because I am a shit." So much for the glories of a united Hollywood war effort. (Gloria has an addendum to the story here.)

Then there's Sanders, determined to rid himself of second wife Zsa Zsa Gabor, arranging to break into her bedroom on Christmas Eve with a detective and a photographer in hopes of catching the Hungarian beauty in flagrante. Sanders climbed through the window. Flashbulbs popped and Zsa Zsa's lover sprang, too late, for the bathroom. Sanders held out a gift and boomed, "Merry Christmas, my dear!" Aherne was fond of Zsa Zsa, and here you can see why, because Zsa Zsa poured champagne for everybody and a good time was had by all. Except the chap cooling his heels in the bathroom. (Probably Porfirio Rubirosa, although Aherne doesn't name him.) When the divorce news was released to the papers Sanders' statement read, "I have been cast aside like a squeezed lemon."

Still, it's obvious that Sanders had a depressive streak that went well beyond any of the usual guff about his alleged Slavic temperament. (Rather confusingly, Sanders was born in Russia of Russian parents, at least one of whom claimed English descent.) X. Trapnel once remarked in the Siren's comments that the distortions of the David Lean Doctor Zhivago were occasioned not by leftist apologetics, but by a "British assumption that Russians are basically sentimental, irrational wogs." Aherne buys into this with his talk of how the Russian part of Sanders predominated, as though that explains anything.

One moment Sanders was witty and urbane, the next monosyllabic and impossible. One of the Siren's aforementioned mathematician bosses was also a dedicated cinephile. One night in the early 1950s the mathematician found, to his delight, that he'd been seated at Sanders' table due to overbooking at a European resort restaurant. Expecting his dinner companion to be rather aloof, what the Siren's old boss got instead was catatonia. Sanders was impeccably polite, but seemed barely able to lift his fork. The actor's All About Eve costars agreed that while playing Addison DeWitt, his energy was low to nil and he was a general wet-blanket. His costar for the great Viaggio in Italia, Ingrid Bergman, became so alarmed by Sanders' panic and gloom on the set that she didn't know whether to send for his psychiatrist or his wife. Eventually Bergman and Rossellini sent for Zsa Zsa; she didn't help.

At times, Sanders' behavior toward women went beyond caddish. Asked why he didn't take first wife Susan out more, he replied, "Oh, I can't bring her. She bores people." Another woman found Sanders bounding out of her bed and out of her life when she casually remarked that she owed a big tax bill. This was a long and eventually depressing theme in Aherne's book; Sanders was obsessed to the point of mania with avoiding taxes. Now you are thinking, well, Siren, so are most of us. True. Aherne himself moved to Switzerland at one point to avoid paying high taxes. Aherne did not, however, set up several corporations of varying degrees of legality, get involved with international swindlers, set up complicated, annual multi-country residence schemes or accept lousy, career-damaging jobs based solely on whether or not he could hide the income. Sanders did all that and more, and his obsession with tax evasion was to have sad consequences toward the end of his life.

His main joy appears to have been his unlikely marriage to Ronald Colman's widow, the former actress Benita Hume, to whom Sanders proposed mere weeks after Colman's death. Much of Aherne's book consists of Benita's letters, which isn't as disappointing as you might think. Aherne at first suspected Sanders was after her money, but Benita was the love of his friend's life. She was quite funny and charming in her own right: "Greer G[arson] was there, she's become no end odd and when she greets you, you have the strong impression that she has just opened a bazaar and I for one fully expected her to give me a nice rosette for the biggest cucumber." Benita also gives a good picture of life with her George, as he complains in a Tel Aviv restaurant that he does not like frankfurters and would like some pork sausages--"You know, PORK." "I sometimes wonder what goes on inside that head," she concludes placidly.

Benita knew what she was getting into. Aherne includes a letter she wrote well before Colman died, in which Benita laughs over the Zsa Zsa-Christmas-detective story that was making the rounds of Hollywood and concludes, "There is something irresistible about a man who cultivates caddishness to such Homeric proportions." So well did Benita seem to understand Sanders that the Siren thinks his "dreadfulness" might have been oddly comforting at times. Benita was diagnosed with breast cancer and came home one day after being informed by a horrifically insensitive doctor that she'd need a double mastectomy. Sanders asked how it went, his wife burst into tears, and when she managed to tell him the news, he sighed with relief: "Oh, is that all? Well, who needs them?"

When Benita died, in 1967, Sanders wrote to Aherne that she wouldn't have wanted mourning: "The mood here is one of gaiety." He stopped in to visit Aherne, played piano, gave singing lessons and seemed in good spirits. Sanders kept it up until, on the way to the airport, Aherne asked him a question about Benita--and "he burst into uncontrollable sobs."

A couple of years later Sanders married the wealthy Magda Gabor--Zsa Zsa's idea, he told Aherne. After only a few days of marriage, Sanders announced he was divorcing her, because he didn't want to ask her for money, and he "couldn't have a normal conversation" with her; Magda had aphasia from a stroke. Not only did Sanders himself have a milder version of the same problem, also from a stroke, he was discussing this with Aherne in front of Magda. When Aherne protested, Sanders admitted affably that Magda was "much the nicest of the Gabors" and came up with the idea that the marriage should be annulled on grounds of his impotence. Which it shortly was.

The marriage to Magda came and went, and things got worse for Sanders. His parts diminished, his drinking increased. Always subject to fits of gloom, he began to slide into despair, showing up at Aherne's place leaning on a cane and insisting that he was dying, whacking the sofa with the cane and groaning, "I can't speak straight and I can't think." Aherne tried to comfort him, saying it was the old age we all face, but Sanders was inconsolable, having just turned down a good part because his stroke-damaged speech would not permit him to do it. Sanders' sister Margaret went to take care of him. One morning she found George had ordered the servants to drag his piano, which he once played every day, into the garden, where Sanders chopped it to pieces with an axe. When Margaret protested, he pushed her away: "I can't play the damned thing any more, so why should I keep it?"

In a final attempt to avoid more taxes, Sanders made the disastrous decision to sell his house in Mallorca, Spain, which he had owned with Benita and which she'd intended to be his well into old age. When Aherne last saw him, in March 1972, just a month before his suicide, Sanders was downing glasses of straight vodka, asking "how many would it take?" (pills) and saying he should never have sold the house: "Everything I do is wrong. I can't do right. I must be crazy!"

The actor tried hard for an acerbic, Sanders-style coda with his famous note: "Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck." In reality, the end was as somber as any other suicide. Dan Callahan, in his excellent Bright Lights piece, tells the story even better than Aherne does:

Old, sick, and very tired, Sanders traveled to Barcelona in 1972, took a hotel room, and wrote his famous suicide note before overdosing on pills. This note was gleefully reported after his death, and certainly it remains one of the best of its kind. What is less known is that Sanders wrote a second suicide note, addressed not to the press but to his sister Margaret, the only person who connected him to his Russian childhood and everything he had lost: 'Dearest Margoolinka. Don't be sad. I have only anticipated the inevitable by a few years.' In the end, the entertaining Cad had his say, only to make way for the tender Russian boy behind the mask...

That the first suicide note has passed into immortality, while the gentle farewell to his sister is almost forgotten, is understandable, indeed almost appropriate. Sanders may have despised acting, but like all stars he understood image. "THINK ONLY THIS OF ME," he wrote in one of his last letters to Aherne, "that in some corner of a crummy foreign village there lives, for the time being, that old shit-heel from St. Petersburg--Sanders." Indeed it's much easier to contemplate Sanders being an "old shit-heel" than the melancholy, broken person he was at the end, and it was easier to play parts that way, too.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

George Sanders on the Kind of Thing to Give the Public

Honestly, the Siren wants to write something but it's like trying to dig an MG Midget out of a snowdrift. Just getting the time to watch anything has been a chore. Daylight is approaching, however.

In the meantime, the Siren turns to her beloved George Sanders, who had some decided ideas about how to keep a reading audience interested, as he here demonstrates in a letter to Brian Aherne.

In the late 1950s Aherne and Sanders, good friends for many years, were simultaneously writing their respective memoirs. Aherne assures us that both autobiographies were remaindered quickly, but Sanders' Memoirs of a Professional Cad is now an out-of-print cult item, commanding prices that start at about $80 to $100 for a battered second-hand copy. Some years after Sanders' suicide, Aherne collected his reminiscences of and correspondence with his friend (and Sanders' longtime wife Benita) into a book called A Dreadful Man, from which this letter is taken.

Weeks Farm

6th September 1959

Dear Brian,
I think you will find if you tell the truth in your autobiography nobody will be interested and you will find it difficult not to be pompous and dull. It doesn't matter if the title of the book is misleading, as long as it's eye-catching and intriguing, and it doesn't matter if its contents are silly if they are entertaining. As a suitable title for your book I suggest,

Chapter one.

"Take that you bastard!" said Joan Fontaine, her strong little fist connecting with my chin. Lightning exploded in my brain and I went down for the count of ten. As consciousness returned, my mind drifted back to my boyhood in Birmingham. I thought of the poignance of first love, the unforgettable spring when Birmingham's air, soft, richly thick and grey, and fragrant like an unwashed bedsock, made my heart beat faster. And she came running towards me, my little Beryl, her little fist outstretched and her high, childish voice crying to me, "Take that you bastard!"

My reverie was cut short by the emergence of Louis B. Mayer from the bathroom. I understood at once that my career was ruined. I had caught the great L.B. in a compromising situation with my wife! It was unforgivable. I knew then that my contract would be dropped and I would be relegated to spending the rest of my life on tour with Katharine Cornell.

End of Chapter one.

That's the kind of thing to give the public.



The Siren here adds that Aherne was married to Joan Fontaine at one time. As she hasn't read Aherne's autobiography, A Proper Job, she doesn't know how dear Joan comes off in it, but Fontaine's descriptions of Aherne in her own book seem to indicate a certain desire to settle scores.

British-born Aherne also spent part of his childhood in Birmingham. Aside from that, the only other bit of truth is that Aherne was, in fact, on tour with Katharine Cornell in 1959, which Sanders weaves into the narrative with characteristic tact.

Given Sanders' attitude toward memoir-writing, the Siren thinks that when she does get Memoirs of a Professional Cad, she will be setting it next to the salt-cellar, even as she eats up every word.

More on Sanders here.

James Wolcott weighs in with a delicious excerpt from Memoirs of a Professional Cad. Be warned, you will be defrosting the credit card to get your own copy.