Pop Culture
Pop Culture: Articles for the Scripps Howard News Service & "Seen, Heard, Said"

Why the top-365-songs list isn't a stupid idea

Actors sink their teeth into vampire roles

Gregory Corso: My encounter with a Beat legend

Golden Globes: Sleazy and proud of it

In the offing, Clinton continent looms

"NYPD Blue" opener: The misery continues

 New movie genre: Reclusive authors anonymous

"West Wing," "Ally," et al.: Words, words, words

When TV shows outstay their welcome

Film critics dig their own graves with "Angels" review

Great Robert Altman films you never
heard of

Famous folk, next week in the arts, show business briefs

"Time regained": Proust in the multiplex

Glitterati is dead, long live Popfocus

Carl Barks: The man who put the ducks in Duckburg

"Almost Famous": Lester Bangs rises from the dead

Liz Hurley wins in war of words with Jane mag

Douglas poses with Zeta-Jones, and baby-makes three

Weddings that aren't: Douglas, Zeta-Jones, Madonna, Ritchie

The Emmy War: A half-century of coast-to-coast feuding

Jennifer Love Hewitt plays the Iglesias odds

It's raining books by and about Trumps

What's in a mane? Blond woman in the news

Liz Hurley denies dissing ex-beau

Rock Hall of Infamy: Anti-heroes from Elvis to Eminem

Barbra tix bankrupt fans

Laurels for Kathie Lee to rest on

Hillary "In bed" with De Niro, Cruise, Kidman

How "Sopranos," "West Wing" will divvy up awards

This just in: Donald Trump is not a dope

Walter Matthau: A rumpled old dog in the heart of the city

Sampras to take a stroke at wedding bells

Who wants to host "Monday Night Football"?

Queen rewards Tina Brown for demoralizing American readers

How the Korean War cane to TV land 20 years late

Ivanka Trump: From catwalk to commencement line

Lester Bangs: The troublesome punk who wouldn't die

Rags clash over Ted Turner "romance"

With straight face, Trump deems Marla's move "tacky"

"Friends" re-up for another season of top ratings, top money

Madonna in denial, and rightly so

"Suburbia": The continental subdivide

Howard Stern, Sly Stallone in bizarre, apocryphal triangle

Easter video viewing: "Spartacus" to "Harvey"

Billy’s in the news: Bob, Joel in love but not with other

"Charles's Angels" movie: Dispiriting news for old-time fans

Innovative career move for 'NYPD Blue' co-star

Top model: Why I gave oldish rocker husband the heave-ho

Unpleasantville: The awful truth about old-time TV families

Tina Brown held captive in desert by demanding children

Anybody's Oscar: Unusually suspenseful awards show looms

Oscar telecast: Looking for a few good hosts

"Lambs," "Beauty": Oscar's love affair with unacceptable behavior

Brad Pitt, Oscar to be in same room at same time

Letterman bites guest-host bullet: Andrew "Dice" Clay, call your agent

Seinfeld eyes East Hampton manse: Where's the welcome wagon?

"Mod Squad" Immortal dishes couple du jour

Brad Pitt's second thoughts about Oscar

Mike McCurry praises "West Wing": It's not entirely demeaning,,,"

Memo to "Hannibal" producers: Get Najimy while the getting's good

Don't Invite Gwyneth and Oscar to the same party

True or false: Douglas, Zeta-Jones don't even know each other

Ex-Clinton honcho linked to ex-"Cheers" costar

Third party cited in Trump-Knauss breakup

 Gossip queen goes to bat for Talk mag

20th century's No. 1 hit: "Satisfaction" hits the spot

Statement: Spice girl's marital problems insoluble

Charlie Brown, Pogo and me

From Howdy to Charlie Brown, we hate to say goodbye

The Beatle George: While his guitar gently weeps

Jodie Foster's people in mild tiff with CBS

A Peanuts trivia Q&A

Publicist: Boyle still joined at hip

There's video in your future and future in your video

"The future is now": Hit rewind

Whitney Houston presides over confluence of talent

Jim Carrey's flack earns A "D," Cher's A "B-minus"

Geraldo: bye-bye, doghouse

Michael Douglas does nothing much, reporters go wild

Ricky Martin on Menudo: Look back in anger

How to outsmart Halloween crowds at the video store

Tom Cruise puts himself in harm's way, only not really

1800-1900: Steaming towards revolution

1700-1800: Liberty, equality and bloodshed

1600-1700: The earth moves; North America is settled

Trump mulls travel plans, from altar to White House

"Faces of Impressionism" Time machine made of canvas, paint

Major quakes aren't personal unless they happen to you

Brad Pitt gracious about character assassination

Director insists Harrison Ford is not a brainless hulk

Costner, Willis, Douglas. Branagh, Sting_ in that order

Streisand: Color her ready to plug her new album

Julia and Benjamin's rings devoid of significance, flack says

Literary mud wrestling, featuring Geri and The Spice Girls

Urgent news: Ford to replace Gibson on "GMA" eventually

She married a monster from outer space

Never mind Godzilla VS. Mothra, Here's Trump VS. Cronkite

Spurned by Pitt, Redford pays court to Damon

Celebrity coyness is bustin' out all over

"Detroit Rock City": Kiss of death

Talk is cheap? Not with Tina Brown at the helm

The Beats: Remembered, Lionized and Unread

Real estate beat, starring Woody Allen and Donald Trump

Mood Music, or how we learned to stop worrying

Sex in the cinema: From "Last Tango" to "Eyes Wide Shut"

Two easy steps to looking exactly like Ricky Martin

Close encounters of the Muppet kind

Upcoming Brad Pitt movie not garbage, insiders say

Kathie Lee's eyewear excites Islanders' ire

Back to the future, continued

"Wild Wild West": Buck Rogers in the 19th century

Sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein: Fun, Fun, Fun

An expert's verdict:" Austin Powers" is pretty neat

Click here for pointless celebrity gossip

P. Dempsey Tabler of the jungle: The many faces of Tarzan

Kirk Douglas' Ex tells all about Errol Flynn fling

New twist in TV programming: Ax profitable shows

Private jet fees spell the end for another celebrity union

Killer serials: "Flash," "Buck" and a boy named George Lucas

Top nonfiction books: A message from two old men

Celebrity Dream dreams: Monica, Donald, Barbara, Georgette

Two divas, publicist form bizarre show-biz triangle

Johnny Cash tribute: Ring of fire, ring of friends

Streisand employee really upset about rumors

Grande Dame Eyes MGM Grand Gig

Secretive celebs? Not by a long shot

NBC honcho bristles at notion that Brokaw is not a saint

Barbara Walters not keen on daily dose of Monica

"Seen, Heard, Said"

David Letterman, Donald Trump, Eddie Murphy, Elton John

Madonna, Frank Sinatra, Prince Charles, Maj, Ronald Ferguson, Fergie, Miranda Richardson, Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, Axl Rose, Stephanie Seymour

April 30, 1999


By ROGER ANDERSON Scripps Howard News Service

Consider an old man, a distinguished American writer, deeply embittered by personal loss, writing his memoirs in the first years of this century.

Behind him stretches the Victorian era and everything that preceded it; he has seen the coming of the railroads and the telegraph, the telephone and the electric light, the war between the states and the rise of a unified Germany. The first automobiles are squawking along on the dirt streets beyond his library window.

In front of him yawns our century, a time that he foresees will be filled with science miracle and science horror, global wars, perhaps space flight and the triumphant conquest of nature.

He writes and writes, into the night, recording all of his failed hopes, his swelling despair, and his perverse satisfaction at not having to see the next act of the human drama.

Actually you're looking at two old American men in the early years of this century. One of them you know very well - he goes by the name of Mark Twain, and he is, of course, then as now, the much-beloved author of novels that memorialize American childhood.

The other old man you may not know as well. His name is Henry Adams.

The Modern Library, in its list of the 100 greatest nonfiction books written in English in the 20th century, puts "The Education of Henry Adams" at No. 1. "The Autobiography of Mark Twain" comes in at No. 43. Proportionately, that's a lot of weight given to our embittered old American writers at the turn of the century.

Twain was a self-made and self-educated man who came from a mud-soaked village on the banks of the Mississippi. Adams, on the other hand, grew up at the apex of New England society, the grandson of one U.S. president and the great-grandson of another. The latter would be John Adams, who was not merely the second American chief executive, but, like Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, a Founding Father, a man who was literally present at the creation of modern liberal government.

That was Adams' family tree. He was (though he denied it) a Brahmin of the Brahmins, educated at Harvard, where he also held a professorship, the author of immense histories of American politics and diplomacy, the intimate of presidents, artists, architects, and sages.

The world at that time was not so large - the two men, Twain and Adams, moved in much the same circles. Both of them saw Henry James whenever he was in the country. Both were lionized by the wealthy and cultured in whatever American city they appeared, from San Francisco to Boston. And both, at the height of their powers and fame, saw the women they loved sink beneath the weight of madness, illness, death.

In a very true sense, the fruit of Twain's grief is his autobiography, an experimental, self-indulgent, ground-breaking book that wouldn't be published till after his death. In a sense just as true, the upshot of Adams' grief is a regular Bruckner symphony of American prose, a strangely self-effacing yet clear-sighted and evocative third-person memoir that he wrote for the eyes of his friends and would only reluctantly allow to be published after he was felled by a stroke.

While Twain in his "Autobiography" writes obsessively about his losses - the death of his wife and two of his daughters - Adams takes infinite pains in his "Education" to avoid not only any mention of the suicide of his wife, Clover Adams, but any mention of her at all. He brings the story of his lifelong search for insight into human history right up to the point where the pair are about to meet, then skips to a time following her death. A person who knew no better would come away from the book assuming he had never married.

It is one of literature's great feats of reticence, because the entire narrative is suffused in every syllable with his loss, his sadness, his frustration, his guilt and his anger at his wife for her violence. All those emotions pour into his perceptions of his age. Yet she is nowhere even alluded to, except very indirectly. It's as though Beethoven had written a piano concerto with the direction that the piano should be stationed outside the concert hall.

Adams, a student of great writing working at the height of his powers, produced a memoir that could scarcely be improved upon by the most wise and discriminating of editors. Twain, by contrast, produced a topsy-turvy pile of handwritten and typewritten pages and even phonograph records (he may be the first writer to use Edison's technology to dictate his material) that a later biographer named Bernard DeVoto had to spend years whipping into publishable shape.

Among other topics, Twain wrote of his deeply-held belief that writing was an irrational activity - he felt that words came from something he was among the first to call "the unconscious." The less he meddled with the words, he thought, the truer the tale.

Both of these old men had covered the globe, traveling widely in Europe, the Holy Land, even the islands of the Pacific. Twain had sought gold, then work as a journalist, then, as a famous author, big lecture fees; Adams had sought the wellsprings of history and, in later years, the glimmerings of the future at the World's Fairs that were springing up everywhere as showcases and clearinghouses for new technology.

To Adams, the electric dynamo was identical to the medieval Virgin Mary - an inexplicable source of mysterious energy, accepted and utilized by humans on pure faith. He littered his writing table with magnets and compasses in hopes that the direction civilization was traveling in would reveal itself to him.

Twain, on the other hand, was past caring. Cruelly deprived by illness and mischance of his beloved women, he saw the entire universe as a meaningless magic show. And that's where the two old men parted company.

Having finished his "Education," Adams would go on - even in his increasingly feeble last years - to write "Mont Saint Michel and Chartres," an essay on medieval culture and religion as filled with joy and awe as it is with hurt and doubt. Twain labored long on "The Mysterious Stranger," a disturbingly abortive tale of a cosmic visitor who teaches the central character that life is nothing but illusion and heartbreak.

If Twain’s is the world we actually got in our century, Adams' is the one we're still looking for in the next.

Roger Anderson is arts and entertainment editor at Scripps Howard News Service.

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