"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Topics: Our Picks, Our Picks: Books, Our Picks: Movies, What to Read, The Listener, literature, Film, TV, Critics, Criticism, entertainment news, Crime, Serial killers, Murder, Sex Work, Prostitution, The Killing, The Way Way Back, beautifully unique sparkleponies, Chris kluwe, Entertainment News
In “Lost Girls,” an extraordinary true account of the Long Island Serial Killer case, Robert Kolker, a gifted reporter for the New Yorker, focuses on the dynamics and relationships between family members of the murdered sex workers whose bodies were recovered in Suffolk County, N.Y. Laura Miller writes that the book succeeds in its moving and humanistic depiction of the central characters as they move to achieve justice for their loved ones.
Serial killers exert a demonic magnetism in American culture; they suck up our attention with the extremity of their terrible deeds and their unfathomable motives. We find them fascinating, even as we revile them as sick, and the fact that “Lost Girls” concerns one of them will no doubt attract many readers to Kolker’s book. What they will find instead of tabloid shockers and chills is a sweepingly reported portrait of the world in which such monsters operate, how it creates opportunities for them to kill and what happens to those left behind:
From taking apart Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” to penning a quotable letter to Jesus, Chris Kluwe rants, raves and rips apart a mixed bag of topics for his debut book, “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies.” As unlikely an author as the punter for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders may be, Kluwe does a credible job of putting together this collection of eminently quotable essays, writes Kyle Minor:
This kind of writing lends itself better to the audiobook than it does to the page, and Kluwe makes a good narrator. His delivery is full of the enthusiasms that birthed the essays and the charming weirdness of his own personality. And the brevity of the pieces allows the listener a measure of relief—if one of the pieces isn’t working, it won’t be long until we get to the next.
As far as low-tech indie comedies go, “The Way, Way Back” could be considered classic summer counter-programming. Except with its sharp observations and a strong cast propelling the narrative of this “beautifully executed” teenage coming-of-age story, the film strides a delicate balance between comedy and tragedy, without descending into any of those raunchy teen-movie clichés, writes Andrew O’Hehir:
Almost anyone who has ever been a teenager will identify with Duncan (Liam James), the nominal protagonist of “The Way, Way Back.” He’s 14, and stuck in that period of early adolescence when you’re no longer a child but aren’t quite prepared, by age or temperament or both, to join the ravening, Darwinian packs of hormone-driven teens. There’s a wordless but marvelous scene when Duncan watches, from inside the beach house, while his mom (the great Toni Collette), his would-be stepdad (Steve Carell) and two of their drunken friends stumble through the dunes for a late-night swim. Simply in the framing of the shots, and Duncan’s splendid, miserable isolation, Faxon and Rash capture something essential about the gulf between teenage certainty and murky adult experience, with considerable sympathy for both.
The third season of AMC’s “The Killing” follows two detectives on the hunt for a serial killer preying on Seattle’s teen runaways. It draws high praise from Willa Paskin, owing to its cast of unique and “thoroughly drawn” characters:
One of the kids, Kallie, has been missing since the first episode — in all likelihood, she’s dead. Another is Bullet (Bex Taylor-Klaus) and she’s the reason I’m writing this piece. Bullet is not a character you see on TV very often: She’s a teenage lesbian, very butch, the sides of her head shaved, her dark hair coming down in a hank toward her eyes. (It’s never been discussed why Bullet is living on the streets, but it seems likely her sexuality got her kicked out of whatever house she was living in.) Bullet is smart and competent and generous and tough — or she certainly wants to be seen as tough. Early on, when Bullet encounters Holder (Joel Kinnaman), she talks shit to him, insisting that if he comes back she’ll give him trouble even though he’s a grown man with a gun and about 3 feet on Bullet. He grabs her by the collar and puts her in her place. (Taylor-Klaus does not have quite the same panache with slang as Kinnaman does. Sometimes her dialogue can sound more writerly than realistic). She takes a macho, protective attitude toward the other girls in her life, both Kallie and Lyric, a young woman she has a crush on.
Liz Fields is an Australian freelance journalist based in New York who has previously scribbled for Slate, ABC News, Sydney Morning Herald and more. Follow her on Twitter @lianzifieldsMore Liz Fields.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)