Friday, May 29, 2009

Dreams With Sharp Teeth

I saw Dreams With Sharp Teeth, the documentary about Harlan Ellison, two days ago and haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. I must warn you, if you haven't seen it, that Harlan Ellison is one foul-mouthed, cranky old man. If that's not your thing, don't watch. For me, I think I'm in love. 

First of all, I've heard of Harlan Ellison, but haven't yet read any of his work. He recited some of it in the film, and now I have to go out and spend my rent money on all of his writings. Plus—and I know Robin is going to identify with this straight off—I had NO IDEA how handsome this guy was in his youth. (Yeah, he brags about bedding more than 700 women . . . and unlike Charles Mingus's bragging, I sorta believe it, given how good-looking he was). He's aged pretty well, too. (This is not a new crush, however. If I were twenty years older, or he were twenty years younger, then yeah. But . . . out of my age bracket. But as a young man? Oh yeah.)

I can see how his personality might grate on people's nerves or even scare people. But the truth is, I'm attracted to people like him, like the proverbial moth to a flame. People larger than life. People who can't lie, no matter how much the truth hurts. Something Neil Gaiman said in the film fit, now that Mr. Ellison is older: One one hand, you're dealing with one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. (I'll make that judgement for myself once I've read some of his stuff, but given what I've heard so far, I believe it.) And yet, you're dealing with an impish, furious 11-year old boy. I could see some of that in Ellison's personality, but the truth is, I rather like it. I like people who say what they want, when they want. Because with people like that, you always know where you stand. Someone like that can be taken at face value; what you see is what you get. Although you have to know who you are when you're dealing with someone like that. You really do.

After watching the documentary, I became obsessed and had to watch every Harlan Ellison interview I could find online. The obsession is waning now, as it always does, but I can't wait to read his work. I can't remember the last time I was this excited about a writer I've never read. Except for maybe Stuart Neville and his The Ghosts of Belfast. I'm still pretty excited about reading that.


Sarah Laurenson said...

Hm. Maybe I should take a peek - only I might have the opposite reaction. Maybe. I, too, like to take people at face value, but I have known too many who are emotional children and much prefer playing with real children or talking to emotional adults. The high drama of the emotional child in the adult body gets old quickly for me. Probably because I grew up with it.

freddie said...

I grew up with it, too, which is why I think, ironically or not, I'm pretty forgiving of it. Also Ellison said a lot of things about art I agreed with—or at least they were things worth thinking about—so there was that. And I also found people kind of exaggerated—or maybe the people who made the film just didn't show Ellison in his very worst light. He never suffered fools gladly, possibly to the point of occasionally becoming one himself when his temper got the best of him (which, from what I gather, is quite often and always was).

People are imperfect. I am somehow drawn to people who wear those imperfections like a badge. I don't know why, when I wouldn't do that myself.

Chris Eldin said...

I soooo want to see this. I"ve never heard of him.