Splendor in the Short Grass: a Grover Lewis Reader

Splendor in the Short Grass: a Grover Lewis Reader

Chris Chang

Splendor in the Short Grass: A Grover Lewis Reader edited by Jan Reid and W.K. Stratton University of Texas Press, $24.95

Hanging with Jack Nicholson and Milos Forman on the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Graver Lewis, reporting for Rolling Stone, has a jittery New Journalism moment: describing the madhouse scenario around him, he confesses,” … the germ of the trouble lies in this rotten, overwhelmingly oppressive and repulsive place. At long last, lunacy–the funny farm, the loony bin, Rubber Room Inn. For years, assorted editors and ex-wives have predicted the writer wilt wind up in just such a cuckoo’s nest and–well, he’s been here for half an hour and he’s wondering queasily if he will be allowed to leave when it’s time to go. “This is exactly the sort of subjective spin–antithetical to the prevailing sober, fly-on-the-wall observation of the day–that puts the edge into gonzo, and places Lewis in the same camp as Tom Wolfe, Hunter S.Thompson, and Gay Talese.

This long overdue collection includes seminal magazine articles, excerpts from two unfinished projects (a novel, The Code of the West, and a memoir, Goodbye If You Carl That Gone), plus a selection of two-fisted poems from the optimistically titled I’ll Be There in the Morning If I Live. On the film side of things, the reader will savor the oily-pores-on-the-face details of Seventies superheroes at work (as attended to by their crackpot entourages), including Robert Mitchum, John Huston, and Sam Peckinpah. Lewis excels at capturing throwaway moments with the shadowy entities lurking around the edges of his purported subject matter. Consider this exchange he captured during the making of The Last Picture Show: “‘Peter, can we shoot this shit?’ the boom man screams out from overhead. ‘Or not?’ ‘Strictly speaking, Dan,’ Bogdanovich mumbles, squinting at the setup, ‘possibly.'” Grover Lewis may not have invented onset film journalism, but he was the only practitioner who transformed it into a bona fide art form. All in all, a gloriously cracked mirror reflecting a not-so-golden age.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Film Society of Lincoln Center

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group