Thursday, July 31, 2014

Elizabeth Taylor remembered by Shirley MacLaine

Elizabeth Taylor remembered 

by Shirley MacLaine

She had a way with men, but also great humour and humanity, recalls her friend and fellow actress
Elizabeth Taylor on the set of the the 1956 movie Giant: 'She knew she was seen as a product and might as well use it.' Photograph: Frank Worth/Getty
I will remember looking at her jewellery in the sun. In recent years, I would go up to Elizabeth's home all the time to make sure she was exercising or I would send someone else to make her get in the pool. She was not a fan of exercise, so most of the time we would end up taking out her jewellery and just looking at it in the sunlight.
We first met when I was 21 and she was 23 and found we were very relaxed together. I can't remember how it happened, but then I can't remember much now about when I was 21. A man I knew was in love with Elizabeth, I think, and I knew both of them.
At that time, people were not fawning all over her – except the men, of course. We would talk mainly about work. We were both working six-day weeks and she was looking for the next piece of work. She never had a scheme, though. She was the kind of person who felt that things just happened when they should happen. Her marriage to Michael Wilding was ending and, although he was a nice person and was very nice with her, Elizabeth had adventures to go on. And, when I think of it, one of those adventures she never got around to having was to be anonymous. She talked to me about being a regular housewife. She honestly wanted that – to look after a home and kids.
She had been a star since she was a child and was not as naturally outgoing as me anyway. When I was pregnant, I would go to her house and eat ice-cream and she would tell me what the rest of pregnancy was going to be like. Later on, she would come to my one-room shack on the beach. She told me so much about her life there, not just about her childhood but about things that had happened to her and which I will never tell.
I introduced her to Mike Todd, her third husband, on Around the World in 80 Days and then watched the negotiations between them. And theywere negotiations. She was very funny. She used to bargain with him about going out to dinner.
Later, she told me about asking for $1m to do Cleopatra and she laughed. She never expected anyone to pay it. But she was a good businesswoman and later she turned all that into a multimillion dollar concern. She felt that, since she was perceived as a product, she might as well use it. Elizabeth was always regarded as a prize and she knew how to manipulate that with men, too.
She did not see herself as "Elizabeth Taylor" at all. She was much more like a Yiddisher momma, to be honest. She used to say she was going to have to be "Elizabeth Taylor" and put on that show. That was the gig, after all. It's what she had to do.
She was so much more down to earth than you would imagine. I miss her deep, deep humanity – something you don't find very often. And, of course, her humour. We wanted to make fun of the world together. Not to look down on it, though. We just watched.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Eight hundred dead Palestinians. But Israel has impunity

Eight hundred dead Palestinians. But Israel has impunity

There’s something very odd about our reactions to these two outrageous death tolls

by Robert Fisk
Saturday 26 July 2014

Impunity is the word that comes to mind. Eight hundred dead Palestinians. Eight hundred. That’s infinitely more than twice the total dead of flight MH17 over Ukraine. And if you refer only to the “innocent” dead – ie no Hamas fighters, young sympathisers or corrupt Hamas officials, with whom the Israelis will, in due course, have to talk – then the women and children and elderly who have been slaughtered in Gaza are still well over the total number of MH17 victims.
And there’s something very odd, isn’t there, about our reactions to these two outrageous death tolls. In Gaza, we plead for a ceasefire but let them bury their dead in the sweltering slums of Gaza and cannot even open a humanitarian route for the wounded. For the passengers on MH17, we demand – immediately – proper burial and care for the relatives of the dead. We curse those who left bodies lying in the fields of eastern Ukraine – as many bodies have been lying, for a shorter time, perhaps, but under an equally oven-like sky, in Gaza.
Because – and this has been creeping up on me for years – we don’t care so much about the Palestinians, do we? We care neither about Israeli culpability, which is far greater because of the larger number of civilians the Israeli army have killed. Nor, for that matter, Hamas’s capability. Of course, God forbid that the figures should have been the other way round. If 800 Israelis had died and only 35 Palestinians, I think I know our reaction.

We would call it – rightly – a slaughter, an atrocity, a crime for which the killers must be made accountable. Yes, Hamas should be made accountable, too. But why is it that the only criminals we are searching for today are the men who fired one – perhaps two – missiles at an airliner over Ukraine? If Israel’s dead equalled those of the Palestinians – and let me repeat, thank heavens this is not the case – I suspect that the Americans would be offering all military support to an Israel endangered by “Iranian-backed terrorists”. We would be demanding that Hamas hand over the monsters who fired rockets at Israel and who are, by the way, trying to hit aircraft at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport. But we are not doing this. Because those who have died are mostly Palestinians.
More questions. What’s the limit for Palestinian deaths before we have a ceasefire? Eight hundred? Or 8,000? Could we have a scorecard? The exchange rate for dead? Or would we just wait until our gorge rises at the blood and say enough – even for Israel’s war, enough is enough. It’s not as if we have not been through all this before.
From the massacre of Arab villagers by Israel’s new army in 1948, as it is set down by Israeli historians, to the Sabra and Shatila massacre, when Lebanese Christian allies of Israel murdered up to 1,700 people in 1982 while Israeli troops watched; from the Qana massacre of Lebanese Arabs at the UN base – yes, the UN again – in 1996, to another, smaller terrible killing at Qana (again) 10 years later. And so to the mass killing of civilians in the 2008-9 Gaza war. And after Sabra and Shatila, there were inquiries, and after Qana there was an inquiry and after Gaza in 2008-9, there was an inquiry and don’t we remember the weight of it, somewhat lightened of course when Judge Goldstone did his best to disown it, when – according to my Israeli friends – he came under intense personal pressure.
In other words, we have been here before. The claim that only “terrorists” are to blame for those whom Hamas kills and only “terrorists” are to blame for those whom Israel kills (Hamas “terrorists”, of course). And the constant claim, repeated over and over and over, that Israel has the highest standards of any army in the world and would never hurt civilians. I recall here the 17,500 dead of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, most of whom were civilians. Have we forgotten all this?
And apart from impunity, the word stupidity comes to mind. I will forget here the corrupt Arabs and the killers of Isis and the wholesale mass murders of Iraq and Syria. Perhaps their indifference to “Palestine” is to be expected. They do not claim to represent our values. But what do we make of John Kerry, Obama’s Secretary of State, who told us last week that the “underlying issues” of the Israeli-Palestinian war need to be addressed? What on earth was he doing all last year when he claimed he was going to produce a Middle East peace in 12 months? Doesn’t he realise why the Palestinians are in Gaza?
The truth is that many hundreds of thousands of people around the world – I wish I could say millions – want an end to this impunity, an end to phrases such as “disproportionate casualties”. Disproportionate to what? Brave Israelis also feel this way. They write about it. Long live the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. Meanwhile, the Arab, Muslim world becomes wilder with anger. And we will pay the price. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Andrew Wyeth / Five

Andrew Wyeth 

(1917 – 2009) 

Andrew Wyeth


Andrew Newell Wyeth was a visual artist, primarily a realist painter, working predominantly in a regionalist style. He was one of the best-known U.S. artists of the middle 20th century. 

In his art, Wyeth's favorite subjects were the land and people around him, both in his hometown of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and at his summer home in Cushing, Maine. Wyeth often noted: "I paint my life." One of the best-known images in 20th-century American art is his painting, Christina's World, currently in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. This tempera was painted in 1948 when Wyeth was 31 years old.


Monday, July 28, 2014

John Le Carré on Philip Seymour Hoffman / Staring at the Flame


Staring at the Flame

John Le Carré on Philip Seymour Hoffman

By John Le Carré
The New York Times, July 17, 2014

I reckon I spent five hours at most in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s close company, six at a pinch. Otherwise it was standing around with other people on the set of “A Most Wanted Man,” watching him on the monitor and afterward telling him he was great, or deciding better to keep your thoughts to yourself. I didn’t even do a lot of that: a couple of visits to the set, one silly walk-on part that required me to grow a disgusting beard, took all day and delivered a smudgy picture of somebody I was grateful not to recognize. There’s probably nobody more redundant in the film world than a writer of origin hanging around the set of his movie, as I’ve learned to my cost. Alec Guinness actually did me the favor of having me shown off the set of the BBC’s TV adaptation of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” All I was wanting to do was radiate my admiration, but Alec said my glare was too intense.

Come to think of it, Philip did the same favor for a woman friend of ours one afternoon on the shoot of “A Most Wanted Man” in Hamburg that winter of 2012. She was standing in a group 30-odd yards away from him, just watching and getting cold like everybody else. But something about her bothered him, and he had her removed. It was a little eerie, a little psychic, but he was bang on target because the woman in the case is a novelist, too, and she can do intensity with the best of us. Philip didn’t know that. He just sniffed it.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, left, and John le Carré, during the filming of “A Most Wanted Man,”
which opens on July 25.

In retrospect, nothing of that kind surprised me about Philip, because his intuition was luminous from the instant you met him. So was his intelligence. A lot of actors act intelligent, but Philip was the real thing: a shining, artistic polymath with an intelligence that came at you like a pair of headlights and enveloped you from the moment he grabbed your hand, put a huge arm round your neck and shoved a cheek against yours; or if the mood took him, hugged you to him like a big, pudgy schoolboy, then stood and beamed at you while he took stock of the effect.

Philip took vivid stock of everything, all the time. It was painful and exhausting work, and probably in the end his undoing. The world was too bright for him to handle. He had to screw up his eyes or be dazzled to death. Like Chatterton, he went seven times round the moon to your one, and every time he set off, you were never sure he’d come back, which is what I believe somebody said about the German poet Hölderlin: Whenever he left the room, you were afraid you’d seen the last of him. And if that sounds like wisdom after the event, it isn’t. Philip was burning himself out before your eyes. Nobody could live at his pace and stay the course, and in bursts of startling intimacy he needed you to know it.

A Most Wanted Man trailer
Philip Seymour Hoffman, with Rachel McAdams, in “A Most Wanted Man,” based on the John le Carré novel. CreditKerry Brown/Roadside Attractions

No actor had ever made quite the impact on me that Philip did at that first encounter: not Richard Burton, not Burt Lancaster or even Alec Guinness. Philip greeted me as if he’d been waiting to meet me all his life, which I suspect was how he greeted everyone. But I’d been waiting to meet Philip for a long time. I reckoned his “Capote” the best single performance I’d seen on screen. But I didn’t dare tell him that, because there’s always a danger with actors, when you tell them how great they were nine years ago, that they demand to know what’s been wrong with their performances ever since.

But I did tell him that he was the only American actor I knew who could play my character George Smiley, a role first graced by Guinness in the BBC “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” and more recently by Gary Oldman in the big-screen adaptation — but then, as a loyal Brit, I was claiming Gary Oldman for our own.

Perhaps I was also remembering that, like Guinness, Philip wasn’t much of a lover on screen, but mercifully, we didn’t have to bother about that in our movie. If Philip had to take a girl in his arms, you didn’t actually blush and look away as you did with Guinness, but you couldn’t help feeling that somehow he was doing it for you rather than himself.

Our filmmakers had a lot of discussion about whether they could get Philip into bed with somebody, and it’s an interesting thought that when they did finally come up with a proposal, both partners ran a mile. It was only when the magnificent actress Nina Hoss appeared beside him that the makers realized they were looking at a small miracle of romantic failure. In her role, which was hastily bulked out, she is Philip’s adoring work mate, acolyte and steadying hand, and he breaks her heart.

That suited Philip just fine. His role of Günther Bachmann, middle-aged German intelligence officer on the skids, did not allow for enduring love or any other kind. Philip had made that decision from Day 1 and to rub it in, carried a well-thumbed paperback copy of my novel around with him — and what author of origin could ask more? — to brandish in the face of anyone who wanted to sex the story up.

Mr. Hoffman, right, on that film’s set with the director, Anton Corbijn, far left, and Willem Dafoe.CreditKerry Brown/Roadside Attractions

The movie of “A Most Wanted Man” also features Rachel McAdams and Willem Dafoe, and opens in a cinema near you, I hope, so start saving now. It was shot almost entirely in Hamburg and Berlin, and numbers in its cast some of Germany’s most distinguished actors in relatively humble roles, not only the sublime Nina Hoss (the film “Barbara”), but also Daniel Brühl (“Rush”).

In the novel, Bachmann is a secret agent on his uppers. Well, Philip can relate to that. The character’s been whisked home from Beirut after losing his precious spy network to the clumsiness or worse of the C.I.A. He has been put out to grass in Hamburg, the city that played host to the 9/11 conspirators. Its regional intelligence arm, and many of its citizens, are still living with that embarrassment.

Bachmann’s self-devised mission is to put the score straight: not by way of snatch teams, waterboards and extrajudicial killings, but by the artful penetration of spies, by espousal, by using the enemy’s own weight to bring him down, and the consequent disarming of jihadism from within.

Over a fancy dinner with the filmmakers and the high end of the cast, I don’t remember either Philip or myself talking much about the actual role of Bachmann; just more generally, about such things as the care and maintenance of secret agents and the pastoral role incumbent on their agent runners. Forget blackmail, I said. Forget the macho. Forget sleep deprivation, locking people in boxes, simulated executions and other enhancements. The best agents, snitches, joes, informants or whatever you want to call them, I pontificated, needed patience, understanding and loving care. I like to think he took my homily to heart, but more likely he was wondering whether he could use a bit of that soupy expression I put on when I’m trying to impress.

Mr. Hoffman as a German intelligence officer on the skids in “A Most Wanted Man.”CreditKerry Brown/Roadside Attraction

It’s hard now to write with detachment about Philip’s performance as a desperate middle-aged man going amok, or the way he fashioned the arc of his character’s self-destruction. He was directed, of course. And the director, Anton Corbijn, a cultural polymath in Philip’s class, is many wonderful things: photographer of world renown, pillar of the contemporary music scene and himself the subject of a documentary film. His first feature,“Control” in black and white, is iconic. He is currently making a movie about James Dean. Yet for all that, his creative talents, where I have seen them at work, strike me as inward and sovereign to himself. He would be the last person, I suspect, to describe himself as a theoretical dramatist, or articulate communicator about the inner life of a character. Philip had to have that dialogue with himself, and it must have been a pretty morbid one, filled with questions like: At which point exactly do I lose all sense of moderation? Or, why do I insist on going through with this whole thing when deep down I know it can only end in tragedy? But tragedy lured Bachmann like a wrecker’s lamp, and it lured Philip, too.

There was a problem about accents. We had really good German actors who spoke English with a German accent. Collective wisdom dictated, not necessarily wisely, that Philip should do the same. For the first few minutes of listening to him, I thought, “Crikey.” No German I knew spoke English like this. He did a mouth thing, a kind of pout. He seemed to kiss his lines rather than speak them. Then gradually he did what only the greatest actors can do. He made his voice the only authentic one, the lonely one, the odd one out, the one you depended on amid all the others. And every time it left the stage, like the great man himself, you waited for its return with impatience and mounting unease.

We shall wait a long time for another Philip.

John le Carré is the author of “A Most Wanted Man” and, most recently, “A Delicate Truth.” “A Most Wanted Man” will be in theaters on Friday.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Charles Graeber's top 10 true crime books

Charles Graeber's top 10 true crime books

The true crime genre has a bad reputation, often providing pulp with tabloid appeal, but there are some stone-cold classics
Truman Capote, true crime top 10View larger picture
On the scene … Truman Capote in 1967 in the Clutter house, where the murders described in In Cold Blood took place. Photograph: Steve Schapiro/Corbis
The most prolific serial killer in American history refused to speak with anybody. Then he started talking to me. Eight years later, the result is The Good Nurse, a book which, as a work of non-fiction with murder involved, is shelved in the genre of true crime. Which isn't, strictly speaking, a compliment.
  1. The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder
  2. by Charles Graeber

You'll find no section in your bookseller for true history, or true memoir or true politics (though perhaps you should). Only crime gets treated like a criminal. It's as if the unethical subject matter has rubbed off on the writer and the writing.
Some of that reputation is deserved. Many "true crime" offerings are pulpy quickies with a tabloid heart and tabloid brains – human tragedy served as porno McNuggets. (Actually, that description fails. I'd like porno McNuggets, they sound yummy. But these books turn out the opposite – stale and flat as cardboard, and, frankly, "untrue".)
Happily, hidden among this genre are a heap of fulfilling standouts. The term given to books like these is "literary true crime". It's the triple-modified backhanded compliment and the term still seems a bit overwrought. Try introducing your lover as a "lovely, devout and a reformed prostitute" and you'll understand.
Whatever the genre title, this section marks the sweetspot of highbrow and low, truth and art, and among the thugs of the genre you'll find master craftspeople holding dirt but wielding the same literary toolkit available to the investigative journalist, the novelist and the poet, creating dirty and deep page-turners with the pacing of a thriller and a setting in the dirtiest of all worlds: the real one.
Narrowing them down to a "top 10" is impossible, but here are some of the best.

1. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, by Jon Krakauer

Krakauer is a master journalist and a storyteller who is unfettered by and unafraid of the true crime mantle. Here, he transcends the genre with a story of Mormon brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insisted God gave them commands (commandments?) to kill. Krakauer pries open the golden doors to one of the newest and fastest-growing religions to set the stage for the non-fiction drama.

William Styron / In Celebration of Capote

Truman Capote
Photo by Irving Penn

In Celebration of Capote

William Styron bids farewell to his comrade Truman Capote.
By William Styron
Vanity Fair, December 1984

Truman and I were approximately the same age, although when I got to know him he always insisted that I was six weeks older. This was not accurate—it turned out I was several months younger than he was—but it doesn’t matter. I make this point only to underline the appalling chagrin I felt, in my tenderest years as an aspiring, unpublished writer, when I read some of Truman’s earliest work. The first story of his that I read was, I believe, published in Mademoiselle. After I finished it, I remember feeling stupefied by the talent in those pages. I thought myself a pretty good hand with words for a young fellow, but here was a writer whose gifts took my breath away. Here was an artist of my age who could make words dance and sing, change color mysteriously, perform feats of magic, provoke laughter, send a chill up the back, touch the heart—a full-fledged master of the language before he was old enough to vote.
I had read many splendid writers by that time, but in Truman I discovered a brand-new and unique presence, a storyteller whose distinctive selfhood was embedded in every sentence on the page. I was of course nearly sick with envy, and like all envious artists I turned to the critics for some corroboration of that mean little voice telling me that he wasn’t all that good. Ornamentaland mannered were the words I was looking for, and naturally I found them, for there are always critics driven wild by the manifestation of talent in its pure, energetic exuberance. But basically I knew better, as did the more discerning critics, who must have seen—as I saw, in my secret reckoning—that such gemlike tales as “Miriam” and “The Headless Hawk” had to rank among the best stories written in English. If they were ornamental or mannered, they corresponded to those adjectives in the same way that the finest tales of Henry James or Hawthorne or Edgar Allan Poe do, creating the same troubling resonance.
Needless to say, it is only the most gifted stylists who inspire imitation, and I confess to having imitated Truman in those days of my infancy as a writer. There is a wonderful story of his called “Shut a Final Door,” which details the neurotic anguish of a young man living near Gramercy Park, that still captures the atmosphere of Manhattan during the summer heat wave better than almost any work I know. Not too long ago, I unearthed from among some old papers of mine a short story I wrote during that period, and it seems to be written in a manner almost plagiaristically emulative of Truman’s story, containing nearly everything in “Shut a Final Door,” including the heat wave and the neurotic young man—everything, that is, except Truman’s remarkable sensibility and vision. When his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms,appeared and I read it, flabbergasted anew by this wizard’s fresh display of his narrative power, his faultless ear—the luxuriant but supple prose, everywhere under control—my discomfort was monumental. If you will forgive the somewhat topical reference, let me say that, although my admiration was nearly unbounded, the sense I felt of being inadequate would have made the torment of Antonio Salieri appear to be dull and resigned equanimity.
A few years later, my own first novel, Lie Down in Darkness, was published. Among the early reviews I read was one by Lewis Gannett in the Herald Tribune—a mildly favorable appreciation that noted my indebtedness to the following: William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Truman Capote. I was a little crestfallen. I thought I had become my own man, you see, but Truman’s voice was a hard one to banish entirely.
Shortly after this, I met Truman for the first time, during a Roman soirée. I was left with three separate, distinct memories of the evening: he was accompanied by a mistrustful-looking black mynah bird, whom he called Lola and who perched gabbling on his shoulder; he told me that I should definitely marry the young lady I was with, which, as a matter of fact, I did; and he informed me with perfect aplomb that he had been written up in all twelve departments of Timemagazine, with the exception of “Sport” and “Medicine.” We became friends after that. Although we were not close, I always looked forward with pleasure to seeing him, and I think the feeling was reciprocal. I somehow managed to avoid those sharp fangs he sank into some of his fellow writers, and I took it as a professional compliment of a very high order when, on several occasions, something I had written that he liked elicited a warm letter of praise. Generally speaking, writers are somewhat less considerate of each other than that.
A certain amount of Truman’s work might have been a little fey, some of it insubstantial, but the bulk of the journalism he wrote during the following decades was, at its best, of masterly distinction. His innovative achievement, In Cold Blood, not only was a landmark in terms of its concept but possesses both spaciousness and profundity—a rare mingling—and the terrible tale it tells could be told only by a writer who had dared to go in deep and brush flesh with the demons that torment the American soul. Shrewd, fiercely unsentimental yet filled with a mighty compassion, it brought out all that was the best in Truman’s talent: the grave, restrained lyricism, the uncanny insights into character, and that quality which has never been perceived as the animating force in most of his work—a tragic sense of life.
Truman Capote’s best work is now solidly embedded in American literature. Certainly it is possible to mourn the fact that the latter part of his too early ended life seemed relatively unproductive, but even this judgment is presumptuous, since I doubt that few of us here today have ever had to wrestle with the terrors that hastened his end. Meanwhile, let us celebrate the excellence of the work he gave us. Like all of us writers, he had his deficiencies and he made his mistakes, but I believe it to be beyond question that he never wrote a line that was not wrested from a true writer’s anguished quest for the best that he can bring forth. In this he was an artist—I think even at times a great one—from the top down to the toes of his diminutive, somehow heroic self.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Truman Capote / The Duke in his Domain

Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando
by Truman Capote


Most Japanese girls giggle. The little maid on the fourth floor of the Miyako Hotel, in Kyoto, was no exception. Hilarity, and attempts to suppress it, pinked her cheeks (unlike the Chinese, the Japanese complexion more often than not has considerable color), shook her plump peony-and-pansy-kimonoed figure. There seemed to be no particular reason for this merriment; the Japanese giggle operates without apparent motivation. I'd merely asked to be directed toward a certain room. "You come see Marron?" she gasped, showing, like so many of her fellow-countrymen, an array of gold teeth. Then, with the tiny, pigeon-toed skating steps that the wearing of a kimono necessitates, she led me through a labyrinth of corridors, promising, "I knock you Marron." The "l" sound does not exist in Japanese, and by "Marron" the maid meant Marlon—Marlon Brando, the American actor, who was at that time in Kyoto doing location work for the Warner Brothers-William Goetz motion-picture version of James Michener's novel "Sayonara.”
My guide tapped at Brando's door, shrieked "Marron!," and fled away along the corridor, her kimono sleeves fluttering like the wings of a parakeet. The door was opened by another doll-delicate Miyako maid, who at once succumbed to her own fit of quaint hysteria. From an inner room, Brando called, "What is it, honey?" But the girl, her eyes squeezed shut with mirth and her fat little hands jammed into her mouth, like a bawling baby's, was incapable of reply. "Hey, honey, what is it?" Brando again inquired, and appeared in the doorway. "Oh, hi," he said when he saw me. "It's seven, huh?" We'd made a seven-o'clock date for dinner; I was nearly twenty minutes late. "Well, take off your shoes and come on in. I'm just finishing up here. And, hey, honey," he told the maid, "bring us some ice." Then, looking after the girl as she scurried off, he cocked his hands on his hips and, grinning, declared, "They kill me. They really kill me. The kids, too. Don't you think they're wonderful, don't you love them—Japanese kids?"
The Miyako, where about half of the "Sayonara" company was staying, is the most prominent of the so-called Western-style hotels in Kyoto; the majority of its rooms are furnished with sturdy, if commonplace and cumbersome, European chairs and tables, beds and couches. But, for the convenience of Japanese guests who prefer their own mode of décor while desiring the prestige of staying at the Miyako, or of those foreign travellers who yearn after authentic atmosphere yet are disinclined to endure the unheated rigors of a real Japanese inn, the Miyako maintains some suites decorated in the traditional manner, and it was in one of these that Brando had chosen to settle himself. His quarters consisted of two rooms, a bath, and a glassed-in sun porch. Without the overlying and underlying clutter of Brando's personal belongings, the rooms would have been textbook illustrations of the Japanese penchant for an ostentatious barrenness. The floors were covered with tawny tatami matting, with a discreet scattering of raw-silk pillows; a scroll depicting swimming golden carp hung in an alcove, and beneath it, on a stand, sat a vase filled with tall lilies and red leaves, arranged just so. The larger of the two rooms—the inner one—which the occupant was using as a sort of business office where he also dined and slept, contained a long, low lacquer table and a sleeping pallet. In these rooms, the divergent concepts of Japanese and Western decoration—the one seeking to impress by a lack of display, an absence of possession-exhibiting, the other intent on precisely the reverse—could both be observed, for Brando seemed unwilling to make use of the apartment's storage space, concealed behind sliding paper doors. All that he owned seemed to be out in the open. Shirts, ready for the laundry; socks, too; shoes and sweaters and jackets and hats and ties, flung around like the costume of a dismantled scarecrow. And cameras, a typewriter, a tape recorder, an electric heater that performed with stifling competence. Here, there, pieces of partly nibbled fruit; a box of the famous Japanese strawberries, each berry the size of an egg. And books, a deep-thought cascade, among which one saw Colin Wilson's "The Outsider" and various works on Buddhist prayer, Zen meditation, Yogi breathing, and Hindu mysticism, but no fiction, for Brando reads none. He has never, he professes, opened a novel since April 3, 1924, the day he was born, in Omaha, Nebraska. But while he may not care to read fiction, he does desire to write it, and the long lacquer table was loaded with overfilled ashtrays and piled pages of his most recent creative effort, which happens to be a film script entitled "A Burst of Vermilion.”