In anticipation of our upcoming interview with writer-producer-director Whit Stillman(!), check out the “Five Essential Books For the Bass Weejun Set” that he compiled for Salon.com in 2000. Of particular note is number three, Leo Tolstoy’s Childhood, Boyhood, Youth. Stillman writes,
Tolstoy’s autobiographical first fiction beautifully chronicles the mysterious past of earliest memories, how we are loved or not and struggle to gain acceptance socially without making too miserable fools of ourselves — life “comme il faut.” An actual count, which in his day was considered nearly as good as becoming a member of Skull and Bones, Tolstoy dated widely in his youth and then became the protagonist of his own religion — fascinating stuff for hymn-addled ex-Calvinists.
Note: I’m currently making my way through Tolstoy’s Resurrection – also highly recommended.
2. And then there’s the lengthy interview he did with Psychology Today back in 1998. Read the whole thing if you have time, as it pays dividends. For our purposes, the most pertinent section might be:
PT: In your film [The Last Days Of Disco], among the characters who are psychologically interesting without being cases, none is more compelling than Charlotte. She’s lovely on the outside, not so lovely on the inside. She is everyone’s worst nightmare of a female or of a friend, saying things under the guise of friendship that really, truly undermine a person.
WS: In a way, it’s also a critique of the idea that if people recognize a bad trait or problem behavior in themselves and are aware of it and talk about it and apologize for it, then they have solved the problem. In fact, Charlotte is always very aware of her downside and confesses to it, and yet she does not change at all. It’s the idea that talking about things corrects them–when it doesn’t. Being aware of some problem or some bad behavior doesn’t correct that bad behavior.
3. If that’s not enough to whet your appetite, take a listen to one of the Stillman-inspired disco re-edits from JAZ’s I Played Sports, “Weejun Dancer”: