Recently by Colin Fleming:

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The stand-alone popularity amongst Star Wars films of The Empire Strikes Back has always put me in mind of that old line of eight out of 10 dentists preferring one type of toothpaste over another. Empire, which is marking the 35th anniversary of its national release on May 21, is routinely cited as the ne plus ultra of the series. If someone tells you they prefer the original picture, A New Hope, you tend to think they’re a bit of a fuddy-duddy, fond of retro serials, while the Return of the Jedi adherents probably like stuffed animals too much, and prequel fans are trying to hard to be different, or are else very young.

Cards out: I’m one of those people who think the first film is easily the best, the one Star Wars film that could exist without any of the others, made with that same daring and innocence that can make first novels so appealing. But as a kid, when I played with my action figures, it was Empire I was thinking about, perhaps because it does the most to move the overall narrative along, with some real plot humdingers, aspects that, as you get older, you realize contain some pretty creepy, downbeat stuff.
More… “The Enduring Empire

Colin Fleming writes on art, literature, film, rock, jazz, classical music, and sports for Rolling Stone, JazzTimes, The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and a number of other publications. His fiction has recently appeared in AGNI, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Commentary, and Post Road, and he’s the author of The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss (Dzanc), and is writing a memoir, Many Moments More: A Story About the Art of Endurance, and a novel about a reluctant piano genius, age seven or eight, called The Freeze Tag Sessions. He’s a regular contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition. His tattered, on-the-mend website is colinfleminglit.com, and he highly recommends reading The Smart Set daily, along with ten mile coastal walks and lots of Keats and hockey for the soul.
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The writing guru William Zinser once said words to the effect that if you wish to write long sentences, you best be a genius, the movie version equivalent of which is, probably, if you want to do long takes, be Orson Welles.

There wasn’t a shot Welles thought he couldn’t get, and it didn’t matter if we’re talking the artistic majesty of Citizen Kane, or any of a number of the cheapjack efforts Welles, having fallen from Hollywood grace, spent the bulk of his life trying to cadge up funds to shoot.

With May 6 marking Welles’ centenary, Kane will get still more props as not only one of the two or three best pictures ever made, but the sole picture on which Welles had complete artistic control. He was 25 when he made it, a conqueror of Broadway, the radio, and now Hollywood, and after racing off to South America to shoot a war effort the next year and leaving his Magnificent Ambersons footage in the hands of others, Welles would essentially be kicked out of Camelot on account of the final result, with a reputation for not seeing projects through.
More… “Orson Welles’ Horrorshow”

Colin Fleming writes on art, literature, film, rock, jazz, classical music, and sports for Rolling Stone, JazzTimes, The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and a number of other publications. His fiction has recently appeared in AGNI, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Commentary, and Post Road, and he’s the author of The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss (Dzanc), and is writing a memoir, Many Moments More: A Story About the Art of Endurance, and a novel about a reluctant piano genius, age seven or eight, called The Freeze Tag Sessions. He’s a regular contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition. His tattered, on-the-mend website is colinfleminglit.com, and he highly recommends reading The Smart Set daily, along with ten mile coastal walks and lots of Keats and hockey for the soul.
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As David Brent put it in the original version of The Office, life is a series of peaks and troughs, but I think most of us, really, expect the Christmas season to grade out on the higher side of things, a spirit bumper even if the year that has just passed has not been a banner one. We tend to think that way if and until something occurs that we couldn’t foresee, that puts a sort of permanent crack in us that we’re forever trying to solder over, especially at the holidays.

Colin Fleming writes on art, literature, film, rock, jazz, classical music, and sports for Rolling Stone, JazzTimes, The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and a number of other publications. His fiction has recently appeared in AGNI, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Commentary, and Post Road, and he’s… More…

I harbor a host of dreams — “ambitions” seems too vulgar a word to me — that, were they to be realized, would crystalize in something very quiet, contained, at ease, and not especially splashy so far as dreams go, but indicative of a repast that comes with more obvious victories. There will be me in a house by a rocky, cliff-strewn shore. It will be two in the morning — or it always seems to be, in my daydreams of my dream — with low-level lighting as I sit up in a room not unlike one of those quaint old projecting structures at the top of early 19th-century homes where the women of the house gathered and looked seaward for the men of the house. I’ll have a dram of Laphroaig whisky atop the converted lobster trap table by my side, a set of Liszt Paganini études playing at… More…

Exactly twice in my life have I heard a work of music and thought, Wait, what? You can do that? That’s allowed? These internal queries tend to occur when we’re younger and possessed of a capacity for wonder that, alas, tends to lessen as we get older and pleasing puzzlement gives way to concerns of how best to organize one’s collection of downloaded music. Not so very romantic a notion. Then again, there’s nothing especially romantic about the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK,” a song that induced that questioning wonderment in me as I listened to Johnny Rotten bray a lyric that seemed like it could put its writer in jail. But as awesome as that sense of being in on something both illicit and epic was, it didn’t really compare to the first time I heard the fourteen-and-a-half minute version of “My Generation” from the Who’s Live at Leeds.

I had… More…

Clayton tunnel, the site of an 1861 crash

Ah, Father Christmas, here you are again sir, and what is that you have with you, tucked under your arm? Why, a volume of Dickens, of course. Always Dickens at Christmas, right? And, if you’ve not yet gone to a production of A Christmas Carol, I’d bet you’re going soon, or else you’re going to be watching one of the many versions that will be on television here in the run-up to that greatest of days for some, and the hardest of days for others. Treat yourself right and go with the ’51 Alastair Sim effort or venture out a bit, and gather the family ‘round for a Christmas reading unlike any other. And no, I’m not talking the Carol. I’m talking about Dickens’ “The Signal-Man,” Christmas literature for how the other half lives. Not the denizens of Scrooge’s beloved workhouses (well, Scrooge pre-epiphanies… More…

I am not sure if people still make a practice of listening to the radio in bed, late at night. This was always something, in times past, one endeavored to do in youth, especially as there was a sense of getting away with an act — albeit a harmless one — that had to be carried out so surreptitiously as to require darkness. And for the best nocturnal stealth listening, there were two sources that just couldn’t be beat: baseball games and horror radio programs.

Colin Fleming writes on art, literature, film, rock, jazz, classical music, and sports for Rolling Stone, JazzTimes, The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and a number of other publications. His fiction has recently appeared in AGNI, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Commentary, and Post Road, and he’s the author of The Anglerfish Comedy… More…

   

As a kid, I had what I thought of as two epic walks that I could take. The less frequent one was by far the longer of the two, although it never felt as such to me when I kitted myself out with a mini-frame backpack and set off into the woods behind our house for a two mile romp, pretending I was Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone come upon the latest jungle, with a baseball bat-like piece of wood wrapped in hockey tape at the base for a grip serving as my extemporized machete. I was not the coolest kid. But it was my other epic walk, which couldn’t have been more than a fifth of a mile, that always felt like the more Lewis and Clark-worthy trip, with so much of my future happiness… More…

When I was a kid, one of my greatest pleasures was staying up super late, when I thought everyone else was long in bed, reading Three Investigators books and getting spooked out of my mind in this easy-going, chummy kind of way. It was like I was in the company of good friends, and we were all in for some scares that we knew, collectively, we’d see our way through. I’d bargain with myself, saying, “okay, one more chapter, and then we really need to get to bed,” and on I’d read until two, three in the morning, always adding yet another chapter to my ongoing haggling until at last I gave in when I thought the sun was all set to find me out.

What appealed most to me, I now realize, was this idea of a compact between book and reader, like you were in on something together,… More…

   

When I first got into the Beatles — at the age of 14, blaring a cheap greatest hits tape on my Walkman as I cut the grass — there was this attendant, shady kind of metrics that went along with my thoughts about the band.

Not just my thoughts, I discovered, but the thoughts of anyone with whom you endeavored to have any kind of Beatles-based talk. Parents, a music teacher, the glazed over, vaguely stoned high school freshman down the street who had suburban street cred on account of the fact that he said he liked the Doors. For instance, you thought the Beatles, naturally, must have had scads of albums, more than you could ever find the time to listen to properly.

“Dude, they have like 200 records,” the Doors kid would… More…