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As we near the one-year mark of The Friends of Allan Renner’s initial release, almost all of the press related to the novel has been taken care of for the foreseeable future. I’ve genuinely enjoyed reading most of what people have had to say; a couple of dissenters were inevitable—it’s not a book for everyone—but the reviews to date have been largely positive.

But more to the point, while the book can be perceived from several different vectors of understanding, I feel that a good amount of ground has been covered by those who’ve taken the plunge during these first twelve months. In significant ways, these various takes have informed others’ views of the book, as well as my own, and for the better! So there’s something to feel thankful for.

Several weeks ago, I had what may well be my most fruitful (but also concise) one-on-one interaction with the press to date, in a Feathered Quill interview with reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott. It can be read here, and is worth your time if you’re at all sympathetic to the kind of art I like and like to make.

Last week saw a rundown of The Friends of Allan Renner from Tucker Lieberman of Independent Book Review, which can be read here. I especially like the following quote from it:

As the film audition points out, the meaning of a story is profoundly affected by the actor who interprets it. Indirectly, the reader of The Friends of Allan Renner is prompted to consider that these fictional events could have been told in various emotive voices for different purposes. It so happens that Andrae, the novelist, animates this story with a light, absurdist touch and wry detachment.

A little while back, voracious reader, reviewer, and author himself Matt McAvoy gave an honest take on the book here, from which the following kind words were taken:

An easygoing read, which actually felt a fair bit shorter than its lengthy word count. […] It is at times laugh-out-loud funny (imagine a stoner web designer going on the rampage with a mace) and at other times heartbreakingly poignant; Andrae is a tremendous author, who manages to pull off all of these different styles and moods. 

Also hailing from the UK, reviewer Charlotte Walker penned a nice little review of the book for the site LoveReading here, saying, among other things:

With references throughout the story to a ‘fateful day in 2017’ the plot strolls on, creating intrigue as you try to work out what’s going to happen to Allan. There are elements of science fiction but I think that this book demonstrates most strongly the bonds made by and between people. […] An innovative concept that I feel has been well executed and makes for an interesting read.

And in a review for Readers’ Favorite, which can be read here, critic K.C. Finn wrote:

Author Dave J. Andrae has crafted a most engrossing work of fiction that masterfully balances the surreal and the real, the sublime and the ridiculous, to deliver a humorous but poignant look at the meaning of modern life.

All in all I really do appreciate people taking the time to delve into it and offer their own perspectives. Any book bloggers or reviewers who’d like to do so going forward shouldn’t hesitate to visit my official my website here and get in touch.

Another project is underway, and it’s hard to tell if or when it’ll see the light of day. But in the meantime, have a swell rest of the year as we move toward 2022.

 

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A quick requiescat in pace goes out to the one and only Jean-Paul Belmondo, former boxer, famed French actor who died this week aged 88. Belmondo rose to prominence in the late fifties opposite Jean Seberg as the hangdog gangster in Godard’s debut feature, Breathless, perhaps his most well known role to this day. But this breakout hit overshadowed at least a couple of other noteworthy early appearances, namely his role in Claude Sautet’s underseen Classe Tous Risques (a favorite of Jean-Pierre Melville, and for good reason) and a smaller but well played part in Marcel Carné’s Les Tricheurs, which is sorely in need of a reissue.

Early on, for his troubles, Belmondo earned comparisons to Bogart, though he was more of an athletic performer, a quality that would pair well with the more overtly action movie parts he’d take on in the seventies and eighties. But in the meantime he would act in a couple more Godard films, the prismatic musical romp, A Woman is a Woman, and the sardonic doomed-lovers-on-the-run effort, Pierrot Le Fou, both of which left a big mark on film culture and me personally. Among his many other credits he also worked with Resnais and Truffaut. Though Belmondo and Melville ended up having a falling out over one of the few unmistakable duds in Melville’s oeuvre, Magnet of Doom (only worth the bother after you’ve seen everything else), the actor and director worked on Leon Morin, Priest and Le Doulos, both of which are essential viewing.

Earlier this year I watched and then wrote a review of Henri Veneuil’s Fear Over the City, a movie worth watching for Belmondo’s death-defying stunts alone, and I was absent-mindedly wondering what he’d been up to. He was always a talented and charismatic actor, something of a swashbuckling ladies man at times, with the bravado that implies, but never one to phone it in. He will be missed.

yaphetkotto

A quick shout out goes to storied actor Yaphet Kotto, who passed away yesterday at age 81. Kotto made dozens of notable film, television, and stage appearances over several decades, the most widely known likely being his roles in Alien and the James Bond film Live and Let Die. For me his most enduring character (of the ones I’ve caught) was as Baltimore police lieutenant Al “Gee” Giardello in the nineties ensemble drama, Homicide: Life on the Street, described at the time as “the best damn show on television,” and for good reason. Kotto had so many worthwhile quips and performances in this show that it’s hard to single out any one of them. With an imposing physical presence and a disposition that could range from happy-hour affable to angry beyond words, he was the leader of the crack team of detectives who eked out a living doing the thankless task of solving murders in an underfunded, crime-and-corruption-ridden city. H:LotS was an early influence on my dramatic sensibilities, at least a few years before I’d get to see films by the likes of Cassavetes and other notable “actor’s directors” such as Bergman and Fassbinder. The show’s creators and players were unusually skilled at crafting and then bringing to life idiosyncratic but believable dialog, especially during moments of the detectives’ downtime. Kotto brought it, for seven seasons, and the show wouldn’t have been the same without him. And among the many other credits in his filmography, he had a supporting role in Malcolm X’s favorite movie, Nothing But A Man, and a hilarious role as himself, a distinguished black actor failing to flag down a cab (while a white ex-con had no problem!), in the pilot episode of Michael Moore’s show TV Nation. He will be missed.

The first several book reviews for The Friends of Allan Renner are in, and given that they’re largely complimentary and provide keen insights into the source material, I’ve decided to ring in 2021 here by sharing excerpts of a handful of them, with links to the larger articles and websites.

Writing for Midwest Book Review as well as for her excellent book blog, Donovan’s Bookshelf, senior reviewer for the former publication, Diane Donovan, had this to say:

Like the film community it explores, the pace of this story is provided in staccato impressions with segues that link characters, events, and changing circumstances in a satisfying cinematic-style experience. […] While in many ways the main character is a mirror of his creator, Dave J. Andrae, the story is narrated from the changing perspectives of not only Renner but eight of Allan’s friends. This makes for an astute observation of the evolution of Allan’s life and psyche, both from the protagonist’s viewpoint and those around him.

Writing for Self-Publishing Review, critic John Staughton added:

Knowing that Allan Renner isn’t a direct proxy for the author is also enjoyable; this is a fictional memoir of sorts, which leaves room for stories to get a bit out of hand, with high stakes and plot lines that teeter past the edge of believability. However, despite the fictional nature of the prose, the author cleverly makes us forget that this isn’t a true story. The interactions feel too visceral, like real-life conversations overheard in a bar that make us lean back to listen in.

A critic for Kirkus Reviews noted:

In Andrae’s novel, Renner’s relationships take him to some disparate places. After all, his friends are not just a diverse mix, they also have their own complex, engaging background stories. Whether Renner is having a crossbow pointed at him after talking about films or waiting for a potentially dangerous convict to audition for a part in a movie, the sympathetic hero, no matter how kind and good-natured he may be, has the potential to land in some sticky situations.

In a review penned for Online Book Club, critic Sam Ibeh said:

While reading this book, I felt like I was sailing through a quiet river at night. I found the storyline unique and exciting, and it gave me a “quiet thrill.” It had a depth and meaning that appealed to me, and it made me think about some of the moral and ethical issues in our world. I also pondered on the effect of these issues in the grand scheme of things. […] I admire the author’s writing style; it showed creativity and intellect. He employed an understated wit and humor in his writing. The book had a warm, personable feel that put me at ease while reading it.

And in recent review for Bestsellers World, critic Lisa Brown-Gilbert wrote:

Dave J. Andrae’s The Friends of Allan Renner proposes an intelligent exploration of life through a multi-level, multiperspectival narrative which comes by virtue of Allan Renner’s encounters and discourse with his eclectic assortment of friends. […] This book is definitively an offering of food for thought, brimming with revelations about life and people in general. This is a narrative that is provocative in its ideals and shines through its characters, their thoughts, actions and personalities during their congregations with central character Allan Renner often giving a story within a story as their backstories are also very revealing about human nature.

I gotta say, given what unusual times we’re living in, it’s reassuring whenever a stranger delves into a project like this and is able to tap into what it has to offer. Color me appreciative. I welcome more readers, professional and non-professional alike, to take the plunge and share their impressions.

thefriendsofallanrenner

The day is finally here: my debut novel, The Friends of Allan Renner, has been released! You can purchase the hardcover version on Amazon HERE at any time. You can learn more as to what the book is about, as well as purchase it in one of three different eBook formats (MOBI, EPUB, or PDF), by visiting the page dedicated to it on my website, https://www.dave-andrae.com/book.html. When more formal reviews trickle in toward the end of the year, that’s where they’ll be posted.

A lot could be said about this particular book, if one were so inclined. From the standpoint of its creation, I can say that it required more work of me than any other project I’ve been involved in, and if you don’t know me that well, I’ve been involved in more than a few productions that were “the gift that kept on giving” where personal investment was concerned.

But I’m of the school that a person should work hard on something only to make it more enjoyable for those that might behold it. I put a huge premium here on crafting a book that would flow well, be exciting to read, and not be too bloated. To me, there’s a quiet thrill in putting something together and finding out it has its own momentum and internal logic, its own style and dynamics. In this book, a good amount happens, and the stakes sometimes get quite high, but just as much attention is paid to exposition and humorous asides as to plotting. The Friends of Allan Renner is a character-driven, mixed genre novel that incorporates multiple perspectives, in which each of its seven chapters functions as a kind of “mini book” that relates somewhat to all of the others.

Though it was quite the demanding undertaking and often kept me up at night, overall, I enjoyed writing The Friends of Allan Renner and consider it one of the most fleshed out things I’ve made in any medium. I hope you can get around to delving into it, if you’ve enjoyed my art in the past, or hell, even if you haven’t, as it rewards a closer look.

stackofbooks

With my first novel due out in November, the book-related quote I’ve had on my mind most as of late is not from Virginia Woolf or Kafka or Cheever or anyone whose writerly words of wisdom are likely to be found on the excellent website Lit Hub.

Instead I’ve been thinking of this quote from the late stand-up comedian Mitch Hedberg:

Every book is a children’s book if the kid can read.

plone-puzzlewood

Clearly I’ve been “in the tunnel” too long, because it somehow escaped my attention that a new Plone album was released this year. And what’s more, it’s really good! Entitled Puzzlewood, it’s a welcome return to form for the British synth-oriented musical concern, who hadn’t officially released music since the nineties. A number of once-defunct bands from the nineties and early aughts have gotten back together somewhat recently and taken another stab at things, but a new album of candy-colored electro exotica from Plone takes the cake as far as things I didn’t think I’d ever hear. Am glad they gave it another go.

tenyearsold

This corner of the internet–Dave J. Andrae’s “Blog”–is now ten years old. A lot can happen in ten years, and a lot can not happen in ten years.

Here is the view out the window ten years ago:

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And here is the same view now:

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(The house was repainted, and we put new palm trees in place of the dying ones, among other things.)

My first post here occurred after Robert on his Lunch Break was cut together and I’d begun submitting it to festivals. At that point I only had an inkling as to how difficult it would be to get it shown outside my tiny social circle, in front of the sort of audiences who might value such a thing. Being couched in youthful idealism still, and also being more than a little naive about the ways of the world, I didn’t quite understand what a tough proposition it would be for mass audiences, or even the supposedly liberated ones who might flock to independent and “experimental” film showcases. Even recently, when I watched Robert on his Lunch Break for the first time in ages before writing a review of it, the movie didn’t fully click and I had to watch it again the next day to really lock into it. So I guess now it makes perfect sense to me that this particular creative vision, and even a much more palatable effort like The Plants Are Listening are too obscure in stature and sensibilities to gain much traction in the world. That won’t stop me from keeping most of my films available on Vimeo for anyone who wants to see them, for the indefinite future.

But at some point during these protracted attempts to find larger audiences for these works, it dawned on me that I only have so much patience for shepherding, that the pleasure of working on something and then beholding the finished piece once the dust has settled far outweighs the more tedious (and let’s face it, often times demeaning) side of promoting it. I’ve known a lot of other artists who are in the same boat. At some point people like us have to be content with having made something we like, if we’re lucky, and letting the chips fall where they may. Recent events, namely the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the drip, drip, drip of climate change hanging over all of us, have had the effect of rendering somewhat hollow one’s lofty artistic ambitions.

But while we’re here, we’re here. We might as well try to enjoy ourselves and take on the occasional creative challenge, if we can. At the moment I’m deep into my debut novel, as you can see here:

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I have only one chapter left to write before sending it off to a line editor, but the coronavirus and the deluge of bad news in the wake of it have made it difficult to concentrate, even while practicing social distancing and having somewhat minimal responsibilities. Eventually though, if all goes well, the novel will be released in hardcover and eBook. You can expect a work of fiction with a lot more “action” than most of my films, but the usual amount of humor and wit in places.

I was originally tempted to do a rundown of this “blog” and delve into some of its stats and most popular posts and so on, but I think I’ll just let all of that stand as it is. At some point not long after starting to post here, I realized that the general tone here would be a bit more dry and congenial and not as potentially goofy or ardent as it might be for my posting elsewhere on the internet. This might make it seem like my life is more orderly, serene, and free of conflict than it is. Also, it should be noted, this page used to look pretty damn nice as is, but now, without AdBlock it’s an eyesore (Thanks, WordPress!). And you might have noticed by now that I’ve largely stayed away from addressing politics and current events here. The reason being, these things take up a lot of space just about everywhere else on the internet and the bent of this “blog” is mostly tailored for cinephiles, personal friends, and general art enthusiasts.

Kaji bids you “Good day.”

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Here’s to another ten.

maxvonsydow

Legendary Swedish actor Max von Sydow died in his sleep, at age 90. He was the real deal, with a career spanning seven decades; a not-so-secret weapon in Ingmar Bergman’s stable of actors who found success acting in mainstream Hollywood films as well as the European “arthouse” fare he built his name on. The headlines of many eulogies today have made mention of his roles in The Seventh Seal and The Exorcist, but my favorite von Sydow role (of the ones I’ve managed to see thus far) is his part as Karl Oskar in Jan Troell’s must-see double feature, The Emigrants and The New Land. Von Sydow and Liv Ulmann had acted in some Bergman films together, so when it came time to work on this pair of Troell films, they had their on-screen chemistry locked down. Aided in no small part by Troell’s expert-level directing and cinematography, as well as the fertile source material, The Emigrants and The New Land are the most accurate depictions of emigrant and colonial American life I’ve yet to see. I know he acted in all kinds of films, from the brilliant Winter Light (Bergman’s best, in my book) to the likes of Flash Gordon and Minority Report. But these two Troell efforts reaffirm why cinema is even worth bothering with in the first place—Max von Sydow’s nuanced acting, in which micro-expressions could speak volumes, and less was often more, has a lot to do with why they still hold up. Rest in peace.

A fortune cookie I ate recently had this to say:

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