The Breakfast Table

Say Goodnight, Gracie

Dear Marjorie,

Well, I guess this is a wrap. A few items of unfinished business:

1.) You were wrong not to go see Saving Private Ryan with me. It’s a great movie, and I’m taking you when I go see it again (not soon, though). I sobbed uncontrollably at the end. I can remember choking back tears at the end of movies before, but not sobbing uncontrollably, and certainly not unashamedly, as I did today.

2.) Adam Minter writes to tell me that before I dump on all contemporary foreign flicks, I should check out the films of Iranian director Abbas Kirostami, whom Martin Scorsese (Minter says) has called “the best, most inventive, narrative director to emerge in thirty years.” Okay, okay, we’ll rent them–apparently Where is My Friend’s House and Through the Olive Trees can be found at the more rarefied video stores.

3.) Two people have written to point out that our parlor game about not having read Ulysses is almost identical to a game played in David Lodge’s Changing Places. I haven’t read that, either. (I did read one of his books, but I can’t remember what it was called. Something to do with British academics. I know that isn’t much help.)

4.) Two more people who haven’t read Ulysses: Slate’s David Edelstein, who takes over the Breakfast Table next week (and who tells me he’s on page 35 right now); and Tom Ricks, the Wall Street Journal Pentagon correspondent and author of Making the Corps, which we plugged a few days ago. Ricks fessed up today, thinking I’d made my last Breakfast Table posting. Guess again, Tom.

5.) I somehow forgot, during these three weeks, to plug my dad’s novel, The Man Who Stole the Mona Lisa. It’s about the 1911 theft of La Giaconda from the Louvre. Available in bookstores now! My dad’s name is Robert Noah, the publisher is St. Martin’s, and the book is really good.

6.) And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. I phoned Ann Godoff’s office yet again today, this time got her answering machine, and pleaded with her to e-mail or phone me to say whether she’s read Ulysses, a novel that Random House–which she runs–first brought to these shores, and has now designated the greatest work of fiction in the English language of this century.

She did not respond. We can only conclude she hasn’t read it. So the prize–Mike Kinsley’s unread paperback copy–will be sent to her. If it turns out she has read it she can read it again.

I’ve enjoyed doing Breakfast Table with you, too, but it will be nice to get our privacy (and our Cheerios) back, don’t you think?

Love Always,