IN CELEBRATED COMPANY—the likes of actress Isabella Rossellini, sound designer Alan Splet, and composer Angelo Badalamenti—author Barry Gifford stands tall as one of director David Lynch's greatest collaborators. Gifford's novel Wild at Heart, with indelible protagonists Sailor Ripley and Lula Fortune, inspired Lynch's 1990 adaptation, filled as it is with sex, menace, and Wizard of Oz-flecked insanity. The pair followed that success by co-writing 1997's Lost Highway, a film noir of confounding beauty, inky unease, and demonic mystery men.
This week we get a double dose of Gifford's many talents. Saturday there's a 35mm screening of Wild at Heart and a Q&A with the author at the Hollywood. Never miss an opportunity to see Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage vamp their way through tempestuous love, Willem Dafoe's creepfest as yuck-mouthed Bobby Peru, and half the cast of Twin Peaks making the proceedings even weirder on top.
On Friday, Gifford reads from his new book, Writers, at Powell's. Forgoing the honey-drenched back-and-forth of Sailor and Lula, Gifford's slim new book is a collection of short plays, starring famous writers acting up. Ernest Hemingway gets blitzed with baseball players in Cuba. Jane Bowles carouses at a hotel bar in New York. John Huston faces off with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre author B. Traven. It's a cheeky collection of vignettes, but really it's an amuse-bouche in Gifford's vast body of work, which covers ground as varied as poetry, nonfiction, and my favorite, a funny, off-the-cuff collection of short essays on film noir, The Devil Thumbs a Ride.
In Writers, as in all of his Sailor and Lula books, the dialogue snaps like a firecracker. It's surprising and sharp, whether it's Sailor mulling over Proust in Wild at Heart—"The French guy bit into a cookie and a whole flood of things he remembered filled up his brain"—or Gifford's version of Proust's sickbed thoughts in Writers: "I'm barely able to breathe and here I am mincing my words... regarding anal intercourse." Gifford's gritty characters are always a pleasure to listen to.
by Barry Gifford
(Seven Stories Press)
In conversation with Willy Vlautin, Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside, Fri March 25, 7:30 pm
Wild at Heart
Gifford in attendance, Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy, Sat March 26, 7 pm, $9