Shelf Life

Celluloid city

Michael J. Pollard hawking papers in Copley Square in 'Between the Lines,' a 1977 drama about a Boston newspaper. Michael J. Pollard hawking papers in Copley Square in "Between the Lines," a 1977 drama about a Boston newspaper. (Silverfilm Productions)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Jan Gardner
April 27, 2008

Boston has long had a bumpy ride with Hollywood. From time to time, the city's Puritanism, unions, and bureaucrats have thwarted directors who wanted to film here. Currently the city has a rosy relationship with filmmakers, but critic Paul Sherman has been around long enough to expect that the good times won't last.

He catalogs those ups and downs in "Big Screen Boston: From 'Mystery Street' to 'The Departed' and Beyond" (Black Bars), out this week. The encyclopedia - packed with commentary and trivia - rates 250 movies (including the one shown below) on quality, locations, and Boston accents.

Among the most influential of the Boston films is "Billy in the Lowlands," made in 1979. Sherman considers it the forerunner of neighborhood movies like "Mystic River" and "The Departed." Another seminal movie is the 1987 documentary "Girltalk," an unflinching look at teenage runaways.

Both films will be screened at the Brattle Theatre this week to celebrate the book's publication. The party moves to the Museum of Fine Arts on Saturday for a screening of "Titicut Follies." Details at

Pinsky riffs

Former US poet laureate Robert Pinsky will take to the stage at the Berklee Performance Center on Saturday for a concert to support jazz programs in Boston public schools. Pinsky will jam with drummer Rakalam Bob Moses, using the spoken word as his medium. Earlier this year he performed with a jazz trio in New York. Details at

Words and remembrance

On Thursday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Back Pages Books in Waltham will sponsor a reading from a new edition of "Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust" (Time Being). Among the seven poets appearing is Charles Ades Fishman, editor of the anthology and formerly a consultant to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The store's third anniversary, earlier this month, was bittersweet for owner Alex Green, a 2004 graduate of Brandeis University. The shop, at 289 Moody St., is in danger of shutting down, and Green has launched a campaign to save it. Details at

Culture klatch

Also on Thursday, Agni magazine will host "Fiction and Possibility," a reading and discussion with Lawrence Weschler, an American cultural reporter who has written extensively on Poland, and Magdalena Tulli, a Polish writer.

Agni senior editor William Pierce describes the pairing: "Both excavate the usually submerged rhythms of culture, art, and political economics, and both explore ways of looking and telling: Weschler teaches an NYU class on the 'fiction of nonfiction,' and Tulli's novels capriciously invent time and space as they move forward, in a way that both is and is not metafictional." Details at

Coming out

"Einstein and Oppenheimer: The Meaning of Genius," by Silvan S. Schweber (Harvard University)

"Of Men and Their Mothers," by Mameve Medwed (Morrow)

"Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind," by Gary Marcus (Houghton Mifflin)

Pick of the week

David Lampe-Wilson of Mystery on Main Street, in Brattleboro, Vt., recommends "Blood Alley," by Tom Coffey (Toby): "Patrick Grimes, a rewrite man at The New York Examiner, convinced that the police have arrested the wrong man in the slaying of a socialite, hits the streets to unearth the real killer. Coffey's beautifully constructed novel has stiletto-sharp prose and a heart of steel."

Jan Gardner can be reached at

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