Prolific novelist Charyn (The Green Lantern, 2005, etc.) meditates on the life and work thus far of the controversial film auteur.
A motor-mouthed goofball, Quentin Tarantino mythologized his childhood, spinning tales of a half-Native-American hippie mother and vagabond existence. Charyn gets the real story from Mama Tarantino herself. Raised in a Los Angeles suburb as much by television and comic books as by his young, single mother, the boy was unfocused in school and dropped out at age 16. He found his Xanadu working at the now-storied Video Archives in Manhattan Beach. The “Archive Dogs,” over whom Tarantino ruled, created a makeshift film school, watching and discussing movies near-constantly. Here, Tarantino penned his breakthrough film, Reservoir Dogs, and met Roger Avary, with whom he would later share the Oscar for their Pulp Fiction screenplay. Charyn briefly chronicles these auspicious beginnings, combining biography with three streams of tangents: responses to critics’ readings of Tarantino’s work; his own readings, complete with scene analyses; and background (sprinkled with pop psychology) on Tarantino’s posse of collaborators. He sticks with this unfocused formula to explore Pulp Fiction’s runaway success and Tarantino’s subsequent three films, ending with musings on his subject’s past and future. The book is spotty and tries to be too many things at once. Still, Charyn, who teaches film part-time at the American University in Paris, has strong ideas, particularly about Tarantino’s conflation of humor and violence, and about the void that, paradoxically, forms the core of his not-so-empty cinema. Charyn successfully depicts Tarantino as a multifaceted character: an actor who has written his own perpetual role as a film director; the reincarnation of Orson Welles, with additional media savvy; a baby in a giant’s body; and an egotistical artist in possession of an odd sort of brilliance.
The author vacillates between theory-lite, barstool pontification and biography—but his book is sure to delight hardcore fans, students of Postmodern Cinema and the subject himself.