This wild escapism is what I love about silent movies. They are images that broke free, first from stillness and then from their creators…But before silent movies could be tamed, they were impulsive and unpredictable, and it is no surprise that these loosely connected images often left early audiences confused. It was hard to tell who was who and why that man was hitting the other with a shovel.
The above excerpt is from the author’s introduction to ALL MOVIES LOVE THE MOON (Rose Metal Press, 2014).
WHY READ IT? (Spoiler Alert: I am going to quote one of the more revealing lines in the book. It will definitely be nudging you towards viewing the book through a certain lens. ) The most important measure of a book or story’s success is whether and to what extent it rewards re-reading. I can confirm that I have re-read ALL MOVIES LOVE THE MOON several times now and learned and felt more each time.
BUT there is no way around it, and I think Gregory Robinson would gamely agree that the silent movies that have inspired the prose poems in ALL MOVIES LOVE THE MOON are obscure and would seem hokey to many of us. But you do not need to love or even ever watch (though you’ll want to, which is a great achievement on Robinson’s part) silent movies in order to love what Robinson has done with ALL MOVIES LOVE THE MOON and its prose poems. Because the Silent Movie era and its foreignness might seem a hard sell, it is worth picking out a few central themes in ALL MOVIES LOVE THE MOON that most of us can relate to, both figuratively and literally. I will borrow a reference to the textual accompaniment to early films and enumerate several thematic “title cards” to explain what is so admirable about this beautifully written and designed book. Title Card 1) Any particular great love — no matter how obscure or peculiar on its face or seemingly unfamiliar to us — when rightly considered and long pondered will connect up with universal themes. Title Card 2) We could not exist without our parents (movies), and they could not have existed without their parents/our grandparents (silent movies). Title Card 3) We often like to feel smarter than our grandparents and parents and all those who have gone before, so we forget that they too were young once and free and not always merely our parents and grandparents straitjacketed in more or less endearingly antique and benighted ways.
So if my understanding of what Gregory Robinson is pointing towards is correct then the following lines from the tragically-named “He Who Gets Slapped (1924)” is very near the beating heart of this collection:
Stop throwing rocks at your cousins, my grandmother said. Traveling from beyond the grave, having only seconds to whisper something profound in my ear, this was the best she could do.
These lines are a microcosm of ALL MOVIES LOVE THE MOON’S observations on the glories and limitations of our movie and storytelling origins, rendered in tones at times elegaic, a bit mocking and cynical, conscious of absurdity and the certitude of ultimate failure, funny, and yet embracing life in spite of all.
Caveat: While Gregory Robinson leavens the introductory material, the interstitial material, and the prose poems themselves with many real laughs, it is not a good idea to try the devour the book in one sitting. These prose poems are rich and are best consumed three or four at a time. And despite his gentle asseveration to the contrary, you will learn a great deal about early movie history from Robinson’s extensive scholarship.
Other Movie-Themed Suggested Reads: DOUBLE FEATURE by Owen King; THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET and WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick; ADAPTATIONS: FROM SHORT STORY TO BIG SCREEN: 35 GREAT STORIES THAT HAVE INSPIRED GREAT FILMS by Stephanie Harrison.