December 20, 1998

By Mark Lindquist

By Ethan Coen

Ethan Coen and his brother, Joel, have made some of the more interesting movies of the last two decades: ”Blood Simple,” ”Raising Arizona,” ”Barton Fink” and ”Fargo.” Ethan Coen writes and Joel Coen directs. And while Ethan Coen isn’t quite as stylish with language as his brother is with a camera, he does have a distinctive voice and an offbeat worldview, both of which come through with varying degrees of success in his first collection of stories. ”Have You Ever Been to Electric Ladyland” is a brilliant monologue by a record executive trying to figure out who had a motive to castrate his dog. But ”Johnnie Ga-Botz,” composed of nothing but dialogue and stage directions, is the sort of exercise that talented, undisciplined creative writing students pound out at 3 A.M. The title story is a good example of what the Coen brothers are known for: a leap into an off-kilter yet fully imagined world in which a bureaucrat with the California Department of Weights and Measures thinks and acts like a hard-boiled detective. All of these stories take place in Coen Brothers Land, a parallel universe similar to our own — except it’s weirder, funnier and better edited.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.