Listen Up Readers: Five Must Reads from Director Alex Ross Perry


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Listen Up Readers: Five Must Reads from Director Alex Ross Perry

The director of the literary-minded Listen Up Philip (starting Friday, October 24 at TIFF Bell Lightbox!) offers up his suggested reading list.

Listen Up Philip writer-director Alex Ross Perry provides a further reading list

A brilliantly caustic comedy about an ambitious young novelist’s friendship with a literary icon and both men’s toxic relationships with the women in their lives, Listen Up Philip (starts this Friday, October 24 at TIFF Bell Lightbox!) is a movie with an unabashedly bookish sensibility. (The voiceover narration by Eric Bogosian is one of many great touches, as are the phony vintage book covers by designer Teddy Blanks.

It’s no surprise to learn that its 30-year-old creator Alex Ross Perry – whose erudite second feature The Color Wheel sparked a flurry of Philip Roth comparisons – is a well-read guy in addition to being an ardent cinephile. When asked about the books and movies that inspired and influenced Listen Up Philip, he obliged with this list of essential reading and viewing. This post features Perry's suggested reading list  – look out for his list of must-see films soon. -- Jason Anderson

1. Zuckerman Unbound by Philip Roth

"The Zuckerman novels are probably the ur-text of Listen Up Philip. I hadn’t read them in perhaps four years when I started writing but the lessons they have taught me, the narrative tricks and solutions are so much a part of me now that I could probably write a film set in outer space and Roth experts would notice his DNA all over it. If two percent of the people who ever see Listen Up Philip go out and pick up the Zuckerman Bound edition, containing this, The Ghost WriterThe Anatomy Lesson and The Prague Orgy, then all my yammering and homage paying will be worth it.

This novel’s depiction of a young writer in the throes of transition is so perfect to me, so steeped in misery and humor and inner conflict and outside forces, that even though I have never and will never write a novel, I felt it was written just for me when I first read it."

2. Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates 

"A tender, emotional, sad, heartbreaking and formally inspirational narrative written by a man who, by all accounts, was an angry, difficult drunk. But nevertheless, one of the finest writers of the 20th century. Yates’ personality is sort of inspirational for the way Ike [played on screen by Jason Schwartzman] acts as well. This novel shifts perspectives to tell the story of a marriage, moving through the years from the wife to the husband and back again, letting one another drift in and out of each other’s narratives. Really though, the novel is just simple, amazing writing. Perfect prose, remarkable decisions, just firing on all cylinders."

3. The Recognitions by William Gaddis 

"This is the novel that made me feel emboldened to let a character disappear and use the absence to focus on the effect his presence has on people. Written and set in the New York artistic milieu of the mid-‘50s, reading it in 2011 I felt it could have been about the present. Nothing in it has changed and I was deeply inspired by the way people treat one another, they way they react to newfound success and what that does to the individual in question. I came to this book because of Jonathan Franzen’s essay “Mr. Difficult” in his collection How To Be Alone."

4 and 5. The Discomfort Zone and How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen

"Both are indispensible when it comes to understanding the mentality of a smart, serious writer who values and respects their craft above all else. The essays of How to Be Alone cover a wide range of topics, but never stray from Franzen’s interest and desire to focus on nothing else but writing and self-preservation. I wanted Philip [played by Jonathan Pryce] to share these traits. Jason listened to these both as audiobooks, which Franzen himself reads. 

The Discomfort Zone frames the same ideas and themes as memoir, and approaches what Franzen does so well, this time with himself as a central figure. He is a deeply inspirational figure, not just because his actual writing is so incredible but because he takes the time to reason and work through and understand what it is about writing and reading that draws him in. That level of self-analysis and introspection is something that I wanted to explore as being key to the lives of writers."

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