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What are Elliott Gould and Jules Feiffer reading?

June 22, 2009 | 12:12 pm

Last night, actor Elliott Gould joined cartoonist Jules Feiffer at a Los Angeles screening of "Little Murders," the 1971 film produced by and starring the former and written by the latter. If this were a film blog, I'd tell you all about the movie, which was funny, dark, anti-violence and strikingly uncomfortable in parts. I'd tell you about how Gould had, at one point, wanted Jean-Luc Godard to direct it, and his conversations with the French master (Alan Arkin directed, instead). I'd have asked Feiffer a question about another movie he wrote, "Carnal Knowledge." But it isn't a film blog; it's a book blog.

After the screening -- at the modest Cinefamily, which has recently been doing phenomenal programming -- Feiffer signed his books on a back patio. Fantagraphics has reissued several, including the comic collections "The Explainers" and "Passionella" and the novel "Harry, the Rat With Women." During the Q&A, Feiffer -- a successful cartoonist, screenwriter and playwright had claimed not to have been able to master the novel form "because I couldn't describe anything," he said. "That's why my cartoons have no backgrounds."

Novels aside, Feiffer, who has won an Obies for his playwrighting, an Oscar for an animated short, a Pulitzer Prize for his cartooning and accolades for his childrens books, has certainly mastered many other forms. He seems decades younger than his 80 years and probably would have answered questions longer if they'd let him.

So what is Feiffer reading? "Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920," by Jackson Lears.

As for Gould, he's just finished "City of Thieves" by David Benioff. "I loved it. I think the guy's great," he said. Gould likes to keep up with the books his daughter reads -- she studied literature at the University of Vermont. He particularly liked "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay," because, he said, he recognized in one of its characters "my inability -- unwillingness -- to compromise."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Elliott Gould and Jules Feiffer. Credit: paperhaus via Flickr