Here are some books of the moment worth paying attention to:
"Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke and the Making of a Masterpiece"
By Michael Benson (Simon and Schuster, 477 pages, $30).
Probably the most innovative and influential film of the past half century was Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," which is celebrating its 50th anniversary as we speak. According to Benson's book, it never had a finished script. It "wasn't just rooted in extensive preproduction fieldwork," it remained "an uninterrupted, well-funded research project spanning live-action filming and extending across its postproduction as well (which, given the importance of the visual effects, was production by another name)."
Whether the finished film is a "masterpiece" or not, it's certainly a masterpiece of altered cinematic process -- one that indeed demanded this book.
"Movie Night With the Reagans: A Memoir"
By Mark Weinberg (Simon and Schuster, 261 pages).
Mark Weinberg was the assistant press secretary to Ronald Reagan. During his eight years with "Dutch," he's said to have watched more movies with the Reagans than anyone else, from "9 to 5" to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and Reagan films like "Hellcats of the Navy" and, yes, "Bedtime for Bonzo" (so help me a vastly smarter movie in its nature v. nurture theme than it's given credit for). Here's what happened when the lights went down and the Reagans watched what was new from their former profession.
"See What Can Be Done: Essays and Criticism and Commentary"
By Lorrie Moore (Knopf, 407 pages, $29.95).
One of the year's best books thus far. These sixty-six essays comprise Moore's first essay collection. The brilliance of her work over 30 years won't surprise anyone who has encountered them piecemeal but might, in totality, be quite arresting. They were written for, among other venues, the New York Times Book Review, the New York Review of Books, Harper's, The Atlantic and The New Yorker.
Among her subjects: Nora Ephron's "Heartburn," John Cheever, V. S. Pritchett, Stanley Elkin, Don DeLillo, Charles Baxter, Margaret Atwood, Donald Barthelme, Lena Dunham, Helen Gurley Brown and cable TV's "Homeland" and "True Detective" ( where she joyously praises the concentration of TV and movie actors and quotes "writer Anne Lammott's remark on her own maturing undistractability": "I used to be not able to work if there were dishes in the sink," she has said. "Then I had a child and now I can work if there is a corpse in the sink."