Dreams With Sharp Teeth: Harlan Ellison, Unrevealed


If you’re unfamiliar with the product of Harlan Ellison’s 50 years and counting behind a typewriter, you’ll know little more about it after leaving Dreams With Sharp Teeth. (No mention of the masterwork A Boy and His Dog when discussing Ellison’s film credits? For shame.) Prose doesn’t film—Ellison recites animatedly from his corpus, backed by some hideous CG screensaver graphics, but this hardly reproduces the experience of reading. The real subject, then, is Ellison the personality, the grand old ham of science fiction, the belligerent “little Jew from Ohio” who remains a fleet-tongued, truculent monologist. Documentarian Erik Nelson, overcautious of his subject, is content to let Ellison luxuriate in his legacy of infamy—as a lothario, and a litigious and pugilistic combatant. The origin myth herein presents our hero as driven by distant but still-rankling adolescent bullying. Having made his way up from penny-ante pulps to countercultural celebrity via an indefatigable work ethic, he’s a self-made man, with a self-made man’s voluminous contempt, vented at Republicans, fanboys, editors, drivers, and whatever else is handy. So much barking rhetoric can become boorish, however choicely phrased; the author’s “Fuck you, pay me” credo, however, should be an inspiration for all aspirant men and women of letters.