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Dana Stevens

Mar 9, 2022

Camera Man

Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century

Simon and Schuster 2022

“Not a whisper. / Never laughter. / Buster, thank you / for disaster.” So wrote graduate student Dana Stevens, who would go on to become Slate’s resident film critic and podcaster. Her love affair with Buster Keaton – strictly platonic, as their “first sustained encounter” was decades after the actor’s passing in 1966 – began at a cinematheque in Alsace. But Stevens’ book about actor-director-gag man-stunt virtuoso Buster Keaton, Camera Man: Buster Keaton, The Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century (Simon & Schuster, 2022), is more than the story of one man. Through Keaton, Stevens tells the story of modernity, one that includes the myths and scandals of the Hollywood Dream Factory but that goes far beyond the usual contours of the celebrity biography.

In this conversation, Dana Stevens discusses the origins of this, her first full-length book project, weighs in on her favorite Keaton films, and reveals the particular challenges of working as a critic of contemporary franchise filmmaking.

Dana Stevens has been Slate's film critic since 2006. She is also a cohost of the magazine's long-running weekly culture podcast, the Slate Culture Gabfest, and has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and Bookforum. Stevens lives with her family in New York. You can follow her on Twitter @thehighsign.

Annie Berke is the Film Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books and author of Their Own Best Creations: Women Writers in Postwar Television (University of California Press, 2022). Her writing has been published in the Washington Post, Public Books, Literary Hub, The Forward, and Camera Obscura. You can follow her on Twitter @sayanniething.

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Annie Berke

Annie Berke is the Film Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books and author of Their Own Best Creations: Women Writers in Postwar Television (University of California Press, 2022). Her scholarship and criticism has been published in Feminist Media Histories, Public Books, Literary Hub, and Ms.

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