Sunday, September 21, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Of course, so is David Foster Wallace, but "David Foster Wallace is dead" just seemed too obvious. And also wrong, in that he's not someone who was likely to come up in regular conversation. It was Monday morning when I first read of his death, suicide by hanging. A few queasy hours later I dialed up the library site and requested Infinite Jest, his runaway best-seller, which will probably not be available for at least three weeks, if I am reading the data at the library site correctly, which I hardly ever am.
Afterwards I dialed up the Wikipedia entry on the tome, which is (it would seem) exhaustive, wherein I found a fair amount to entice. Which is by way of saying I felt OK about the prospect of reading the thing. Yesterday I went looking for several of the collections-- Hideous Men, the thing on media, a collection of miscellaneous essays-- all of which are non-existent and severally requested in our library system, not an uncommon phenomenon around here. After this I decided to settle for whatever excerpts I might find. Everything I found was, I submit, unreadable. Sloppy, redundant, disingenous, blathering, unreadable. The worst was an excerpt from the essay he wrote about going on a sea cruise, which was included to illustrate his cowbell-- the use of footnotes to provide content, which in fact is nothing fucking new-- in which he described the difference of being "at sea or at land." I suppose he considered "at land" to be a stylistic flourish, but really, why? For the love of God, why? "At sea" has always been adequate for "at sea," and "on land" has always been fine for "on land." And "at sea or on land," well, Jesus, Mary at Joseph. Wasn't that good enough for him? The only other explanation was that it was a sloppy-ass mistake, and if that's the case, then fuck the fucking fucker.
Inbetween came the real revelation, not to say the Director of Alienation. This cat came from a high-powered academic family, did a high-wire adademic routine in grad school, got published in all those high-powered journals no one ever reads, did the first novel, which got great reviews but was not a best seller, threw everything but the kitchen sink at the second, which got great reviews and did become a best seller, and then went to settle into an academic role 80% diminished from the demands of his previous career. As a rock star he only had to teach one section of creative writing per term two, if he absolutely had to. He mixed observation with philosophy with irony and preached against the use of irony in literature, which, of course, was meant to be ironic. And he did so from some of the finest bully pulpits in America. He had it all, and I'm guessing he found out the hard way that sometimes all is too much.
He wouldn't be the first. Breece Pancake, Hemingray, Spalding Gray, Plath, hell? How long could the list possibly be? Might we include Socrates? I mean, what do we have besides Plato's word to say he was forced to drink the hemlock?
So I will get Infinite Jest, not to say that I will get it. More than likely I will dive in looking for the intriguing notions, hoping that I will not drown in his hyperboly, and I will report back on whether or not I have found salvageable wreckage.
So Godspeed, Rick. Rick Wright is dead, long live Rick Wright. And if you don't know who Rick Wright was, you really should.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
To Waffle Or Not To Waffle
Stop Loss is a film that does not waffle. Even when it's characters appear to be unceraitn of what to do, the film is deadly earnest in its certainty. The Army is evil and duplicitous, all soldiers are to be forgiven their tresspasses because they have sacrificed for the country, and all women are better than all men. Even the most internally contradictory speech in the film, in which Our Hero argues that he shouldn't be required to go back and fight an illegal and immoral war because our President had already declared it over and therefore we are no longer at war-- thus negating the conditions of the stop-loss clause in the contract he signed, this taking place moments after he is told that the stop-loss was being enacted by executive order, at the pleasure of the Commander In Chief-- is delivered in a stream of earnest bluster, without so much as a blink, let alone a wink or a smirk. Which is not to say that this was a BAD movie. It wasn't BAD, per se. It was just . . . Well, ham-fisted doesn't quite do it. This was the Homeless Shelter Thanksgiving Dinner movie: all the component parts are there, in sufficient quantities and in proper proportion. But there is no denying that everything here came out of a can. The film wants to be anti-war in the final analysis, but comes off as having only one central message: all Texans are in favor of pointelss violence.
I was going to stick a picture of Dubbya here, but it just seemed too obvious.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
When A Plot Device Is Not A Plot Device
THE LUNCH of the day is yet another one of those fakey-ass burgers. (And no, I am not going to start calling them Assburgers, although if anyone asks, I do have a hell of a good story involving such verbiage.) More to the point, the beer of the day comes from Saranac's recently re-vamped Adirondack Trail Mix. I started with the Black Forest, and followed it with the Adirondack Lager, with the result that Hoooooo! BABY!
(The show in the background is Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, Ireland installment, and you could assert that there is something fundamentally or morally wrong with watching such a show while earting a highly processed food product, but, lest we forget, there are alot of places in this world where "Eat Locally!!!" means "Starve.")
Last night's movie was, alas and alack, The Ruins. You can go straight to that link or wait. It might be funnier if you wait.
This is a film that got bad reviews, mostly complaining that it was not as good as the book it was based on. So I, at least, knew what I was getting into. But we didn't really understand how low the bar was going to be set. The cowbell here is that one of the characters is pre-med, so he can reasonably suggest some quasi-medical-sounding explanations and quasi-medical seeming procedures to fend off the killer vines. What he can't suggest, in fact, what no one can suggest, I suspect, is any explanation as to why the killer vines took an hour and a half to kill off these losers.* (Well, except that a half hour is spent building up ill will against said losers, so by the time the vines got around to killing them slowly with their fronds (hah!) (Did I jsut steal that from The Tick?), we basically didn't care, except in that we wished the gaddamned vines would just hurry the hell up and get it over with. Of course, these tourists-- these stupid, generic American tourists, whose shallowness is barely muted by the vast stupidity of the German tourist whose passing aquaintance got them to wander out into the middle of the jungle and climb down inside an ancient pyramid which, the German lad has claimed, no one has ever seen before-- come off as slightly more sympathetic than the locals, who have apparently taken up the habit of salting the soil around the pyramid so the vines won't spread and killing their own if ever there is even the slightest chance of contaigion. Not that you'll end up wanting to marry any of them. I didn't even want any of them to get married. The closest I came to having any real sympathy for any of them is thinking, at various time about a couple of different ones, "Could he/she die of his/her wounds now?"
Of course, after doing the preliminary research, I found that the schmuck who wrote the supposedly superior book is the same schmuck who wrote the book upon which the film A Simple Plan was based. I didn't read the book, but I did see the film, and it struck me as seriously lazy an excercise in misanthropy as one might ever hope for. If you need reasons to hate people, just look around. You really don't have to make shit up.
Knocking the author? Not really. He has his trade, he's free to ply it. This is America after all. And people are going to buy his dumbass bullshit, so it seems. So good for him.
Knocking myself. Shoulda done the research beforehand, and thus, have known better. When did Noah build the Ark? Before the flood.
*In point of fact, in the timeline of the movie, the vines kill off the losers over the course of three days, or a fortnight, or a week, or a fiscal quarter, or maybe it was over Labor Day weekend, or a week from Saint Swithen's day. I stopped caring before they even got off the @#$%ing beach.