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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Unbroken / Coen Bros.

Straightforward forgettable aliterary script (which I hate to deprecate, having watched Blood Simple on tv just a week ago as my go-to show during commercial breaks of the NBA finals and having been totally captivated, to the point I was missing key plays in the game because I couldn't tear myself away from watching the film, the scene where the dude is buried alive one of the all-time overwhelming cinema experiences, and the false ending followed by all the unanticipated further machinations amazingly clever and suspenseful) that plods through hardship after hardship after hardship, with no relief of any kind, violating the fundamental law of drama that requires variety within a given work, which is not to criticize war-hero protag Louis Zamperelli (sp?), who endured the unendurable, all respect and honor to him, but director Angelina Jolie (in her directing debut?) produced a documentary, not a feature film, and brother does it drag. 


All that matters is that it be from a writer no one has heard of.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Factotum / Bukowski

A hilarious novel, deeply engaging, with an authentic feel: pre-post office, a low-life stumbles from job to job, repeatedly being fired for drunkenness, repeatedly resurrecting himself with a fabricated employment history, inevitably being found out and fired again. That he didn't turn to a life of crime remains a mystery; guy had a work ethic that wouldn't let go and in his humiliation and ignominy acted with a kind of warped and stubborn integrity.

The screen adaptation, starring Matt Dillon, departs wildly from the text, but it has its moments, the opening scene particularly good.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Read this in the '70s and became consumed by the idea of doing my own auto repairs and went out and bought a special wrench for removing spark plugs and couldn't get one of them to turn and that was the end of that.  Pirsig said something about rationality having a genetic defect and that this helps, in his view, account for the multiple negatives afflicting humanity in these modern times and I can't help but wonder if this isn't an underlying cause for the slow-motion climate change catastrophe.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Career / Paul Lee

Nice line in this l950s-era film about the sock and buskin hustle (from Lee's stage play) on channel 296 tonight--

Director to actor: "Can you stand some honest criticism? You're fired."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Capote to Someone or Other

From memory:

"I'm not a scholar and I'm not effete and I'm not an eccentric. I'm a freak."

Who Are Writers?

Writers are people who read too much. To enjoy their reading they need quiet, and to secure it absent themselves from the ruckus of society. In due time, surreptitiously, this causes them to develop a melancholy character because without knowing it they have committed a serious crime--they have negated and nullified their essence as a social animal. In due time, if they stay immersed in print, they move into the Temple of Negativity, and once inside discover, in more than a few cases, there is no way out.

Then they begin to write.

Hemingway tends to be an exception to this rule, his protags and narrators often having a positive outlook and inclined to notice what is "fine" about the environments in which they find themselves, imparting good will to the people around them--until they are destroyed in his signature catastrophic endings.

As to substance abuse among serious writers, it is clearly mandatory, a fact the hallowed universities tend to minimize or overlook, decade after decade designing curricula grounded on the worldview of (gifted) drunks.

Suicide, on the other hand, is optional.

Book of Numbers / J. Cohen

Trying to work up the will to take a look at this novel, which reviewers seem to be taking seriously, but can't seem to manage it; though I haven't heard from this New York doorstop producer in some while, so where's the harm? He didn't care for my email to him on the turgid piece of sludge he wrote some years ago about that pianist/composer, can't recall the title, a novel that was wacky and goofy but not funny.  I got as far as the scene, an apex of scatology, where the central character, about halfway through the book, climbs up on a piano, drops his trousers, and makes a deposit.

God save us from graphomaniacs who appear never to have been within ten feet of a Shakespeare bookcase.

Cf. N.O. Ting: "If you don't have something nice to say, by all means say it!"

Josh, why drop a little known author like a hot brick just for being, respectfully, honest? Honesty is not worthless. If you're one of these writers sensitive as a scrambled egg, toughen up old son! To conflate a respectful and honest assessment of one's work with a malice-driven vendetta is to do oneself a disservice. And what goes around . . . .

For a comic novel that will have you snickering and laughing out loud, take a look at Steve Toltz' A Fraction of the Whole, though I tend to regard him as a loser for not responding to my complimentary three-page single-spaced letter mailed c/o his publisher.

Bitter thumb-biting envy and Hibernian love of a good fight mingling in a true witches' brew, on this morning after a predominantly white night that has left one too tired to do what one should be doing. Okay, let's go out and make some enemies, the world is sixty-percent fictitious anyway--and permanently insusceptible to a satisfactory analytic. The world in its essence is unknowable! Try and stop me from saying it.

One of the major fictions being that the U.S. is a democracy. It's not a democracy, it's a rich guy's plaything.

As to climate change, the prudent and necessary steps to mitigate or stabilize it are not being taken and will not be taken because of the dehumanized and self-destructive nature of global capitalism and the stranglehold it has on governments worldwide. What's coming for civilization is a crumbling, gradual or otherwise, of the global economy and devolution back to the Dark Ages, or Semi-Dark Ages. Count on it.

But cf. Proust: "Political passions are like all the others--they flare up, they burn out."

Author Photos

Always scowl or sneer, or appear to be tormented, inclined to cynicism, misanthropy and indiscriminate disgust, sullen, irritable, contemptuous, or at the very least untrustworthy; proves one lives in the Temple of Negativity and is therefore a Serious Intellectual.

Unless your name is J.U., as in U and I.  Trust a sex-addict genius, none too good looking as it happens, to smile.

I passed the Plowville escapee on the sidewalk just North of the Common one day years ago. I half-smiled and said, "Hi," and he could tell I recognized him and he smiled and half-stopped, but I continued on my way, having no idea what to say to the equivalent of a Faulkner or Proust.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Farewell to Arms

Rereading this fifty years after one's first encounter with the esteemed man's man and coming across this sentence describing one of the protag's nurses:

"She was young and pretty."

Further on, this:

"It was a clean little town and there was a fine fountain in the square."

And one thinks, 'Well one thing's for certain, one is certainly not reading Proust.'

Then this famed (and rightly so) passage:

"I know that the night is not the same as the day: that all things are different, that the things of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not then exist . . . . If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry."

Description of characters' appearance, facial animation, gestures, tone of voice, body orientation in space, backstories, air or manner, habits of mind--all predominantly absent, minimal at best; next to no tropes, cryptic allusions, symbolism; chronology straightforward--but a level of authenticity of experience, a feel, solid as an oak--one believes every word the man writes, unconditionally.

His aesthetic of leaving as much crucial information out of a story as possible, in order to create a work of art with the majestic movement of an iceberg, is clearly displayed in this novel, where major experiences of narrator/protag Frederick Henry--his rendezvous with an exploding artillery shell, his shooting of a deserter in the back, his near death at the hands of rogue officers in the Italian army, the death of his nurse girlfriend Catherine Berkley (sp?)--are stated in the simplest terms, the associated emotions barely mentioned, putting one in the presence of a classic Man of Few Words, which is how heroes are supposed to be, no? The contrast between the lavish attention he gives to describing landscapes and his minimalist treatment of major emotional events is a characteristic to be found in a number of his novels. And the subtle foreshadowing of Catherine's impending death by Frederick's discovery of dead flowers in a garbage can he has inspected to see if there's any food in it for a stray dog he's come across, is creditable.

I forgot virtually all of this work, but vividly recognized the scene where the Italian officers are interrogated one at a time and then shot when I came to it. Forgetting what one reads leads one at times to regard the entire intellectual enterprise as chasing the wind, but there's not a whole lot to be done about it at this point, print perhaps the deepest form of hypnosis there is. In the end it's print that captures one; no matter the subject or style, one has to have it, endlessly.

The Tame vs. the Wild

Kafka, Hemingway, Beckett, Proust, O'Neill, Bernhard, Dostoievski, Pinter, Bukowski, Genet, Burroughs, Artaud sitting around an MFA seminar table "sharing" with each other their thoughts on the will to originality and literary perfection . . . please.

Cf. N.O. Ting: "Pursue all literary goals with animal ferocity," and, "Who's tame? Anyone who belongs to any organization."