While The Sex Lives of Cannibals had nothing to do with sex lives or cannibals, Getting Stoned with Savages does include much getting stoned. The use...moreWhile The Sex Lives of Cannibals had nothing to do with sex lives or cannibals, Getting Stoned with Savages does include much getting stoned. The use of the word 'savages' is part of the whole deal of these titles, which are slightly gauche parodies of the titles of various written materials on this part of the world from centuries past.
In any case, yes, there is much getting stoned with the populations of Vanuatu and Fiji. If what happens when you drink kava counts as stoned, in which case I am stoned right now. The author also apparently does not have an internet connection if he thinks he can't get kava shipped to him in Calfornia from Hawaii. I am in Canada. It is -17 outside and snow is piled on everything. I am enjoying the effects of kava manufactured in Vanuatu and shipped from Hawaii. Not something sold as a 'supplement' by ripoff merchants, either. Serious Vanuatu kava. I digress.
This book is good, much like Troost's first book was. The slight issue here is that nowhere on the planet, probably, is as amazingly bizarre and odd as Kiribati, the hard-to-believe-it-exists, end-of-the-world, middle-of-the-Pacific nation of (mainly) ocean, (sparse) sinking, overpopulated atolls, and (one) island, with zero arable land and no natural resources. Troost tries to make Vanuatu, at least, sound as interesting and odd. Which it might be, really. Volcanic islands, some of them prone to possibly blowing themselves up, compose the archipelago Republic, where earthquakes are an everyday thing, where the last official recorded incident of cannibalism occurred in 1969, where cannibalism was no ritual thing but just food, where tribal orgies are totally still a thing, but the capital would appear to have retained almost all its colonial ambiance, except for now being a destination for money launderers and various other suspect elements of the rich, where rich French women hop over to New Caledonia to enjoy an even more colonial life+pregnancy-related medical care, etc.
So the first part of the book actually sort of gives the first book on Kiribati a run for its money. But it's just not quite as delightfully fascinating. Fiji is relatively well-known to Westerners but an account of life there doesn't seem to have been executed as well as it could have been, both because the author was there at a time when the country had just been through an attempted coup and because he seems distracted by the impending birth of his child. Fatherhood is not as interesting to me as most other stuff is. So there's that, and there's the fact that he seems to have had few adventures on Fiji worth writing about.
But the book's still good. It's easy to read this stuff, real easy and enjoyable to sink into, almost narcotic in effect, kava-like perhaps, but without just being another piece of travel writing that totally effaces reality in favour of brochure-like nonsense. (less)
Incredible Wells Tower novella (how the fuck haven't I gotten around to reading Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned yet?!), alone worth the price. G...moreIncredible Wells Tower novella (how the fuck haven't I gotten around to reading Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned yet?!), alone worth the price. Good stories by Jim Shepard and Stuart Dybek. The Weschler stuff was good and well overdue. The highlight there is the conversation with Errol Morris.
Aesthetically more pleasing, this issue, than some of the over-designed, borderline gimmicky issues they've put out. Real pretty issue.
"Colonel Tom Edwards: This is the most fantastic story I've ever heard. Jeff Trent: And every word of it's true, too. Colonel Tom Edwards: That's the fa...more"Colonel Tom Edwards: This is the most fantastic story I've ever heard. Jeff Trent: And every word of it's true, too. Colonel Tom Edwards: That's the fantastic part of it."- from Ed Wood's screenplay for Plan 9 from Outer Space
This book is fucking incredible. What I need you to understand if you're reading this review is that there is zero intended sarcasm or irony in that statement. This is, and I mean this with all sincerity, one of the best non-fiction books I've read and one of the greatest stories I've encountered.
First of all, the book's title gets it right. The Room is far from the worst movie ever made. It doesn't even come close, for all its faults. Behold Manos: The Hands of Fate. Behold The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?. Behold Red Zone Cuba. No, The Room is indeed the greatest bad movie ever made, though not the worst.
The Room is an astonishing display of cinematic incompetence, poor performances, a lack of anything resembling dramatic logic. And so on. However, the movie is magnificent and powerful in its own way.
I was alone in bed at night the first time I saw The Room. I laughed. I don't think I finished watching it. I fell asleep or something. Then I attended a screening in New York. Then I attended further screenings, including a local screening here in Calgary, either the first or second in this city. The theatre staff had drawn, by hand, deliberately bad posters. This one girl, having seen the poster on an earlier visit to the theatre, had taken the trouble to bake an apple pie to exchange for one of the posters on the night of the screening. Within the theatre's warm confines was, maybe because I was home, a revelatory experience. The Room isn't just a fun bad movie. There is something more to it. No mere incompetence can inspire the sort of cult following The Room has, the love, even if mixed with contempt, that its devotees feel for it.
The movie isn't bad the way a Coleman Francis movie is bad. This movie is magically bad. It is funnier than almost anything else around. The characters have become icons. Fans have memorized the screenplay. You can watch this thing over and over again and never want to roll your eyes when someone quotes the movie.
It is, in its own magical way, a beautiful thing. It brings joy.
Which brings me back to the book. I picked this up with trepidation. Part of The Room's magic is that it is inexplicable. It makes no sense. Although Tommy Wiseau is not Ed Wood (he might actually be even more unique and wonderful), Ed Wood is the only auteur comparison worth making when talking about Wiseau. The movies of both auteurs (and they are auteurs) are magical because they're passion projects. Even when not passion projects (some of Wood's less inspired work), they at least offer us glimpses into inscrutable minds and creative processes. These minds look at the world in so astonishingly odd a fashion that we as viewers are genuinely impacted. This is not the eye-rolling tedium of Manos. This is something else.
I did not want this book to ruin that inexplicable weirdness. It did not. While it explains some aspects of the movie's uniquely bizarre level of incompetence, the magic, Wiseau's magic, remains intact. It turns out that Tommy Wiseau is even weirder than you might have thought. And that's what The Room is: Tommy Wiseau's weird, disturbed, sometimes beautiful, sometimes vile mind on sheer honest display.
This book is the story of Greg Sestero's experiences with his friend Tommy Wiseau, of Tommy Wiseau himself (only more confounding a figure after you get an idea of where he came from and how he managed to acquire his wealth), and of the making of The Room, which towers above manufactured schlock like your Sharknados and brutally bad hack work of MST3k standard by virtue of its sincerity.
This book is the story of a dreamer, with all that entails. It is mostly unbelievably funny. It is also deeply, deeply sad and human. It is terrifying at times, too. I quoted Ed Wood at the start of this review because there are no lines (other than from The Room) that could better encapsulate what this book is, and no voice other than Wood's that can even come close to Wiseau. Wiseau's writing is Ed Wood's surreal nonsense (think cigar-shaped flying saucers) elevated to unprecedented and undefeatable levels of distinct weirdness.
Wiseau, because he is so strange and so powerful a figure, managed to write a movie that, despite debts to everything from Rebel Without a Cause to Douglas Sirk melodramas to The Talented Mr. Ripley (read this book to understand that last one), is really the most original and remarkably different work of art I've ever encountered.
The book is well-written and especially well-structured, with three narratives running throughout: Sestero's journey, Wiseau's journey (insofar as it can be documented), and the making of The Room. Sestero is engaging enough but it is the latter two narratives that are really too bizarre to be true. See again the Ed Wood quote that starts this review. Yet they are true and they are brilliantly told. I won't spoil any of the factoids included, some of which illuminate aspects of the movie's weirdness and some of which make the movie seem even more bizarre. But the book overall is really just a remarkable story, not a collection of fun facts for fans of the movie.
The book's a great book on filmmaking, the nature of artistic production, and how things can go horribly wrong (partly because they're going well). Also a fascinating portrait of one of the most compelling figures I can imagine. In the end, it's both sad and wonderful. Whatever his flaws, Wiseau achieved his dream and gave us The Room, a movie judged to be bad partly due to incompetence, but mostly because Wiseau's vision of drama and of the world and of acting and writing, of language itfuckingself, is so drastically divergent from anything us mere mortals can begin to understand.(less)
For some reason, it never occurred to me that I could add literary journals/magazines/whatever on goodreads. Despite the fact that they have ISBNs.
An...moreFor some reason, it never occurred to me that I could add literary journals/magazines/whatever on goodreads. Despite the fact that they have ISBNs.
Anyway, I read several of these. McSweeney's is my favourite, which might be frowned upon in some circles just because of the Eggers connection [I think the dude's an okay writer with good taste in lit; I don't quite understand the vitriol he inspires]. After that, it's The Paris Review and Tin House in that order. I read some others too. In fact, one of the main reasons I'm falling so drastically short of my reading challenge goal for this year is that I haven't been adding literary magazines on goodreads, and frankly these days find them more enjoyable and inviting than many novels or short story collections. What better way to encounter the better writing around these days? And in various styles and genres, to boot. Anyway.
This issue of Tin House was just alright overall. The fiction was most disappointing, with only Ben Marcus' piece standing out. I liked "The Worm" by Donald Ray Pollock okay. The poetry was interesting. I dug "Detective/Woody/Sci-Fi" by Albert Goldbarth and "System of Dismantling Bomb" by Kimberly Grey especially.
The critical stuff was pretty good. Most notable was Ursula Le Guin's piece on H.L. Davis' Honey in the Horn, which I'd never even heard of before, a fact that's seriously damaged my literary cred, in my estimation.
The features stood out among the general mediocrity here. "The Last Days of the Baldock" by Inara Verzemnieks is just a phenomenal essay on community and survival and trying to make shit work. I want to read substantially more stuff by her, but there doesn't appear to be any sort of collection of her writing, which fact upsets me. Matt Kish's illustrations of Heart of Darkness are brilliant and made me want to check out his work on Moby-Dick. Ginger Strand's essay is ostensibly on Vegas, sex, and Nevada brothels, but is really more about hyperreal Americana, a subject I'm always interested in. (less)