the clown invites us into a few hours of the life of one hans schneir, clown by profession, curmudgeon by temperament. after our drunken atheist clown...morethe clown invites us into a few hours of the life of one hans schneir, clown by profession, curmudgeon by temperament. after our drunken atheist clown (with the uncanny ability to smell people through the phoneline) refuses to convert to catholicism, the love o' his life high-tails it the hell outta there for some dull-as-dirt churchgoer. heartbroken, pfennigless, drunk, jobless, and with a knee swollen to the size of a grapefruit, hans takes out his misery and anger the way we all do: inappropriate phone calls to family members, clergymen, and old friends/enemies.
most interesting is how boll keeps the reader constantly shifting between two poles: is hans the ultimate outsider in a corrupt & rotting society, the only one capable of seeing to the core of man's diseased heart...? or is he some crank who demands an impossible infallibility from a world of mere human beings? having been written less than two decades after the closing of auschwitz and dachau, the book takes on a relevance extending well beyond the mere personal: at the heart of this book are big questions concerning guilt, forgiveness, and how to reconcile ourselves with hartley's great line: "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."
so why only three stars? well, the enjoyability factor was inconsistent. yeah, the perennial debate ensues: must art be enjoyable or entertaining to succeed? i'm not sure. for the most part i'd say yes, but this is a dangerous attitude in that it could mean, then, a free pass to reject something which requires the reader/viewer/listener to work too hard. there were passages, sections, and chapters of the clown which flew by, others were more of a chore. unnecessarily. (that right there's the rub. if a work, such as the clown, feels an unnecessary chore, it suffers. if the hard work involved in, say, warhol's sleep, feels integral to the piece, it succeeds. although that might be a bad example: i suspect warhol never intended a soul to actually sit through sleep. the mere fact of its existence is all that matters.)
furthermore: the best of these stories manage to simultaneously serve as history lesson (and usually illuminate a specific time/place in a way non-fiction can't touch; that is, they allow us to know how it felt to live there rather than hit us with a barrage of cold facts) while also extending beyond itself with a relevance to our own time. one may argue that a work need not reach beyond the barriers of its own pages... i defer to the mozzer:
"Burn down the disco. Hang the blessed DJ. Because the music that they constantly play, IT SAYS NOTHING TO ME ABOUT MY LIFE!"
for a work to transcend itself, it must strike out, in some manner, beyond its self and/or time: the specific must translate into some kind of universal. and, yeah, boll's contempt for and irreverence toward the clergy, the military, patriotism, etc, is something universal and attractive; and those big issues of guilt and forgiveness are always relevant... but it doesn't arrive as feeling anything larger than the sum of its parts or more than a very specific anger and/or guilt. why? i'm not sure. as i loathe not understanding how and why i reacted to something, i'm tempted to come up with some kinda nice-sounding reason and forcefully declare it, but that'd be wildly disingenuous. i'm not exactly sure why boll's work (perhaps its the intentional distance he keeps us from his protagonist? the emotional coldness throughout the book?) didn't punch me in the gut and why, say, genet does. with genet one is immediately struck by how this self professed queer-coward-criminal-traitor-liar-thief running around german occupied france or a prison or palestine or berkeley speaks so directly to his/her life no matter where or when its read. a spectral hand reaches from the grave and across the decades and it matters to me. now. IT SAYS EVERYTHING TO ME ABOUT MY LIFE.
but boll fascinates me. the clown fascinated me. i'm gonna read billiards at half past nine sometime soon. (less)
from 1955 to 1959 frank sinatra recorded four of the greatest and saddest albums of all time with four of the greatest album covers ever printed. chec...morefrom 1955 to 1959 frank sinatra recorded four of the greatest and saddest albums of all time with four of the greatest album covers ever printed. check 'em out:
1955. In the Wee Small Hours:
1957. Where Are You?:
1958. Only the Lonely:
1959. No One Cares:
ranging from the lush & melancholy to the almost unbearably bleak, this is the finest collection of ballads, saloon songs, and torch songs sung by the greatest crooner of all time. (tied with morrissey who, incidentally, considers frank as one third of his 'holy trinity')
kaplan's biography stops a year before this remarkable string of albums: his book tracks sinatra's rise through the early and mid 40s, his ruinous fall at the end of that decade, and his resurrection in 1952/3 after winning an oscar for from here to eternity and partnering up with genius musical arranger nelson riddle. and there's all kinds of fun, gossipy stuff along the way: fights with reporters, singers, managers, lawyers, journalists; fucks with lana turner, ava gardner, and thousands other anonymous starlets; drinks till the wee small hours with actors, mobsters, crooners, restauranteurs, zillionaires... and all that stuff is great. kaplan infuses it with the novelist's sense of purpose and drama and is pretty brutal about what a motherfucker frank could be -- but what makes this a special book is the attention kaplan pays to sinatra the artist. sure, kaplan delves deep into the technical aspects -- sinatra's particular genius in phrasing, reading songs lyrics as poetry, etc -- but more interesting is how kaplan tackles (as best as words can hope to untangle the ineffable majesty of pure musical feeling) that thing, that ghost, that shade, that x-factor sinatra possessed. kaplan quotes a reviewer for the london times who attempts to get at it:
Here is an artist who, hailing from the most rowdy and self-confident community the world has ever known, has elected to express the timidity that can never be wholly driven out of the boastfullest heart. To a people whose idea of manhood is husky, full-blooded and self-reliant, Sinatra has dared to suggest that under the crashing self-assertion, man is still a child, frightened and whimpering in the dark.
yes! it is very much that sad, existential quality that lies at the heart of much of frank's artistic genius. the swing numbers are terrific, his readings of the classics have become the standard, but, for me, it's sinatra's ability to convey the inherent longing, sadness, and fear inherent to the human condition that separates frank from the rest (particularly at a time when popular music wasn't really all that much about exposing existential despair).
it's who he was by nature. as much as frank played at being (and eventually became a parody of) the tough guy, saloon-singing, new jersey bruiser, he was an incredibly complex, sensitive guy exploding with the temperament of the miserable artist. after ava gardner left him for that spanish bullfighter frank was more of a drunken, suicidal wreck than usual. frank, afraid to be alone, moved a friend into his beverly hills apartment. here's jules styne's recollection of those months alone with frank:
I walk into the living room and it's like a funeral parlor. There are three pictures of Ava in the room and the only lights are three dim ones on the pictures. Sitting in front of them is Frank with a bottle of brandy. I say to him, "Frank, pull yourself together." And he says, "Go ahead, leave me alone." Then he paces up and down and says, "I can't sleep, I can't sleep."… Then he paces up and down some more and maybe he reads, and he doesn't fall asleep until the sun's up.
in an attempt to re-engage life, frank has friends over for poker. a friend recalls:
He went into the den, opened a bottle, and started drinking alone. There's Frank drinking a toast to a picture of Ava with a tear running down his face. All of a sudden we hear a crash. He had taken the picture, frame and all, and smashed it. Then he had picked up the picture, ripped it into little pieces, and thrown it on the floor. So we go back to the game and a little while later Sammy (Cahn) goes back to Frank, and there he is on his hands and knees picking up the torn pieces of the picture and trying to put it back together again. Well, he gets all the pieces together except the one for the nose. He becomes frantic looking for it, and we all get down on our hands and knees and try to help him. All of a sudden the doorbell rings. It's a deliver boy with more liquor. So Frank goes to the back door to let him in, but when he opens it, the missing piece flutters out. Well, Frank is so happy, he takes off his gold wrist watch and gives it to the delivery boy.
alright, enough. if you're not already sold, just watch this. the 15 seconds b/t 2:30 - 2:45 are just fuuuuuucking haunting.
has their ever been another music better capable of capturing what wordsworth referred to as 'the still, sad music of humanity?'
what daffodils wer...morehas their ever been another music better capable of capturing what wordsworth referred to as 'the still, sad music of humanity?'
what daffodils were to wordsworth, what deprivation was to larkin, what the new york dolls are to morrissey = what morrissey is to me.
SMITHS - top 40
40. this night has opened my eyes 39. girlfriend in a coma 38. cemetry gates 37. is it really so strange? 36. paint a vulgar picture 35. unloveable 34. meat is murder 33. death of a disco dancer 32. shakespeare's sister 31. pretty girls make graves 30. nowhere fast 29. shoplifters of the world unite 28. back to the old house (acoustic) 27. a rush and a push and the land is ours 26. reel around the fountain 25. the queen is dead 24. heaven knows i'm miserable now 23. rubber ring 22. i want the one i can't have 21. these things take time 20. panic 19. suffer little children 18. still ill 17. stretch out and wait 16. what difference does it make? 15. handsome devil 14. some girls are bigger than others 13. well, i wonder 12. the boy with the thorn in his side 11. please, please, please let me get what i want 10. last night i dreamt that someone loved me 9. that joke isn't funny anymore 8. how soon is now? 7. william, it was really nothing 6. bigmouth strikes again 5. this charming man 4. stop me if you've heard this one before 3. half a person 2. i know it's over 1. there is a light that never goes out
MORRISSEY - top 40
40. margaret on the guillotine 39. spring-heeled jim 38. sister, i'm a poet 37. at last i am born 36. dear god, please help me 35. moonriver 34. last of the famous international playboys 33. the national front disco 32. you're gonna need someone on your side 31. when i last spoke to carol 30. i don't mind if you forget me 29. the more you ignore me, the closer i get 28. i have forgiven jesus 27. the never played symphonies 26. the loop 25. we'll let you know 24. will never marry 23. christian dior 22. mama, lay softly on the riverbed 21. you have killed me 20. picadilly palare 19. alma matters 18. trouble loves me 17. irish blood, english heart 16. i'm throwing my arms around paris 15. one day goodbye will be farewell 14. alsatian cousin 13. boxers 12. reader meet author 11. now my heart is full 10. november spawned a monster 9. hairdresser on fire 8. sunny 7. find out for yourself 6. jack the ripper (live) 5. first of the gang to die 4. seasick, yet still docked 3. everyday is like sunday 2. late night, maudlin street 1. suedehead (less)
in the few years i worked at an outdoor magazine stand i was frequently struck by the seeming arbitrariness of british celebrities and socialites who'...morein the few years i worked at an outdoor magazine stand i was frequently struck by the seeming arbitrariness of british celebrities and socialites who'd grace the covers of UK tabloids -- they just didn't look or feel anything at all like 'real' movie stars. of course, for some poor sap in botswana, bahrain or burundi, i'd imagine toby maguire, steve carrel, jenna fischer, or sandra bullock don't seem possessed of tremendous amounts of star quality. similarly, naipaul's book of belief in 6 different african countries (uganda, ghana, nigeria, ivory coast, gabon, s. africa) has the effect of making us realize how arbitrary (and preposterous) our own religious beliefs & myths are. indeed. (less)
1. once again i'll post the greatest picture in the history of all pictures. myself. ellroy. manny.
2. the general busyness of my life these days does...more1. once again i'll post the greatest picture in the history of all pictures. myself. ellroy. manny.
2. the general busyness of my life these days doesn't allow much time to write book reports -- a shame because it's a terrific way to blow off steam. instead i drink. at kowalski's recommendation, i moved from bourbon on the rocks to gin & club soda. and it was a good move, a more appropriate summer drink. but i'm still wrecking my liver, prematurely aging, and require a quick mid-day nap to fight off the hangover i powered through at 6 am so as to give the dog a good hike. so forgive a lack of rigor or relevance. i'm out of practice, hungover, busy, and, of course, i begin with a picture, an apology, and a digression -- not too good, eh?
3. after having worked in a bookstore for 6 years i'm sick to death of author readings. the affected inflection of most public readers is the equivalent of a testicular hangnail. and i have trouble following stories read aloud. i prefer the solitariness and subjectivity of the reading experience. but my friend tyson puts together this thing over at largo for select authors to cut through the bullshit and talk about stuff they really wanna talk about. and i wouldn't miss ellroy for the world. nobody gives public speak like ellroy.
i crashed the green room and caught ellroy outside the john trying to work up a precautionary pee before his reading. an excerpt from our conversation:
me: aren't you ever worried about litigation with writing such crazy shit about real life figures? ellroy: who're you talking about? me: um... the kennedys? ellroy: ha. if the kennedys sued everyone who slandered or libeled them they'd be in court 24 hrs a day. and then they couldn't be out on the street raping and killing women.
for some reason tyson had this woman called laura kightlinger do a comedy set before ellroy went on -- she was mid-act talking about spitting on this guy's dick while giving him a handjob and ellroy rushes the stage: "get off! i don't want to hear this crap before i read!" ellroy screams into the wings: "tyson, get her out of here! what is this shit?" kightlinger was booted off stage. it was incredibly tense and awkward and NOT planned and just totally terrific.
the reading opened with a woman standing beside a bust of beethoven speaking these words:
"Good evening peepers, prowlers, pederasts, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps. Here is James Ellroy, the demon dog, the foul owl with the death growl, the white knight of the far right, and the slick trick with the donkey dick. He's the author of 18 books, masterpieces all; they precede all his future masterpieces. These books will leave you reamed, steamed and drycleaned, tie-dyed, swept to the side, true-blued, tattooed and bah fongooed. These are books for the whole fuckin' family, if the name of your family is the Manson Family."
4. but the hilliker curse: dare i say i find it unnecessary? many many times has ellroy declared much of my dark places disingenuous. many many times have i thought: "i don't care." ellroy's additions addenda palimpsests corrections etc may be more honest and in line with what he is feeling now (or even, perhaps, how he was feeling then), but that's irrelevant to the book reading experience, irrelevant to the book as a freestanding work of art. now for those who found james frey to be worse than criminal, for those who feel that memoir is more a collection of fact than a work of art, you might welcome a my dark places redux. i say 'fuck all that' -- to flip into donald powellian hyperbole, my dark places is an anguished howl into the abyss, a swirling maelstrom of dementia plunging the darkest depths of a plagued soul. ahem. anyway. it really is all that. and it's glorious. and 'fact' or 'fiction' doesn't change a damn thing.
the more reasonable ellroy still writes as if a demondog was gnawing its way up into his asshole -- but he writes more with the clarity and conviction of the recently dried-out alcoholic than with the bravado of a drunk-on-rotgut carny barker. and i like my ellroy how i like my coffee.
5. the bullet points are for jon bruenning. smooches. (less)
the creative act is one born from the marriage of inspiration and perspiration; but as the former is a flighty bitch we really must rely on perspirati...morethe creative act is one born from the marriage of inspiration and perspiration; but as the former is a flighty bitch we really must rely on perspiration, eh? and boatloads of concentration. so gallons of coffee work as a kind of 'insperspiration' to my easily-influenced system: 1. it fights off the ADHD and focuses me (not to mention mucho perspiration), and 2. it offers an initial euphoria giving way to a kind of mindfuckededness which, for me, paves the road to inspiration. mindfucked art, at its best, turns us toward the mouth of plato's famous cave. it might not reveal the, or any, actual 'truth' re: the human condition, but can certainly offer something different and usually something stranger, more mysterious, deeper, darker. but the strange. yes, the strange is always better. the unfamiliar, the weird, the ghastly and the ghostly.
and if i follow through with this horribly tangled mixed dead & probably not too well thought out metaphor, infinite jest is a steaming pot of supercoffee, gallons of the black sludgy stuff mainlined right into one's veins. you've got the best of both worlds: 1. DFW's overthinking supercaffeinated brain and a 2. view of another world, one laid on top of ours, same shapes and textures, but seen through a different lens*** -- so, in a very real sense, this book totally locks into my own needs as a reader: it's intensely OCD and also offers a slight whiff of the ineffable. (and, really, as the resident GR paragon of great great taste, any book that resonates with me should really resonate with you.)
*** the world through "a different lens" : see bram's brilliant review. i can't be fucked to learn how to hyperlink so here ya go:
as per (1) 'overthinking overcaffeinated' and 'OCD': if i've thought of my brain as borgesian, if i think in labyrinthian terms, if every thought is followed with an immediate afterthought, if i've thought of myself as dostoyevsky's famous mouse who cannot make a single move so bogged down is he with thought and doubt, if every afterthought spawns a dozen more, then i'm motherfucking george w. bush next to DFW. i mean, shee-it. DFW makes nicholson baker look like kowalski. DFW presses down with the pressure of an instant diamondizer and just doesn't let up. now, i've read about some of y'all not digging multiple paged descriptions of seemingly insignificant shit -- but therein lies the rub: there ain't no insignificant shit. DFW wrote a short story at the age of 9 from the POV of a teapot who gets banged about, scalded, scratched, and vomited into by a family, but, alas, he's their teapot and loyal he doth remain. part of DFW's trip is that all the stuff that makes up our world, well... it makes up our world. DFW don't delve down deep into the small stuff as some kinda literary pomo trickery, not at all; he duly delves down deep because this world of things which surrounds us deserves our attention -- and it's our brains, it's caring about the exact parabola of the tennis ball as much as barry loach's brother's search for man's (not very obvious) inherent goodness, is what makes us who/what we are. it's the world of ideas (applicable to everything) as they blow through the buttons of our coats, through the letters in our rooms, through the flowers in our tombs, blowing every time we move our teeth****, that makes us human.
(don't ya kinda feel that the title isn't only the film at the center of the book but also the joke played on the audience? yeah, DFW's down for hitchcockian audience stroking, but he's also the whore working half her regular rate: she'll stroke it, but won't even consider an orifice. our story surely covers a significant portion of our protagonist's lives but it's all a bit frustrated, eh? the goddamn wheelchair assassins piling into the school as gately rides us out with memories of ultraviolence? as per the book's core themes (and james' films), DFW fucks with our sense of fun and boredom and craving for resolution, for entertainment)
and (2) 'other world' & 'whiff of the ineffable': infinite jest is one of the aforementioned mindfucked works of art which functions as too much caffeine or cocaine or codeine -- a strange riff on our world, a peek at the infinite, of the known and unknown. like any other number of fictional worlds infinite jest offers a glimpse of the human soul not available in the real world. this book tells all the fucking retarded boring limited assholes on this site who groan on and on about contemporary fiction having no function where to shove it. in the ass, people, in the ass.
alright: in his terrific review, fleshy makes the case better than i can: despite a reputation by those, of course, who haven't read it, infinite jest ain't some eggheady meta-fictiony piece of turgid unfeeling dog poopoo. it's a deeply felt book about human sadness, about how we deal with sadness and loss and boredom; it's about a particularly american brand of sadness and loss, about sad people trying to make sense of their lives and their families and the sad stuff they do to fill the sad, empty holes.
let's get past the fact that don delillo is kind of a dickhead for allowing us to pay $24 for a 117 pg novella and get to the point: it's worth it. tw...morelet's get past the fact that don delillo is kind of a dickhead for allowing us to pay $24 for a 117 pg novella and get to the point: it's worth it. twenty-four bucks for a whiff of the ineffable? we'll take it.
“Consciousness is exhausted. Back now to inorganic matter. This is what we want. We want to be stones in a field.” so speaks richard elster, 73 yr old cog in the american war machine, pining and praying for the extinction of the human race, asking to be zapped back to the stardust we all were only a few years back... could there be a collective yearning way beyond our genes, deep in our atomic makeup, a yearning to cycle back to inanimate primordial muck...? ok -- as pretentious and irritating as this may sound, it's also kind of deeply fascinating.
most thrilling is the novel's framing device, the best piece of art criticism ever written. clement greenberg, guillaume apollinaire, john ruskin, harold rosenberg? bunch of pikers. suckers. y'see, not only does delillo turn what should be a somewhat dull art piece into some seriously suspenseful mindfuckery, but he offers the answers to the secrets of the universe. yes. the nature of time and existence are damn near explained! and there's the joke, people: all this talk of extinction and the species running its course? point omega is the omega point! after the completion of this book we, as humans, have it all figured out, done what we hadda do, missing link is... linked. now, get us out of here! ...well, not really. but it sure as shit feels as if delillo was writing well into, and for, the apocalypse.
we open on an unnamed guy hanging around an actual installation at the MOMA in 2006 called 24 Hour Psycho, in which the scottish artist douglas gordon slowed down hitch's masterpiece so that its original 2 hours now takes 24*. and it's thrilling to read delillo's slooooowed down take on watching a sloooowed down film: “To see what’s here, finally to look and to know you’re looking, to feel time passing, to be alive to what is happening in the smallest register." in less certain terms: you slow shit down and weird stuff happens.
and then we move to the core of the novel whose edges, although they might not appear, lock directly into the framing device. and it's weird stuff: warhol's empire by way of beckett. we follow a young filmmaker as he moves in to a 'defense official' from the bush administration's desert getaway in the hope of convincing the older man to be the subject of a documentary. they sit around in silence until the old guy's daughter arrives and then things get shaken up. slightly. very very slightly. y'see, the structure and pacing of delillo's novella, of course, mirrors the character's talks on the nature of time.
but there's a lifelessness to this section. and though this may be the point, it makes little difference, because toward the end, we're called (or should be called) to feel something. after talk of time and extinction and eternity and the dual lumbering monsters of war and nation, the loss of a single person is what equals (is greater than?) the death of the universe. the micro and macro, the quantum & universal… all are bested by loss. and we retain our humanity.
lemme be straight: i'm a delillo freak. the guy puts me in another world; or, more accurately, forces me to reconfigure this world on different terms. no easy task. for me, his books define the last days of the 20th century as powerfully as did dostoevsky's for 19th century st. petersburg. and a part of the strategy, his means of defining our time, is a defamiliarization of the familiar... the world, reality, is strange stuff -- a point most people overlook. and delillo creates totems and icons and magic out of the ordinary; and zaps the pious into the ranks of the banal. and although i'd like to tell y'all to approach this book as a kind of delilloesque fever dream, to allow its simultaneous strangeness and corniness and ponderousness and profundity and beauty and portentousness to just wash over, to just take it all in… it wouldn't be genuine. there's much here, but there's also something lacking. and while i genuinely love that delillo - in his post-underworld novels - has metamorphosed, i don't think he's quite nailed it. but point omega is the closest he's come.
*if douglas gordon can rip the concept for the tv show 24 , apply it to psycho, and have delillo creaming his jeans... why stop there? how about a 24 version of remembrance of things past? war in peace in 24 hours! why stop with art? let's 24 history: seven-day war in 24 hours! thirty-year war in 24 hours! somebody call joel surnow. (less)
1. in the 70s, nixon took the american economy off the gold standard. after that, american money was kind of an abstraction - backed by futures. backe...more1. in the 70s, nixon took the american economy off the gold standard. after that, american money was kind of an abstraction - backed by futures. backed by nothing.
a friend of mine came up with this scenario: a guy walks into a deli and tosses some beer on the counter. the clerk asks for payment and the guy takes out a gun: "fuck you." the guy leaves with whatever he wants.
the american money that was formerly backed by gold, is now backed by 'fuck you' -- the bomb, in no small part, makes that possible.
but i think the story goes much deeper and farther than application to america's economy. it goes, in some sense, toward our very existence as a nation.
during vietnam, nixon & kissinger created the 'madman theory' - they attempted to make leaders of other countries think the president was insane, that he could drop the bomb at any minute. fearing this, the theory went, hostile leaders would kowtow before us. american foreign policy was - and is - backed by 'fuck you.'
2. despite america's obsession with 'rugged individualism', despite the belief that our origins lie in the throwing off of a despot so we do all we can to fight despotism… we are human. and man's default position, i believe, is fascism. for this reason, democracy must be doubly triply quadruply treasured and safeguarded.
3. during the bush presidency gary wills wrote a nytimes op-ed in which he stated that the president wasn't his commander in chief. he was, of course, hit with a barrage of clever & jingoistic witticisms along the line of 'love it or leave it!' wills's point was that the president is, in fact, not his commander in chief. the constitution specifies:
Article II, Section 2, Clause 1:
The President shall be Commander of Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States; and of the Militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.
the president has no direct power over any civilian. but we've arrived at a point in which we believe the president has powers that the constitution doesn't provide… because the modern day president does, in fact, have powers that s/he was never intended to possess.
4. the manhattan project laid the seeds for the national security state in that the executive branch funneled two billion dollars behind congress's back and created a kind of shadow government outside the chain of command in order to develop the bomb. it was necessary, yes, but it was truman - with the help of acheson, kennan, and numerous others - who, after the development and deployment of the bomb, during the early years of the cold war, consolidated the national security state and laid the framework for its permanence -- for a permanent state of war, even in a time of peace. and congress, of course, is equally as culpable in giving up much of their power.
the bomb made it all possible. when other presidents tried to expand executive power they hadn't the means. but the bomb -- the bomb laid all the power in one man's hands and created endgame scenarios in which the american president could, to use acheson's words, 'scare the hell out of' the american public into near submission on anything.
5. fast forward a number of decades to a point in which the executive branch had either 1) overthrown, 2) was instrumental in the overthrowing of, or 3) had failed in an attempt to overthrow - the governments of iran, guatemala, chile, syria, and indonesia; engaged in undeclared wars against korea and vietnam; bypassed congress to launch military escapades in lebanon, grenada, panama, libya, haiti, kosovo, bosnia, etc… but nothing, of course, compares to what went down under george w. bush's eight years of constitution trampling.
sure, you say, lincoln temporarily shut down habeus corpus and FDR created the internment camps. american history is filled with stories of executive overreach. yes, but none of them claimed it their routine right as president to do so. cheney/addington/yoo differed in that they claimed the president had the right to declare war, disregard habeus corpus, create military tribunals, wiretap american citizens without a warrant, and torture suspected bad-guys. (isn't it cute how torture apologists always leave 'suspected' from that last sentence?)
6. we've arrived at a point in which we watch this exchange between John Yoo and Notre Dame law professor Douglas Cassel...
CASSEL: If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?
YOO: No treaty.
CASSEL: Also no law by Congress - that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.
YOO: I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that.
…and it's business as usual.
7. now, i can get into a whole rant about how we differ from any other nation not in our inherent toughness or any of that nonsense but in the uniqueness and badassness of our constitution and that it is the rule of law that truly is the shining city on the hill… but i won't. because, really, who needs to hear that shit again?
8. and for all y'all who believe the current president to be an exception…
"The truth of this was borne out in the early days of Barack Obama's presidency. At his confirmation hearings to be head of the CIA, Leon Panetta said that "extraordinary rendition" was a tool he meant to retain. Obama's nominee for Solicitor General, Elena Kagan, told Congress she agreed with John Yoo's claim that a terrorist captured anywhere should be subject to 'battlefield law'. On the first opportunity to abort trial proceedings by invoking 'state secrets' - Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder, did so. Obama refused to release photographs of "enhanced interrogation". The CIA has earlier illegally destroyed taped depictions of such interrogations - and Obama refused to release documents describing these tapes. The President said that past official crimes would not be investigated - certainly not for prosecution, and not even in terms of an impartial "truth commission" just tying to establish a record. He said, on the contrary, that detainees might be tried in Bush's unconstitutional "military tribunals."
9. bomb power is an important book. and should be read. but it's frustrating in that the subject deserves a deeper, more thorough treatment. a book tracing the creation of the national security state -- a mammoth, complex subject -- deserves more than a few pages on, say, iran/contra, or only a few sentences regarding clinton's invasion of haiti... and it does seem, at times, that in order to hammer a point home in as small a page count as possible, wills simply brushes aside much of the issue's complexity and engages, perhaps, in a bit of presentism. but i suppose it's a common dilemma: write a non-fiction book that one actually wants non-academics to read, one that might have some kind of impact… you can't toss out one of those 850 pg doorstoppers. (less)
ian mcewan hates you, dear reader. have no illusions. the guy flings more shit and pukes more bile in solar than g.g. allin ever dared dream.
check it...moreian mcewan hates you, dear reader. have no illusions. the guy flings more shit and pukes more bile in solar than g.g. allin ever dared dream.
check it: mcewan dazzles in select passages, but the sum ain't always more than its parts -- which isn't necessarily a bad thing. those perfect books with clearly defined themes, succinct, streamlined… yuk. you can have 'em. we like the meandering messes, shot to shit with all the baggage. but at the end of the slop… we've gotta feel something, it's gotta mean something. so mcewan throws a lot at us… but it ain't enough: picasso could impress with something he sketched while taking a shit. and mcewan, the best of his countrymen (yup. gimme mcewan over rushdie, amis, or barnes, anyday) offers up some great characterizations, nice acerbic little observations on man in the world he's created for himself, some great prose (oh, that prose. this is one reader who kinda loathes those who worship at the altar of the perfect sentence… and he readily admits to getting half wood when mcewan waxes poetic), etc… but solar, above all else, reeks of one thing: fatigue. yes. mcewan's writing about the same old bastard, displaying the same old bad behavior, all tangled up in the same old rigid story -- it doesn't work dramatically or satirically. and what're we left with? bullshit. a roth/mailer/updike caricature with not much to say for itself.
i challenge a reader to tell me what lies here other than a gratuitously pessimistic view of humanity lacking a morsel of insight or true emotion. mcewan's running on empty. he's tired. bitter. angry. it's ugly.
"great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."
the great & average: fuck off and get lost. the small-minded...more"great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."
the great & average: fuck off and get lost. the small-minded: enjoy!
1. sarah palin. in a way, she fares quite well. you gotta think about it like this: if one were to invite a chimpanzee over for dinner, when the monkey started flinging its own feces, knocking over bottles, yanking away the tablecloth… one couldn't very well get upset, could they? palin is palin. gotta accept it.
fun, of course, are mccain's strategist's reactions after they realize exactly who and what she is:
"Oh. My. God." "She knows nothing."
for a while they suspect that she's mentally unstable and hire a doctor to watch and analyze. and, when they question how she is always able to remain calm, to accept it all as it comes, to seamlessly change overnight from obscure alaskan politician to global mega-celebrity, she explains:
"It's all part of god's plan."
2. john and elizabeth edwards. the big myth of the campaign, as understood by the edwards staff, was "Saint Elizabeth" --
she did a great job of projecting an image of holiness, and much of it came down to a few things:
1. she had cancer 2. john cheated on her when she had cancer 3. he fathered a child with a woman he was sleeping with while she had cancer. 4. when asked why voters liked john edwards, this guy dared say what lots of people thought: "I like that he's got a fat wife! I thought he'd be married to a Barbie or a cheerleader."
the reality of the situation, as per this book, is that john is a callow, shallow, self-obssesed and somewhat delusional fuck who carried on an affair with a whacked out hippy partygirl who, upon meeting people for the first time, handed a business card which read: "Being is Free: Rielle Hunter - Truth Seeker"
and elizabeth. whew. she came from a wealthy family. john didn't. she took every opportunity to make john well aware of this fact. regularly called him a 'hick'. referred to his parents as 'rednecks'. one time, a friend asked if john had read a book and she exclaimed, "Oh, he doesn't read books! I'm the one who reads!"
some of elizabeth's greatest hits:
- "Why the fuck do you think I'd want to go sit outside a Wal-Mart and hand out leaflets? I want to talk to persuadable voters!"
- when the staff was having trouble arranging her husband's health care coverage she threatened to cut off the entire staff's coverage until john had his. this attained a good degree of infamy within the campaign as the edwards' were worth tens of millions and much of their staff worked for minimum wage or for free.
- when john admitted to having an affair he continued to deny that the child was his (he knew it was) so that obama would tap him for attorney general and then when the truth came out, he'd already have the job. when elizabeth was asked if she believed his denial, she responded: "I have to believe my husband's denial. Because if I don't, it means I'm married to a monster."
- an excerpt: 'At the terminal, the couple fought in the passenger waiting area. They fought outside in the parking lot. Elizabeth was sobbing, out of control, incoherent. As their aides tried to avert their eyes, she tore off her blouse, exposing herself. “Look at me!” she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground.'
3. john mccain.
an excerpt: "Fuck you! FUCK, FUCK, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!!!" John McCain let out the stream of sharp epithets, both middle fingers raised and extended, barking in his wife's face. He was angry; she had interrupted him. Cindy burst into tears, but, really, she should have been used to it by now."
the key to who john mccain became, to some extent, his 'rosebud', was the 2000 south carolina primary in which he was demolished by the bush team. mccain did better than expected in new hampshire and the bush team broke from the agreement not to go negative and created rumors that mccain's adopted bangladesh daughter was actually the illegitimate child of a black hooker. they also told voters that mccain lost his marbles in the hanoi hilton.
mccain couldn't let that happen again. he hadda keep his maverick reputation but had to suck off the establishment; had to, in some ways, become the establishment. it was tough: the rightwing freakshow hated mccain, right-wing radio regularly abused him, the religious right doubted him. so he backtracked on his stance on torture. on amnesty for immigrants. he shut the fuck up about gay rights, abortion, stem-cell research, etc. and he decided that, although he wasn't 100% sure of the surge, he knew he had make it the defining theme of the campaign and make obama look like the unpatriotic inexperienced pussy.
fuck 2000. he was different this time. he was angry. stubborn. cranky. and he didn't like barack obama at all.
y'see, when obama was new to the senate, mccain, as he often did, saw a star quality to obama and approached him with the offer of co-sponsoring a bill to create a kind of bipartisan goodwill. a nice gesture. obama interpreted this as some kind of condescending patronizing bullshit and rejected the offer... with a form letter. fuck that shit, yo. mccain sent obama a nasty letter. and that was that.
when mccain saw the freakshow he helped create… he was appalled. as his rallies became filled with wingnuts screaming out that obama was a 'terrorist' or 'muslim' or 'arab', he knew something had gone wrong. mccain frequently cites for whom the bells toll as his favorite novel. he should've read moby dick. and taken notes.
4. bill and hillary clinton. bill is kind of a charmed guy now, ain't he? pals around with both bush 41 & 43. is universally admired as the genius political brain of our time. and now that the right wing has a new hitler/marx/socialist/appeaser they're free to make good on the 'whores, buildings, and politicians grow respectable with age' theory.
but bill, as we remember, became unhinged on the campaign trail. and hillary was blunt: "i can't control him". her staff created a 'war room within the war room' to figure how to handle bill -- his gaffes, his anger, his overbearing presence, his trips to l.a., miami, and las vegas aboard what the staffers called 'air fuck one'…
the clintons are kind of lovable, but they're also kind of awful. incredibly calculating and scheming and manipulative and they fight real dirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrty.
revealed is that clinton and bush 43 are great friends. in fact, through much of 43's presidency, he'd call bill and they'd just hang on the phone for an hour chewing the fat. it kinda makes sense, actually.
5. barack and michelle obama. you know how you watch a jimmy stewart movie and you totally dig it but it's too much of a fairy tale? well, obama's kinda like that. by every account he's a real guy. drinks beer, smokes, hangs out… and he looooooves his wife and kids. never any rumors of indiscretions, no edwards or clinton bullshit. guy spends any free time he has hanging with michelle. he married up and he knows it. it's kinda fucking adorable.
yeah, he can be arrogant, but he's not full of shit. and he can fight dirty. for sure. but - and this seems the most unbelievable part of the entire book - he absolutely refused to go for personal attacks against his enemies. when his campaign dug up some bullshit on bill and hillary's personal life that was tested to be effective he nixed it. according to the book's authors obama was genuinely afraid of turning into a bad guy.
and his level of focus? remarkable. when one of his staffers asked about the mccain/palin team as it started going down in flames, barack's explanation:
"no fucking discipline."
the bit players. everyone loathes romney. i loathe lieberman. biden is, of course, a showboaty bigmouth, but we kinda love his pompous sinatraesque ways. mark penn is like jabba the hut only less charismatic. bush 43 is, at times, stunned by mccain's lack of political acumen. fuck cheney. (less)
my third post-hiatus parker book. and it's good. a tightly plotted story involving three breakouts:
1. parker assembles a string in prison to break the...moremy third post-hiatus parker book. and it's good. a tightly plotted story involving three breakouts:
1. parker assembles a string in prison to break the hell out before they're transferred to high-security. 2. parker and crew have gotta break out of an armory once their entry/exit tunnel has collapsed. 3. parker and mackay have gotta use legal maneuvering and intimidation to break brenda out of a police holding tank.
and i particularly love the final few pages as parker hitches a ride with a middle-aged truck-driving couple.
but i don't love any of these books the way i love the original sixteen pre-hiatus parker books. i suppose part of it's gotta do with the times. parker just ain't a man of the 90's or 00's, y'know? imagine don draper on the view? cary grant on twitter? naw, can't happen. so there's a part of me that was kinda hoping that the post-hiatus books would touch on exactly that: what happens to a 'man of his time' as time passes him by?
well, in a sense, stark answers the question by not answering it: some people change and others just wither up and blow away... but parker. parker does what he's always done: he proceeds as the lone-wolf, existential anti-hero regardless if the prez is JFK or bush, the drug is LSD or X, or the enemy is the USSR or al-qaeda. parker is always and only parker and i guess that's the point... but my gut tells me there's a bit of a missed opportunity here.
of course, the fault could lie in me. it's easy as hell to romanticize a time before one lived, all that bullshit hopped-up nostalgia is powerful stuff. consider this image of parker by darwyn cooke from his graphic novelization of the outfit:
yeah, the danish mid-century furniture is cooler than its contemporary equivalent, the miami beach setting out the window conjures thoughts of hyman roth and tiki cocktails as opposed to drunk-on-red-bull-and-grey-goose ed-hardy-wearing douchebags, the very design of the image itself carries the whiff of noir and mystery and the threat of violence, and maybe a chiseled sociopath with a gun is easier to swallow if i know he's part of an older era... but, ah... what the shit do i know? lemme stop trying to understand why i love this stuff and just love it. (yeah, well, we know i can't really ever do that...)
well, i've read 19 of these things. 5 more to go. what happens after that?(less)
a small town in north dakota sits deep in a narrow valley. a single road the only way in or out. parker and eleven men head down at midnight and metho...morea small town in north dakota sits deep in a narrow valley. a single road the only way in or out. parker and eleven men head down at midnight and methodically take over the tiny police department then the fire department then the phone switchboard. once the town's defenses have been neutralized and communication is cut off from the outside world, the team knocks over the town's two banks, the jewelry store, and then robs the town's entire payroll. a heist to the extreme! forget one bank, one store, one person, one job... let's do an entire town in a single night! that's the score. and it's terrific. spare and cold and angry and intelligent -- and there are some good women in there, too: one trashy, one sweet, both willing to toss it all away for a life of adventure and crime and hard-as-rocks men.
fleshy asked, after my review of slayground, why, with such a rapturous review, did i only slap it with four stars? well, i think it is a 4 star book but the score might very well be a 5. but i'm still giving it 4. lemme explain.
charles ardai, in his introduction, writes:
"Reading the Parker novels is a little like watching a jazz musician at work. The performance begins with a familiar melody, the unadorned restatement of a theme, but then the performer cuts loose, interpreting, elaborating, inverting, transforming, improvising.
At a certain level of abstraction, of course, the Parker novels are all the same... and yet, Stark somehow manages to assemble these elements into a thoroughly new book. Bix Biederbecke famously said he never played a solo the same way twice, and neither did Stark. It may be the same song each time, but all the notes are different."
yup. stark works off a familiar template and it's great: he usually begins with the second act, as the action is already moving along, and then explains all we really need to know from the first act along the way. we then watch parker create and interact with his team, intellectually figure out how best to do 'the job', and then it all goes into effect and we watch parker improvise as shit falls apart and/or goes wrong.
now i believe the score to be, on one level, a perfect little crime book. but it definitely feels a part of something larger: as if this individual book is just one chapter in 'the life of parker' -- analogous to, say, updike's rabbit stories in which the individual novels might deserve 3 or 4 stars, but taken as a whole, it's an undeniable fiver. so, maybe i judge too harshly. maybe a five star book doesn't need to be a giant epic encompassing and totaling much more than the sum of its parts... who knows? who cares? i know parker wouldn't. he'd grunt and walk away.
in the hunter, parker warned the Outfit that if he were to instruct all his contacts to hit Outfit run businesses across the nation, they could put so...morein the hunter, parker warned the Outfit that if he were to instruct all his contacts to hit Outfit run businesses across the nation, they could put some serious hurting on the organization. it never comes to that. in this book it does. and it's glorious. not only do we track parker's moves against high-ranking members of the Outfit, but individual chapters are devoted to heists and jobs by various transient criminals directed at the Outfit. good stuff.
i've always loved stories which feature an interconnected underworld of criminals. bad guys, robbers, vampires, aliens, etc, who live amongst us and do what we do... up to a point. the sun goes down and they knock around empty train depots, greasy spoons, dive bars, pool-halls, city streets, etc. and do bad things. there's some great nerdy little metaphors for society wrapped up in all of this but also, in general, it reinforces the belief that ordinary day-by-day life has an underside, that there are aliens in the midst, that everything is not exactly as it should be. this comforts me. and this is parker's world, a world which rejects the mainstream and also rejects the mainstream criminal organization (the Outfit) -- parker lives his life by his own rules: most of the year spent at various resort hotels and spas and the other months in crappy anonymous motel rooms assembling a team and pulling off a heist. intersperse some dames and some booze and that's parker. it's sinister and scary and romantic and cool and i'm always a sucker for it.
but what this book is really about is going soft. it's about how, when those on the margins become too big powerful or prestigious, they're absorbed into the mainstream and go limp. and parker capitalizes on this: he understands that the Outfit might be thousands-strong with millions of dollars and unlimited political connections, but he also realizes that they're mired down in bureaucracy and red tape and have turned slow and soft. and if he hits 'em hard and fast enough, they have no means of recourse: he can slip into the night and there ain't a damn thing they can do about it. a b-story featuring parker's favorite crime buddy, handy mckay, shows how, after years of heists, he's piled up enough money so that he can realize his dream: to get outta the business and open a diner. and this worries parker: once a guy doesn't feel that urgency he, like the Outfit, gets soft and lazy and slow. not good.
and parker. parker ain't soft. anything but. check this out: as any good parkerphile knows, parker is celibate during the planning and doing phases of the 'job', but once it's done, he requires sex. lots of it. in the final pages of this book, as he's writing letters to his buddies that the Outift has given in to his demands and operations should cease, a plump whore from downstairs enters his room offering up a freebie. we like this woman and kinda want parker to do the deed. here's what we get:
"It would be a nice break from the letter-writing to toss this one once, a soft quickie on the clean sheets. But the blank cowlike face stopped him because he knew there was a blank bovine mind behind it. The first one after a job ought to be a good one, like Bett, not a pig from Scranton."
and i've gotta see this movie (robert duvall as the parker character! with robert ryan and joe don baker!):
to hell with y'all and all your crummy new years resolutions: 'lose weight, stop smoking, go vegetarian (<--although, that you should do!), be more...moreto hell with y'all and all your crummy new years resolutions: 'lose weight, stop smoking, go vegetarian (<--although, that you should do!), be more/less adventurous, etc...' boring. totally boring. my resolution: gonna read every one of richard stark's 'parker' novels this year. and they're all gonna be those lovely gorgeous knockout new U. of Chicago editions. y'know what... lemme throw a few more chips in the pot: i'm gonna read all the ones currently available - that's 15 of 'em - this month. and then in april, when they release the next nine, i'll pound through those. so i'll have two months in between to recuperate or go into withdrawal... we'll see what happens.
it doesn't always work out as planned, but i try and divide my life bilaterally: the one half is a blur of lost days, days of adventure, dementia, drunkenness, travel, etc.; the other half is leaving the house as infrequently as possible and consists mostly of sitting in my office subsisting on a diet of massive amounts of coffee, books, music, dog-cuddling, masturbation, writing, and crap television/movies. the end of january marks my 37th birthday and what better way to celebrate than to head back to nyc for a week and run around like a chicken with its head cut off revealing me, in truth, as some pathetic rapidly-approaching-middle-aged loser still chasing his childhood... so in the weeks running up to my birthday it's the 'quiet' side of the equation, which means headphones roaring with the likes of bitches brew, new tijuana moods, singles going steady, and live dead; the oaks (my local coffee spot); working on these two stupid stupid scripts; editing this stupid stupid film; golden-hour hikes with my doggie; and total immersion in the world of 'parker' -- a great world to inhabit assuming, of course, you don't end up on parker's bad side.
and why the parker books? well, because they're the best. i've been hearing this forever. boorman's point blank, his version of the hunter, is some kinda loopy, jagged masterpiece. God(ard) based made in the usa on the jugger. tosh is a massive fan. as is mike reynolds. so i finally hunkered down at the book store and read a few chapters of slayground and the deal was sealed. i raced home, blasted through the book in an afternoon, immediately went back to the store, grabbed the score, and finished it that night (even better than slayground!)
i'll prolly jot down a few sentences after each book so ain't gonna blow my wad just now on why stark is god and parker a greater creation than adam, eve, light, earth, and any and all of us. just this: so far as i can tell, stark's plots are totally nutso. dig slayground: parker and two men crash the armored truck they just hijacked, parker snatches the satchel of money, and he escapes into a closed-down (it's winter) amusement park with only one entrance and exit. a bottle narrative deluxe! as 20 men (gangsters and crooked cops) come in to get him, parker's gotta booby-trap the hell outta the place and we get all the good stuff: shoot-outs in the house of mirrors, guys getting trapped in carnival rides, money stashed on fake pirate ships, standing painfully still in house of wax displays, fist fights, stabbings, shootings, etc...
now y'all keep quiet about this guy. i've gotta finish these scripts, build up my cred, and convince some studio bitch to buy the rights to one of these books for me so i can show boorman and God(ard) how it's really done.