Palimpsest, for all Vidal's narcissism, was an achievement in autobiography, a genre generally to be avoided. For a man I'm inclined to think of as ex...morePalimpsest, for all Vidal's narcissism, was an achievement in autobiography, a genre generally to be avoided. For a man I'm inclined to think of as exceptionally cold it was lyrical and warm, surprisingly frank on the heart, and well structured. He didn't feel compelled to tell us all - self aware enough to edit even life for the good bits.
But this. If you rate Vidal, best not read it.
The voice is still there, the wonderfully shaded irony, his acidic cutting through spin in commentary on events. But it's mostly the final telegrams of an old man missing his dead partner and lamenting the death and decline of his America, his friends, his glittering life. Even the chapter length tells of his waning powers - a page or two at most, before he must rest.
The queerest thing of all was the three or so chapters where he rated academic and biographical writings on his own life and significance. One chapter is a complete quote from the book of an academic - like he was reading you his book review over the breakfast table.
Or perhaps he was worried that his words, his important words, were impermanent after all. Not etched on tablets for eternal reference. I'll be reading his collected essays for the rest of my life, as he himself never put down his Montaigne.
I am hoping for some unreleased essays and his correspondence to be published. But this second autograph of his life made me feel like I was feeding on carrion. (less)
A thoroughly enjoyable faggot of thoughts and musings from Robb, some falling more towards the journalism end of interview and observation (more decla...moreA thoroughly enjoyable faggot of thoughts and musings from Robb, some falling more towards the journalism end of interview and observation (more declamatory and crisp in tone) and others dreamier, or happy to gorge on the author’s particular obsessions. The range of its concerns follows the author’s commissions and experience – the cultural cringe an irrelevancy. Robb writes about what he likes.
I loved his visit to the “lost” Caravaggios exhibited together in Naples for the first time – his breathless excitement at seeing properly rare pictures that obsessed him and his tumbling out what he could puzzle from them, slotting their hints into the large body of his insights on that artist – gleaned with such intensity that he alarmed the guards and was escorted away. Also his dissection of the crossed swords of academe in relation to scholarship on Caravaggio, starring Roberto Longhi.
Robb is not afraid to show us himself craven in a horrible apartment in the Cross, pissing off Gore Vidal, exploring queerness without the slightest hesitation of opinion, or his bare, breeze-on-flesh pleasure of a lotus-eating retreat in Brazil.
I never quite escaped my consciousness of Robb controlling his presentation of self – he is always clever, always, always, grasping what is going on – that sureness of his opinion at times was too impervious. Occasionally I wanted that large, brainy head of his not to be glinting across the table from me at the dinner party. He might get up from the table and let his words alone give me a rest.
The only time I felt the urgency of his need to master understanding it all waver was in his interview with Marcia Langton, whom Robb has known for a long time and with whom he shares a powerful frisson. You sense his awe of her and the wound of her chastisement of him when she rips him a new arsehole in public, while out for dinner.
I do know one of his interview subjects (or I did, fifteen years ago – the piece is fairly old too) and I can’t say I think it very characteristic of her. But it doesn’t make me like this book less. And like all essayists, it’s a pleasure to dip into and read over time.
By now you know this is Sacher-Masoch with the brains sucked out so I won't rant about it being bad.
I would like to note the achievement of a 500+ pa...moreBy now you know this is Sacher-Masoch with the brains sucked out so I won't rant about it being bad.
I would like to note the achievement of a 500+ page moist towelette without a single interesting tableau, conversation or indeed, moment of genuine leg-crossing pleasure.
Come on, that's something.
Obvious hackles raised by the scenario, I was truly BAFFLED by the author's choice to make her plucky heroine with the great smile and no need EVER to trim her bikini line despite regular maintenance of other gross, like, hair, to make her a complete sexual zero.
That's right folks, this all-american perfectly normal intelligent College grad who is "totes hot" is a tabula rasa simply waiting for the sting of Grey's hand.
She's not just a virgin but she doesn't, hasn't ever, touched herself. Rightio, then. Bring on the mental labioplasty, excising sensuality and "strumming the banjo" as a shearer once endearingly described it to me.
The sex is vanilla and as Andrew O'Hagan points out, very hygenic. (Listen to his podcast, it's uproarious). There was an odd moment when Christian removes her tampon but I think this was supposed to be showing his softer kitten-and-child-loving sensitive side.
I couldn't help but conclude the book was an unintended riff on American Psycho. Christian Grey and Patrick Bateman should swap business cards. (less)
I was willing this book to be good. No commentary I've ever read on Hunter has EVER been good.
It is not wonderful. Ersatz Gonzo stylings from the illu...moreI was willing this book to be good. No commentary I've ever read on Hunter has EVER been good.
It is not wonderful. Ersatz Gonzo stylings from the illustrator who admits that Hunter HATED when he tried to write anything on the pictures so essential to his own success. There was much territorial pissing.
Of course, HST is a complete MONSTER. He maces Steadman in the face at their first meeting. I have to say I believe Ralph totally on that one. The wound of his eventual inevitable rejection by Hunter clearly still suppurates. Particularly when Steadman keeps picking at it...
Impressions of Steadman himself at present are not stellar. Raving, paranoiac Welshman prone to fits of sabotage and assassination by ink.
Best chapter so far has been on the HST piece that never saw the light of day - what they got up to in Kinshasa covering the Rumble in the Jungle.
In the end, Hunter comes off as the freak you'd expect (I'm wondering if I should go back to read what I once so admired, or if it might freeze the blood like recent re-watchings of Withnail and I) but Ralph even more so. Resentment, pettiness, open jealousy, bottled anger until explosion...all told in a thick argot of bluffness that makes the dialogue from McGoohan's The Prisoner seem positively straight forward.
There isn't much insight here. Only a short reference to the suicide, in Aspen, while Ralph was visiting. He seems bewildered by his friend, and blindsided. (less)