Rocky in parts, scintillating in others. This was used as an example of how Nabokov is an heir to Dostoevsky and the juxtaposition makes a lot of sens...more Rocky in parts, scintillating in others. This was used as an example of how Nabokov is an heir to Dostoevsky and the juxtaposition makes a lot of sense. Not everybody can pull off Dusty's febrile insights and trademark moral intensity and questioning, and so most don't need to.
Nab's usual style is more about lucidity and taste and lyricism and suave asides...it's not his metier, in other words, and it's not his fault that ol' rusty Dusty got there first(less)
Man, I remember when I read this stuff as a kid. All I got were the ones about football. Took me years before I figured out what the hell they were ta...more
Man, I remember when I read this stuff as a kid. All I got were the ones about football. Took me years before I figured out what the hell they were talking about...Nixon and the Vietnam War and race relations and sex and Yippies and football...(less)
I used to read these as an exciting glimpse into the world of adults (radicals, presidents, war machines, college hookups and beer! O my!) and I real...more I used to read these as an exciting glimpse into the world of adults (radicals, presidents, war machines, college hookups and beer! O my!) and I really only got the ones about football. Would like to give these another look, now that I'm older and wiser and yet I can still catch the smell of the white, varnished wood in the cupboard where I found these...(less)
I remember just barely getting any of this when I found it somewhere in my parent's shelves when I was, like, 13. Now I'd love to go back and read it...more I remember just barely getting any of this when I found it somewhere in my parent's shelves when I was, like, 13. Now I'd love to go back and read it again with the benefit of hindsight and subsequent political obsessions(less)
I realized as I kept reading that the guy knows what he's doing, that he has an idea and a vision and is coming to terms with how to represent said t...more I realized as I kept reading that the guy knows what he's doing, that he has an idea and a vision and is coming to terms with how to represent said things...
All this is to the good. I just wasn't all that interested. Two stars, taken literally.(less)
I'd forgotten about this one- my parents had made it an Xmas Xtra and I'd foolishly let it languish on the top shelf of my closet for the longest tim...more
I'd forgotten about this one- my parents had made it an Xmas Xtra and I'd foolishly let it languish on the top shelf of my closet for the longest time. I picked it up the other day and fell back in love with The Onion. You just can't go wrong- they are the Twain, Bierce, Mencken and Dorothy Parkers of the 21st Century.... (less)
Caterwaul of surreal, grotesque, nightmarish political satire. Straight from the throbbing nexus of the political unconscious, and with a backbeat pr...more Caterwaul of surreal, grotesque, nightmarish political satire. Straight from the throbbing nexus of the political unconscious, and with a backbeat provided by the abbatoirs of the 20th Century.
It didn't all hang together for me as much as I thought it would, so just "ok"...might need to re-read it someday...(less)
I'm really surprised that I hadn't added this one yet. I thought I had. We certainly go back a long way...
I read it summer before Junior year of high school for the much-coveted AP English/History class. I was excited; I remember staring at the cover of the boring old Bantam edition (I couldn't find it amid the list of editions, so I went with the pretty badassed, eye-catchingest one) and feeling like a big kid at last.
It wasn't necessarily the greatest aesthetic achievement in the history of human existence, but it wasn't bad. It's very simple, plot-wise, almost flimsily stereotypical with its Hard Working, Simple but Confused and Naieve Immigrant Guy versus Soulless, Rapacious Capitalist who Lies His Smooth Head Off dichotomy. Poor Jurgus Rudkus hauls ass all day while his scowling boss bullies him and feels up his anxious, uncomprehending wife..."I must work harder" he mumbles, bending his honest back to the Vulcanic fire pits of gilded age capitalism...
Sinclair doesn't really even bother to hide this fact- he pretty much abandons his blatant symbolism and glaring allegory halfway through for a long, impassioned rant about Socialism and it's inherent awesomeness..."Chicago will be ours! Chicago will be ours!"...not a bad slogan, that.
I read it in a growing, adolescent fury and felt totally on fire once I put it down. I remember exactly where I was- CT, beach house, mid-summer. I hopped out to the beach to soak up some waves and listen to the ocean and I started talking about the book with my dad, who is reactionarily right wing and thinks he's an even-handed moderate. He listens to Glenn Beck and Hannity and god knows who else and takes them seriously. He's devoutly religious, too.
So anyway, I'm twitching with righteous indignation and dad settles back into his beach chair, his muscular chest glistening with suntan oil and sweat, the very picture of middle class lassitude and cockiness and tells me that all I need to do, as far as politics is concerned, is read one book by Ayn Rand called Atlas Shrugged and "all your questions will be answered". Just like that.
And you WONDER why I'm fucked up.
Anyway, I guess something in Sinclair's political conviction must have caught a hold on me because it's three administrations and more than a decade later and I'm more interested in progressive politics than I've ever been.
Sinclair said that he'd aimed for the people's heart but managed to hit them in the stomach. Ah well. Teddy Roosevelt apparantly read him and was outraged at the plainly outrageous conditions of the meat packing plants- regulation? what, me worry?- and rough rode up in the slums and got some more specific, restrictive and evidently useful legislation passed. Good for him. Good for both of 'em...(less)
I heard a LOT about this book before I ever read it. I'd read Mailer's review of it, DFW's review, a bunch of others, seen the movie (twice, I think)...more
I heard a LOT about this book before I ever read it. I'd read Mailer's review of it, DFW's review, a bunch of others, seen the movie (twice, I think) and talked about it with a lot of different people who either looved it or haaated it.
A friend of mine, a gentle, sentimental, generous nihilist and misanthrope (that's right, they exist) was reading this and loaned it to me for the day. It goes quick. It was over in pretty much an afternoon/evening...
First things first: FUCK THIS SHIT. I saw the movie and was bored- I like, nay, love provocative, spiky, confrontational work. I especially like it when I am repulsed when I first encounter it and end up having to think about it because it won't leave my cranium and eventually see another side of what it's doing and subsequently eat my words like crow. I'm as opinionated as anybody, but I'll be the first to climb down off my pedestal when I realize that I've missed the boat.
In short, epater the hell out of the ol' booboise, but don't do it if you're only bringing a knife to a gunfight, aesthetically speaking. Emerson told some bloke he knew who was writing an essay calling out Plato for whatever reason that "when you shoot at a king, you must kill him." Bullseye.
The movie sucked, and here's why: While it's all well and good to chalk American Psycho (heretofore referred to as AP for brevity reasons) up to "Swiftian satire" or what-you-will, the argument is not about moral turpitude, it's about aesthetic success. Does the artist pull it off?
I found the movie to be pretentious, portentious, shallow, and so frigging obvious I wanted to gag. I get it- yes, Wall Street is not exactly crawling with humanists, the 80's were materialistic and capitalist-fetishizing, Bateman is a mysogynistic, arrogant, bloodthirsty murderer and the world he comes from not only tolerates this latent behavior but encourages and abets it, people are reduced to brand affiliations, stereotypes, obsessive cataloguing of status symbols, blahblahblahblah....
My question is: so-fucking-what? Was this news for anybody? Did nobody get the memo? People like this exist and not only have more of a share of the pie than most, they sit at a bigger part of the table. Hell, they OWN the table. I feel like people have pretty much already started to figure this kind of thing out, if only in incoherent disgust and grievances, but still...it's not exactly an incredible feat of imagination to have concieved of a character who exemplifies all the soulless, rapacious, amoral traits we've come to associate with that level of wealth and privilege.
Christian Bale is a fine actor and he gave it his best shot but ultimately what the part amounts to is him running around in $700 suits, butchering hookers, and blaring out infomercial banalities in a SUPERIRONIC! gameshow host voice. Hoo ray. Two cheers for callin' it like you see it, there...
My point about SUPERIRONIC! quality of AP is that the satire is so bald, so over-inflated and so unbelievably telegraphed that any viewer who isn't completely out to lunch is going to get it. I almost put the last phrase in quotes but, aw, fuck it.
It's sort of hard NOT to get it, is what I'm saying, and thus it's SUPERIRONIC!: it's quasi-camp, it announces itself all over the map as some kind of barbed satire and, well, it loses all its barbs once they become so painfully obvious that they pretty much float past the cortex without lodging there and causing the audience real pain and discomfort.
I hate this. I hate it as a literary device, I hate it as a trope, I hate it as an aesthetic mode, and I especially hate hate hate its effect on the reader. Why? Because it's so clumsily filled with SUPERIRONY! that the audience gets it, has no aesthetic or moral or intellectual work to do in the getting of it and therefore smugly congratulates itself on getting it, thereby losing the entire sting of the satire in the first place.
The movie's website (yeah, I checked out the website. I was really interested in this phenomenon back in the day) had a feature where you could "e-mail Patrick Bateman". Seriously? And say what? "Dude, we should hang out. I dig your crazy style"..."I want you- take me, alpha male"..."I hate you"..."This is retarded"..."Bababooey! Bababooey!"...really. I'm just asking.
What's the difference between the audience's time-honoured practise of vicariously thrilling at the villian's sexy immorality and actually starting to dig him, or, in a more meta, implicit way, to start to become like him?
Bateman doesn't care. He's more than happy to chuckle at the losers and bums and whores he butchers out of boredom and out of a twisted, exhausted sense of dull pleasure. How much different could that be from a reader who laughs at AP to prove he's in on the joke, too?
How can you make a moral challenge (and Ellis himself is fond of saying what a moralist he is) to the audience when the audience you're trying to shock is too busy patting itself on the back for realizing that Patrick Bateman is such a smooth criminal that they may not even recognize the Batemens of the world when they stroll down their streets, leaving invisible fires of economic catastrophe in their wake.
What's worse, they might just think it's funny.
Who's the fool?
What good does it do for a society that starts to laugh at its own sense of intellectual superiority, using a piece of art that depicts brutality as its occasion for ostensible social diagnosis, and thinks it's just super-freaking-cool for doing so?
The thing is, it takes a mighty soul to laugh off tragedy and calamity. (I shouldn't even say it like that- "laugh off" sounds too blithe and dismissive. Try laugh "out"? Nah, that's no good.) Nietzsche was pretty adamant about this, as with most things, but he really hit the nail on the head. It takes a lot of moral and intellectual courage to meet pain and evil with laughter- you have to learn how to do it; you have to give up a lot and sacrifice a certain glimmering thing to be able to be that tough. To survive like that.
It's really magnificent, I think, to be able to overpower the bullshit of the world with a free spirit and fresh air and convivality. Laughter- the good laughter, the really potent stuff, the laughter of exorcism- don't come cheap.
What I hate about AP is the fact that the laughs it offers, the finger it jabs, doesn't mean anything. It's as superficial and hollow and nigh-mechanical as the world it depicts. It's cheap.
I spent the first part of this review talking about the film on purpose. I approached the book with good intentions- thinking that the film was probably a riff, a bad or distinctly different adaptation, and that the novel would be better.
I did laugh a couple of times, I'll admit. I thought that some of the writing was well-done as deadpan shock and Ellis does know how to put together a string of grotesquerie in a slyly witty way. Bateman turning up The Traveling Wilburys to muffle the sound of his flesh-churning chainsaw did make me laugh, I admit. Something about those venerable old 60's faces...
But it was the kind of laugh you give to someone who slammed his dick in a door 500 times on youtube...I mean, the poor fucker's trying so hard .....(less)