Sunday, August 21, 2005

Lunar follies

I did a bit of book-buying this weekend. I spent too much time looking over and eventually passing on a volume of Edmund Wilson's journals. Out of the volumes titled after decades—The Twenties, The Thirties, The Forties, The Fifties—I have three...but I can never remember which ones! This store had all of them, but I didn't want to shell out mazuma for something I already had.

The haul was a bit more obscure than usual.

1. The Proof, by Agota Kristof
2. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4, by Sue Townsend
3. A Nest of Ninnies, by James Schuyler and John Ashbery
4. The Adaptable Man, by Janet Frame
5. Mrs. Caldwell Speaks to Her Son, by Camilo José Cela
6. All Souls, by Javier Marias
7. Notes From a Bottle Found on the Beack at Carmel, by Evan S. Connell
8. Don Bueno, by Zulfikar Ghose

I bought #1 because I admire Kristof's The Notebook, to which this is something of a sequel/continuation; #2 I feel might have been recommended to me (by whom?); #3 I read a while ago and have fond memories of and so why not own it; #4 I have no idea why I bought it—the name rings a bell (I think she died last year—a New Zealand writer of an experimental bent; this book looks totally unread, as if the reader had bought it in a fit of confidence, flipped through a couple pages, and said the hell with it); #5 just had an intriguing title (and a short-chapter structure that reminded me of Machado de Assis's books); #6 because the first page looked good; #7 because I recall Lewis Lapham liked it; and #8 because Ghose was B.S. Johnson's very close friend before he, Ghose, moved to Texas to take an academic position.

The Adrian Mole is really good. This weekend I mostly read Bret Easton Ellis's new novel, Lunar Park. It's wonderfully funny (and increasingly spooky)—Ellis has a seamless comic style here that's very much to my liking.

This exchange, between "Bret" and his young stepdaughter, Sarah, was quite interesting ("Jayne" is Bret's wife):

"I know the alphabet," she stated proudly. "A B C D E F—"
"Honey, Bret has a big headache. I'm gonna take your word on this one."
"—G H I J K L M N—"
"You can identify the sounds letters make. Sweetie, that's really excellent. Jayne?"
"—O P Q R S T U V—"
"Jayne, would you please giver her a sugar-free doughnut or something?" I touched my head to indicate migraine approaching. "Really."
"And I know what a rhombus is!" Sarah shouted gleefully.
"And a hexagon!"
"Okay, but take pity on me just now, munchkin."
"And a trapezoid!"
"Honey, Daddy's grouchy and sleepy and about to throw up so couldn't you keep it down a little?"

Readers of Lee Tandy Schwartzman's Crippled Detectives may find themselves thinking about Chapter Twenty, in which an abecedarian boast morphs into shape-talk.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Wednesday morning at 8:19...

...and I'm posting some items of interest for you Beatles devotees. The first is a site devoted to Beatles bootlegs, with sound clips to enjoy.

Next up—I didn't realize that Devin McKinney, author of the amazing Beatles book Magic Circles, wrote a semi-regular column in The American Prospect. I just read the one critical of the Let It Be reissue; choice stuff!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Six-string serenade

I've been watching Let It Be. Despite being a huge Beatles fan, I've never seen it. Thanks to my friend Euge, I now have a copy—totally fascinating! I'll have some more priceless observations later.

For whatever reason, I thought I'd whip out the old "axe" and learn "I've Got a Feeling"—and came to the startling discovery that I can no longer play guitar. I've sacrificed my finger coordination to the god of the ukelele! I think it must be like trying to go back to tennis after a season of squash. All the strings seem way too heavy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Twenty, Forty, Six...

We went to see 2046 at the theater last night—an overwhelming experience. I'm under its sway even more than I was after seeing it on DVD, though a fellow Dizzyhead noted that the colors are less saturated in this print than they are on the small-screen version. Still, it's a knockout on a dozen levels.

Someone should do a triple-bill of Wong Kar-wai's three linked movies, a poetic trilogy: Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love, and 2046. On this viewing of 2046, I became especially interested in the links between 2046 and Days. Tony Leung's character (Mr. Chow) is told by a showgirlfriend that he reminds her of her late boyfriend, a Chinese Filipino bandleader (or member). The end of DOBW featured an unnamed, dialogueless Leung primping in a low-ceilinged room, combing his hair, etc.—his first appearance in the movie. We are given no explanation. Roll credits!

Are we to understand (now) that this was the showgirl's boyfriend? (My initial, slightly wild theory, was that Leung's character was Leslie Cheung's long-lost father—given the emphasis in the film on "the last thing you see before you die." The Leung character's implicit womanizing ways could explain Cheung's.) Was he grooming just prior to meeting his death?

In any case, this is just one small path through the lushness of 2046. Knowledge of the prior films isn't required. It's an epic in itself—I love how the number signifies both a time (the year 2046) and a place (a hotel room). And to consider it along with the two previous titles makes this sublime, chronology-scrambling, beautifully obsessive experience even more so.

Settling the dinner bill afterward I was counting out the money, saying aloud, "Twenty, forty, sixty..."—stopping myself when I realized I had just said the name of the film.

* * *

This post seems imperfect to me and I'll probably keep editing it as time passes, thoughts occur. (Appropriate for something about 2046!) It would even make sense to create a separate 2046 blog...I'll leave that to someone else.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Friday I'm in love...

...with linking! Yes.

This week, Jennifer Flowers of the Shreveport Times wrote about Fender Tucker, whose homegrown Ramble House imprint has put out books by (and about) Harry Stephen Keeler. Reporters who call me about anything Keeler-related, beware: I'm unable to stop talking about him! Still, Flowers managed to extract a reasonably intelligent-sounding quote. Three cheers for Fender!

The New York Observer tells us that Tucker Carlson is a Charles Portis fan! (The Observer link will go bad in a week, so this is what he said: "I’m reading Charles Portis, Masters of Atlantis and Norwood. I have one here with me in the city and the other up in Maine. They’re excellent. Next I have Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning by Jonathan Mahler, but I haven’t started it yet.")

And scientists at my father's alma mater cloned a dog! The Dog of the South . . . South Korea, that is. The copied canine's moniker is "Snuppy," a portmanteau of SNU (Seoul National University) and "puppy."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Tip of the day!

I rarely post about things that have appeared in the Voice, and even less frequently about the film reviews therein—I think it's always a good idea to check out what Hoberman, Atkinson, Winter, et al., have to say.

But I just read Mike Atkinson's 2046 review and it gave me chills—it's like poetry! His piece perfectly captures the essence of this gorgeous, absorbing film (as the subhead says, "In the mood for mood"), eschewing summary (there's really not much of a plot to summarize) and instead functioning as an emotional extension of Wong's film. I would say just read this terrific review and let its spell linger and conjure for you some intangible, unreachable notion of cinematic bliss—oblivion being implicit in much Wongwork . . . but no: See the movie, too. I dug every minute. Sublime!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Metavision, or See More Glass

I had a rather mind-blowing television experience yesterday. I flicked on the tube, and became mildly absorbed in some sort of cheerful PBS documentary about American industry—basically saying that there are pockets of vibrant labor in the hinterland. A Sony TV factory in Western Pennsylvania put together all sorts of sets; the interesting thing was that the glass for the screens came from nearby. Across the street was a glass factory, where they turned sand into glass. This whole process was fascinating; the combination of robot/automatic and human labor was hypnotic. I liked watching orange glowing bricks getting pressed into shape. (There are two glass parts to a television, the front or "panel" portion and the rear "funnel" portion.)

Then my fascination went through the roof when I realized I was essentially watching the creation of my own TV . . . on TV . . . I was looking through the glass of my Sony television to gaze upon a scene of a scene of Sony-television glass making!

* * *

Postscript: I realized just now that this morning, browsing through the Encyclopedia Britannica on my way to Worms (the town in Germany, not the annular creature), I chanced upon this entry, which I enjoyed so much I wrote it down. Glass must have been on my mind...

"WHIMSEY GLASS, also called FRIGGER, glass with no utilitarian purpose, executed to satisfy the whim of the glassmaked. Such off-hand exercises in skill are almost as old as glassmaking itself. Some of the earliest pieces blown for fun are boots and hats made in Germany as early as the 15th century. Boots and shoes reached a high point in popularity in the 19th century, when they were made of every conceivable style of glass, blown or molded. Whimseys came to satisfy an increasing craving for souvenirs, especially of the numerous international trade exhibitions of the 19th century, and to be used eventually for advertising."

This reminded me of Luc Sante's great memoir in a recent Granta, in which he talks about how, working at a plastics factory before college, he made useless but somehow amusing doodads out of the scraps:

“[U]sing as a base an unidentified transparent cylinder that might have been part of a pill box, you could pile up widening rings of bullet-shaped tree elements, also in clear plastic, sticking them on when they were still hot from the mould, ending up with a conical whatsit you could pretend recalled a crystal chandelier.”

But the whimsey glass entry also suggested an interesting parallel, perhaps, to the playfulness attendant upon the birth of any new art form—well, I'm thinking specifically of the novel, how in things like Don Quixote and Tristram Shandy we already see the authors bending the form silly, interrogating it, investing it with all sorts of digressions and squiggles.

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