Ktismatics

17 August 2011

B.S. in Eccentricity

Filed under: Fiction, Ktismata, Reflections — ktismatics @ 5:59 pm

Stephen slipped off his shoes. “Yoohoo! Anybody home?”

“Upstairs.” Lynne had started painting again, and she had outfitted one of the spare bedrooms as a studio.

“Where’s Avery?” Stephen asked, and Lynne pointed out the window. Two yards over, across the cul-de-sac, a girl was laughing as she chased a friend and her dog between the still-spindly trees sprinkled through the new subdivision. In the distance a line of jagged foothills angled toward the right, like giant dominoes falling. Beyond, the high peaks showed white. The house backed into a section of the greenbelt that surrounded the town, affording great views all around: location, location, location. They had bought this executive home when they were on a roll financially and professionally. Now that Stephen had jumped the track they really couldn’t afford the mortgage payments any longer. Stephen had the sense that they needed some tangible alternative dream to keep them from feeling that their best days were already behind them. The Salon had seemed to offer that alternative, but now he wasn’t so sure.

Stephen looked at the table under the window: on her sketchpad Lynne had watercolored a variety of abstract shapes, overlaid with precisely engineered black lines, probably executed in ink. “I’ve been trying to make a copy of this Kandinsky,” she said, pointing to a postcard-sized reproduction taped to the wall.

He inspected both versions carefully, point by point. Lynne’s variant, much larger, deviated only slightly from the postcard. She began applying a dark purple smudge of paint to her rendering of the masterwork.

“I’m not sure which one I like better,” Stephen said, though truth be told he didn’t really know what to look for. “Listen, suppose I have a client who believes things that are sort of nutty. Surely I don’t need to go along with everything the client believes?”

Concentrating, she extended the purple shape out and down. “You mean that young guy with hemophilia? Can you give him your opinion without sounding like you think he’s a little off center?”

“I guess not. Still, it seems dishonest not to, or at least disingenuous.”

Lynne put her brush down. “See this painting? Kandinsky had synaesthesia. When he saw colors he heard music. Literally. He painted like he was playing a keyboard, like he was playing his audience. He believed that each brushstroke would set off sympathetic harmonies in people’s souls. Kind of odd, but also kind of true. Before Kandinsky there was another Russian, a composer, Scriabin. Scriabin believed that if he played a certain chord, and if at that precise moment a certain pattern of colors was displayed, then — right then — the world would come to an end.”

Maybe Scriabin was right, Stephen thought: maybe some day somebody will hit the right combination. Maybe Scriabin already did it a century ago, and since then we’ve been living in some other world. “So,” he asked asked his wife, “would you have told Scriabin and Kandinsky you thought they were nuts?”

“I’d have told them I admire their work very much. Besides, only Scriabin was really nutty. Kandinsky was just eccentric.”

Stephen looked again at the Kandinsky postcard. A work of exuberant precision, the picture looked to him like a mapmaker’s rendition of a dreamscape. The fragments of geometry incorporated into the work: were they engineered segments of an intricate scaffolding being erected around the fantasy in order to contain it? Or was something uncontrollable smashing through the gridwork, breaking it to bits? “One more thing,” he said to Lynne. “If you’d had the chance, would you have encouraged Kandinsky to pursue his eccentricity to the limit, even if it took him all the way into madness? All for the sake of genius, for the sake of art, for the end of the world?”

“I wouldn’t have had to,” Lynne replied as she picked up her brush. “Kandinsky had Scriabin. I’m not sure who Scriabin had – maybe Rasputin.”

*   *   *

If the characters in this novel are at least partly autobiographical, then tomorrow Stephen and Lynne will be driving halfway across the country to take their daughter Avery to college. Time’s arrow and all that. Avery’s friend still lives in that cul-de-sac, as do the dog and all the other neighbors who don’t make an appearance in the story. While there are some visitors to this blog who teach college, and others who go to college or grad school, and still others who still think about their college days with some frequency, I’m guessing that not many of you are parents of college kids. Maybe even that will happen to you some day.

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16 Comments »

  1. Very nice. Reminded me in the first 3 paragraphs of Ann Beattie, some of the stories in ‘Park City’. When it got to this, “an intricate scaffolding being erected around the fantasy in order to contain it?”
    I thought you’d gone into one of those dream-things, but then re-read it. So it’s still kind of Ann Beattie. ‘Other-worlding’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, it was good to find out that the ‘scaffolding being erected around the fantasy’ was about a piece of art, not some loathsome Lars Von Trier moment.

    In 1971 I used to get stoned and listen to ‘Poem of Ecstasy’ with that choreographer I write about in Books III and IV. I was annoyed when he said he didn’t want to listen to it anymore.

    This was really good. The ‘translation’ of names was excellent, especially ‘Avery’. This: “the still-spindly trees sprinkled through the new subdivision. In the distance a line of jagged foothills angled toward the right, like giant dominoes falling. Beyond, the high peaks showed white. The house backed into a section of the greenbelt that surrounded the town” is still more Ann Beattie than Joan Didion, but I am almost sure Joan would like it–it’s got ‘place’ like she does, that’s just not one of the places she ‘does’, and that is one of Beattie’s. She’s a little less dark than Didion (I mention Joan, because Beattie was also influenced by her, and even mentions ‘Play It As It Lays’ in one of the fictions.) Beattie is funny and wry, almost as if tiptoing through various oddments of real life, and not quite laughing, not quite sure what her response should be, making sure not to rush if possible. Oh my christ, she is NOT like David Lynch, no no no…

    Probably the best fragment I’ve read by you.

    Cool cool cool.

    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 17 August 2011 @ 6:49 pm

  2. Thanks IDNYC. I was probably writing this scene about the same time you were writing Day of Cine-Musique. The discussion of Aronofsky’s valorization of artistic madness brought it to mind, but then there’s the context-setting that as you say keeps it grounded in place and in time. I’d put a link to the Scriabin Ecstasy and an image of the relevant Kandinsky if I wasn’t gearing up for the big road trip. My 3rd year college roommate was a composer, which is how I learned this particular bit of Scriabin craziness. That too would have been 1971.

    Comment by ktismatics — 17 August 2011 @ 7:15 pm

  3. We spent the night at a motel in Kearney Nebraska: hundreds of miles of straight-line interstate behind us, hundreds more to go. Everything looks the same as when I rode back to Illinois with my grandfather almost fifty years ago. Only the highway interchanges look different, with the clusters of chain motels and the chain restaurants servicing them. My grandfather and I had stayed in motels and cabins along the side of the highway, but we always had to go into town to eat. Now even the people in town eat out by the interstate.

    I got up at 7, grabbed a cup of coffee in the lobby, and went for a walk. Right behind this motel is a stand of tall trees. On the other side of the trees are two old houses, one of them evidently abandoned, trying to maintain some semblance of the old life that went on here before our motel moved into the neighborhood. At the end of the block a sign points left to the Archway Monument. I took the turn onto this road that runs parallel to the interstate highway, straight off into the distance. The only building on the interstate side of the road is a small old factory that now houses an antique store. The whole east side of the building has been painted to announce itself to the westbound interstate traffic: this exit, first left. Even the paint job is an antique by now, faded and peeling, but I can vouch for its enduring truth because the owner was setting up shop for the day as I was walking by. On the other side of this road is a swampy pond; beyond it, a corn field. A kid drove by in a pickup, revving fast on the long deserted stretch of road. I have no idea how far I’d have had to walk to reach the Archway Monument, but after maybe half a mile I turned back for the motel.

    Comment by ktismatics — 19 August 2011 @ 8:46 am

  4. DELIGHTED you’re doing this!

    “Everything looks the same as when I rode back to Illinois with my grandfather almost fifty years ago. Only the highway interchanges look different”

    Even that is surprising, that most of it still looks the same. That Dust Bowl Midwest is so different from the rest of the country. It’s unforgiving in a way that even the meannesses of the Deep South can’t reach, because the South can’t resist hedonism. The West, possibly excepting Utah, always the butt of jokes, can kill you and will, but it’s dramatic. There are lakes in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, but Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska (although I’ve been only in the first two) are absolutely strict. I tested this in Iowa, but not too far, in 1999. There is a sense of pleasure as something so forbidden there that it’s not so much that you’d get punished more than you would in one of the redneck parts of the Bible Belt in the South; it’s as though it’s taken for granted, goes without saying. Therefore you simply had better not even think about it. There are houses there that are seen otherwise only in Christmas cards. These are the places that always have ‘White Christmases’, and these picturesque houses, thoroughly devoid of the slightest sensuality, are of a sort I’ve never seen anywhere else. In a squeaky-clean city like Toronto, which is just above parts of the most northerly American Midwest, there is a tightness in terms of correctness, but more English naturally. (Of course, there’s Detroit, and that’s very close to Toronto geographically, but a world away otherwise.) But that flatness in Iowa and Kansas (also in many parts of Texas) seems to demand respect in a different way–maybe just short of a desert, which is uninhabitable to most humans in its natural form. I remember the stewardesses in this old airline that flew me to Iowa, and their commercial uniform was even Midwestern-frumpy, for a 50-year-old schoolteacher more than for these youngish girls. None of the open bottles of wine carried through the aisles with ‘would you like more?’ of Tahiti Nui.

    There’s important literature from the Midwest, but I’ve never read Willa Cather or any of the bigger names. William Gass? He’s Midwestern, isn’t he? I read parts of Anderson’s ‘Winesburgh, Ohio’ as a boy, but little else. Midwesterners are proud of their part of the world, but it’s not a place that attracts. It doesn’t have charisma in the usual sense of the word, and that even goes for Chicago, I think. People are attracted to Chicago for more old-fashioned americanisms: As I quoted Bertolt Brecht saying ‘Los Angeles is Tahiti in the form of a big city’, maybe Chicago (which I’ve seen some 14 times from different parts of the sky, but never been inside) is ‘American work ethic in the form of a big city’. All of the Midwest has this work ethic so built-in you don’t even question it. But, getting back briefly to literature, I’m trying to think if, like New England, there is even a novel like ‘Peyton Place’ for it. I’m sure there have been attempts, but the Midwest is never thought of as ‘sexy’. Much of the South is, most of the West (but not Seattle by now), and New York is, although I can’t see that the Northeast as a region is particularly electric anymore. The cornfields, the soybean fields, the immaculate farms are beautiful, the summer wildflowers in Missouri are lovely, but it’s the flatness that dominates everything. Even the ‘Chorus Boy’, from St. Louis, which had developed some more conventional ‘colourfulness’, could never get the ‘pragmatic’ sound out of his singing voice.

    It’s often called ‘the Heartland’, but when I went to Iowa, my brother said ‘That’s America’.

    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 19 August 2011 @ 10:58 am

  5. http://geology.com/county-map/iowa.shtml

    Now I see where Grinnell is, had no idea it’s such a small town, and close to Des Moines, Iowa City, and Ames (in Story County), where my aunt lives. I didn’t know Marhalltown was right next to Ames, that’s where Jean Seberg came from. K. doesn’t have far to drive for a little more town when she wants it. I did know a girl when I was in my teens who went to Grinnell, but never knew anything about it, so that there are at least three important uni’s there: U. of Iowa, Iowa State, and Grinnell (maybe more.) The meat and produce available are as good quality available, and there was a prime rib in Ames that was the best I’ve had. I recall my aunt thinking I shouldn’t be talking about things like ‘veal’ and ‘sweet butter’, though, and that was definitely a lot of hick bullshit. She was making an effort to de-citify me. I’m familiar with the names of Iowa towns because they’re recited in some of the songs from ‘The Music Man’, which I liked as a child, but find it boring now. They’re very proud of ‘The Music Man’ though. I wrote something about those ‘cornfields’ in that ‘Dream’ song I posted the other day. There’s a high school in Marshalltown that gives out a ‘Jean Seberg Award’, and in Richards’s book, ‘Played Out’, this is very surreal: The winner he documents and none of the presenters knew a thing about her, except she’d been some sort of film actress. When I was out there, nobody would talk about her, although way back in her heyday, my aunt would go on and on about her. Now it’s like she’s an unmentionable pariah. This isn’t uncommon, as we’ve discussed before, when I mentioned Didion talking about Sacramento. And also Suzanne Farrell is not even known to people in her tiny town of Mt. Healthy, Ohio. And Marvin Hamlisch, who wrote ‘A Chorus Line’, did a big musical about Seberg, called ‘Jean Seberg: A Musical Tragedy’. Her story is as sad as they come. The weirdness of summers with ‘swimming parties’ in Iowa with old high school girlfriends and then going back to Paris to Romain Gary. He also committed suicide, a year or two after Seberg did.

    Meredith Willson, on the other hand, is thoroughly celebrated, the ‘favourite son’: Somehow, Music Man and Unsinkable Molly Brown found an audience on Broadway, and they have their place. But people with strange destinies like Seberg, with FBI files calling her a ‘sexual pervert’ aren’t prized in the hometown, any more than the zombified Haitians who went against their families, as described in Wade Davis’s ‘Serpent and the Rainbow’, which is quite an incredible book. I’ve thought about this book very often as a kind of ultimate ‘manual’ on scapegoating, although there are others, including fictions by Tom Tryon. And Sylvia Brinton Pereira wrote that marvelous Jungian text ‘The Scapegoat Complex’, which made me go and take a look at the Jung Center in the East 30s, summer of 2001. That’s a very enlightening book, and there are techniques to be learned from it.

    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 19 August 2011 @ 10:23 pm

  6. I believe the Hamlisch musical was mounted in London, and somehow never came to New York. It may not have been very successful there, and I’m sure interest would be limited, unlike with, say, Marilyn Monroe, there’s some opera from the last few years that’s gotten some play. Hamlisch is the composer of ‘Chorus Line’, so it’s interesting he took on the subject of Seberg.

    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 19 August 2011 @ 10:28 pm

  7. I grew up in the Midwest, and as they say it’s a good place to be from. We moved from Minneapolis when Kenzie was less than two years old, so she doesn’t remember it at all. I neither pushed nor bashed Iowa as an idea, even though as neighboring state known for insular German-Scandinavian rurality it was always the butt of jokes in both Minnesota and in Chicago where I was born. But it’s a curious place, Grinnell College. The town, no bigger than the school, sits smack dab in the middle of the cornfields. The students and faculty, though, come from all over, with very few hailing from small towns. The school is widely recognized for scholarship and teaching excellence, so admissions are very competitive. It also has strong progressivism tendencies. and something like 60% of the students spend a year studying abroad. It was recently cited on Huffington Post as the number one “hipster” college in the US, but that wasn’t enough to dissuade K from choosing it. Most notable to me is the friendliness: everyone nods or says hello as you pass by; and two professors struck up random conversation with us as we were strolling the campus last night. The consensual position on the smallness and isolation: we have to make our own entertainment here. Such convivial can-do eagerness could be symptomatic of cornpone Chamber of Commerce boosterism, but that’s probably just my jaded grumpiness talking. This morning we get oriented, help K move her stuff into her dorm room, etc.

    Comment by ktismatics — 20 August 2011 @ 7:24 am

  8. The roommate seems nice, totally though totally occupied as we moved K’s stuff into the room with some evidently complex financial transaction involving multiple cell phone calls to her bank, her parents, and the college. The college president and other dignitaries repeatedly emphasized the tradition of intellectual and creative nerdiness that characterizes the students of the institution, nerdiness evidently referring only in part to social awkwardness but mostly to the passion for learning for its own sake. Anne and I must now stop at the Wal-Mart to pick up a few additional essentials K forgot to pack or that didn’t fit into the car. We’ll find out whether night one at college met expectations, say our bittersweet farewells, and hit the road.

    Comment by ktismatics — 21 August 2011 @ 7:02 am

  9. Yes, it’s bittersweet, but at least ‘She’s Leaving Home’ (the song) isn’t applicable. Not that I don’t think that song is close to perfect, one of the best they wrote. Love ‘tradition of intellectual and creative nerdiness’…the president didn’t actually use the word ‘nerd’ and ‘nerdiness’, did he? Oh man, yes, gimme gimme gimme some creative nerdiness!!!

    It seems so strange now that, toward the end of his life, William B., in my book, studied piano at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and that I spoke to him often there when long-distance used to cost something. I’d talk to him from my separate room at Janet’s. I believe when I’ve mentioned Boulder and the U. of Co. before, I never said anything about him, but rather that very nerdy fellow David Korevaar, whiz pianist I knew at Juilliard when he was an extreme brat (and so much so he later ran for Mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut), and who, I’m fairly sure, still teaches there. Strange, because William was there for several years, studying piano at a very late stage in his life to make up for his ‘sense of inferiority’, although there were certain 19th century works, such as Chopin’s G Minor Ballade, that he did play superbly. But there were simple aural techniques he couldn’t get, as playing ‘two against three’, and ‘three against four’ I dread to think. I also knew Christian long before he told me had painted all his life. We had long days here in 1986 and that wild trip through England in 1987 and a very long breach after that (until 1995, I think) before he finally started telling me about the pictures and showing me some of them. Not that it’s exactly the same. But K’s moving to Iowa now sets out in relief where you do live now–the extreme physical beauty of Colorado is very different from the simple, homely virtues of Iowa with their accompanying physical flatness. Aspen Music School, where I went two summers when 16 and 17, was the first time I ‘left home’, and I remember one night of extreme homesickness, although I never experienced it like that again. But that afternoon, after we’d taken the funicular up into the mountains the first summer, and suddenly I was away from my companions, alone on a mountainside with all those wild columbines and that sense of awesomeness that Paul Theroux even pointed out as being unique to the Rockies (contrasted even to the Alps and Himalayas, and the stories are fairly numerous of campers get lost in the Rockies)…yes, that was unique in my history of places. And even just being in the town of Aspen (I didn’t know it was a rich-people’s resort at the time somehow, although it did have refined restaurants of a city sort) was something out-of-the-ordinary. You’d just look up at these snow-capped peaks and they were just spectacular. That summer I also drove from Aspen to Denver and back, and we constantly had to stop and admire. The snow-capped peaks of the San Gabriels around Los Angeles are a different kind of thing, it’s more surreal; with only a few exceptions, like Mt. Baldy, they’re not nearly as spectacular as the Rockies or Sierra Nevada, but where you’re seeing Mt. Baldy from has this kinky sensation: You can see it from Compton or Watts on a sunny day if the smog is blown off, or from the beach at Hermosa, and then that’s clear why LA was the movie capital within a few years after getting started here,. The topography was so varied you could get any kind of landscape within an hour or two.

    I wonder is K. will have some reaction to this extreme difference of environment, not only the topography but the tininess of the town. I suppose some will be inevitable. I think Reid would have been a little more like what she’d been used to, but this is going to be interesting. It’s not going to be like going to Bennington, Sarah Lawrence or Vassar either. I still haven’t gotten to ‘The Group’, but think I will now put that at the top of my reading list. I don’t see Mary McCarthy writing ‘The Group’ in the Midwest.

    I also hope you’ll say more as time goes by about Chicago. You never have much, you know. One could easily not even know it from what you’ve written over the years.

    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 21 August 2011 @ 10:30 am

  10. From Wikipedia: Grinnell College is the 49th wealthiest educational institution, of any size, in North America with a larger endowment than many research universities such as Georgetown University, Tufts University and UCLA. The $1.26 billion endowment as of the end of FY 2010 – the fifth-largest among United States liberal arts colleges – is evident in the college’s facilities, art collections, and generous financial aid programs. Under the stewardship of Warren Buffett and Joseph Rosenfield, the college has adopted an opportunistic and innovative strategy in managing its assets. In 1976, Grinnell’s capital fund acquired a TV station, WDTN in Dayton, Ohio, one of many investments that were unprecedented in their time for a college endowment. (Grinnell would sell the station in 1981.) Another innovative move that significantly increased the endowment occurred when Rosenfield and the college contributed to the founding of Intel—an investment exceeding 10% of the venture capital raised to start the semiconductor company (Intel co-founder Robert Noyce is a Grinnell alumnus). Since joining the board in 1968, Warren Buffett has played a visible role in growing the endowment at Grinnell, where he serves as a life trustee. A campaign is currently under way to create more transparency and social responsibility in the endowment’s investments.

    At least in part because of this endowment, Grinnell has established a reputation for attracting very good students and faculty. Statistically at least, the Grinnell students score higher on grades and tests than Bennington and Sarah Lawrence, and are about equal to Vassar. Only something like 15% of the students come from Iowa, with all 50 states and something like 80 countries represented among the 1500 students. (This is sounding like a PR message.) But there’s no question that the Northeastern schools offer greater access to big urban settings, and they likely also attract a more upper-crust, prep-school crowd. While K is a self-acknowledged elitist, hers is more of a meritocratic snobbism than one based on money or tradition. Still, Boulder carries its own social arrogance, similar to what you might see among the West Coast liberal wealthy as well as the high-rent mountain towns like Aspen and Telluride. So we’ll see what it’s like for K to mingle with kids from more “ordinary” places across the US, not just the Midwest.

    Off to dinner.

    Comment by ktismatics — 21 August 2011 @ 6:01 pm

  11. I had forgotten till just a few minutes ago that, while in Denver overnight, in 1967, we experienced a mini-earthquake and the room of the YMCA shook for some 30 seconds.

    That just happened here, which it never does. I was absolutely terrified, and called my neighbour upstairs, was was freaking out too. She called another neighbour, who’d heard on the radio that one of the announcers said ‘I’m not sure what this is yet, but I think it’s a mini-earthquake’. Now the Times is about to come through with the story–a real earthquake with the epicenter in Richmond, Va. That’s close to Anne’s family, isn’t it? This was absolutely horrifying to see the room shake, and I went out in the hall to get out of the building in case it was somehow collapsing (this has happened in NYC before, but usually extremely old and badly maintained buildings. Ours is supposed to be stable that way, but it’s no great shakes either that way, after some fire damage a few years ago.)

    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 23 August 2011 @ 12:17 pm

  12. http://www.contracostatime

    Christ, you got one too. Just read that they felt shaking in Colorado Srpings.

    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 23 August 2011 @ 12:31 pm

  13. Anne is from near Lynchburg and her parents still live there, but her brother lives in Richmond — we’ll have to check in with them. I just read this about the 1967 Denver quake: “The Denver earthquakes were induced by human activity: the high-pressure injection of toxic fluids into a 3.7-km-deep (2.3-mi) disposal well at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.”

    Comment by ktismatics — 23 August 2011 @ 1:29 pm

  14. On another thread awhile back I wrote this:

    “I was trying to remember if you were the one who asserted on the Impostume blog that Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson was crap. I searched the archives and found that in fact it was Greyhoos. I read Jesus’ Son recently and found it admirable, a view which in juxtaposition with Greyhoos’ assured dismissal caused me to doubt my literary acumen… Do English lit majors really learn/know something that I’m missing, such that what I regard as opinion they can more accurately see as either true or false? Or is it this opinionated self-confidence that’s learned, or at least the sort of self-presentation in which uncertainty is suppressed?”

    It turns out that, in K’s English class, the prof’s first assignment entailed reading two short stories. One of them, “Car Crash While Hitchhiking,” is the first chapter of Jesus’ Son. The prof might have assigned this story because Johnson used to live in Iowa, because most of the book takes place in Iowa, and because (as I recall) in the opening chapter Jesus (the narrator) is hitchhiking to Iowa. He might also have assigned Johnson’s story as an example of bad fiction-writing, though I bet not. Hopefully K can give me a report on the class discussion of this story. Here are a few lines that I like, from page two, where Jesus stands at the interstate entrance ramp hitching a ride out of Kansas City:

    ***
    The traveling salesman had fed me pills that made the linings of my veins feel scraped out. My jaw ached. I knew every raindrop by its name. I sensed everything before it happened. I knew a certain Oldsmobile would stop for me even before it slowed, and by the sweet voices of the family inside it I knew we’d have an accident in the storm.

    I didn’t care. They said they’d take me all the way.

    The man and the wife put the little girl up front with them and left the baby in the back with me and my dripping bedroll. “I’m not taking you anywhere very fast,” the man said. “I’ve got my wife and babies here, that’s why.”

    You are the ones, I thought.
    ***
    The book title is taken from Lou Reed’s song “Heroin”:

    When I’m rushing on my run
    And I feel just like Jesus’ son

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 August 2011 @ 9:05 am

  15. Jesus’ Son is a pretty good movie too (great cast). Had touching echoes of my own mispent youth, if somewhat more extreme.

    Comment by W.Kasper — 31 August 2011 @ 5:20 am

  16. I’ve put in a hold on a library copy of the movie. I mistakenly remembered that the narrator’s goes by the name of Jesus, but it’s actually Fuckhead (though it’s only mentioned 2 or 3 times). The events jump around in time, with one of the characters dying in the middle of the book only to return later in another story. If Tarantino ever actually reads any books, then this one, written in the early 90s, could well have influenced his structuring of Pulp Fiction. The events take place maybe in the 70s so one could argue that the punch is dated, but for me the built-in lag between the unfolding and the narration bestows a kind of mythic grandeur on the tawdriness, enhanced by the intermittent breakthroughs into stoned transcendence of the old doper on whose memory the reader depends.

    Comment by ktismatics — 31 August 2011 @ 7:08 am


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