Friday, July 24, 2009

Slacker by Richard Linklater: Grainy, Low-budget, Early-90's Beauty

Slacker is like My Dinner With Andre, but instead of a conversation between two guys over dinner, it is a basically a series of connected monologues made by the denizens of Austin, Texas in 1990, including an anarchist who befriends a guy trying to rob his house, an old man lamenting mortality into his microphone, stoners discussing bribery in Scooby-Doo and collectivism in Smurf Village, anti-artists, the idea that Elvis could still be alive and existing in a spiritual hell of self-parody in Las Vegas, an amateur scholar of JFK assassination theories, a guy who has locked himself in a room with multiple TVs (including one he wears), a guy who films himself shooting (firing a gun at) the camera, and a really annoying person trying to sell Madonna's Pap smear.

There is no plot to speak of, as the camera follows a constantly changing lineup of characters in what could be a documentary, except no one rambles without a purpose. The ending is UNLIKE ANY IN THE HISTORY OF CINEMA, or at least I haven't seen any other films that end like this. Since no one reads this blog (YET) I will spoil the ending. The penultimate character is a "post-modern Paul Revere" (labeled so in the credits) who is basically a grungy dude driving a car and speaking into a megaphone about the weapons he is giving away for free: "automatic weapons, side-loaders, clip loaders, shoot-em backs, saturday night specials, colt 45s, shotguns anything you want, chains, knives, straight razors, bottles, brickbats, baseball bats and big pointed jagged kinda things, boiling oil, catapults throwing rocks and shit." He is followed by a group of teenagers in a car, several of whom are filming with handheld cameras. They go up a mountain, party, throw stuff around, then one of them tosses a camera off the side of the mountain, which continues to film on the way down. Roll credits with Butthole Surfers music.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Fake Review of David Foster Wallace

Jay Murray Siskind is a character in Don DeLillo's novel White Noise, yet he apparently wrote a review of Oblivion by David Foster Wallace. The review, titled "An Undeniably Controversial and Perhaps Even Repulsive Talent," appeared in the November 2004 issue of Modernism/Modernity. I learned about the review here, where they have posted the following excerpt:

It is at this point that I must confess to missing something in Wallace, namely the presence of women nearer the center of the narration (setting aside Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman, Jr., the protagonist in Wallace’s first novel, The Broom of the System). I admit that I’ve always been partial to them, i.e. women. I fall apart at the sight of long legs, striding, briskly, as a breeze carries up from the river, on a weekday, in the play of morning light. And what fun it is to talk to an intelligent woman wearing nylon stockings as she crosses her legs. Wallace, I suspect, shares these predilections and could write wonderfully complicated women.

Editors of Modernism/Modernity responded to coverage of the fake review, here.

An Open Letter to Mark Sample,

We appreciate your recent remarks concerning a review essay about David Foster Wallace, one that appeared in late 2004 in the pages of Modernism/Modernity and was assigned to one Jay Murray Siskind, also the name of a character in Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise. It is saddening indeed to see the review being cited with po-faced earnestness, and surely you are right that this turns “a fun fake review into something much more telling about the state of academia.” All too plainly, the time has come to set the record straight...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Blood Meridian's Bloody Beautiful Sentences

There's this other blog I write for, and I feel like I'm cheating on it. I just posted about Blood Meridian here, but I wanted to share two more sentences from the novel. One is incredibly long, one is only 6 words. Enjoy:

"A legion of horribles, hundreds in number, half naked or clad in costumes attic or biblical or wardrobed out of a fevered dream with the skins of animals and silk finery and pieces of uniform still tracked with the blood of prior owners, coats of slain dragoons, frogged and braided cavalry jackets, one in a stovepipe hat and one with an umbrella and one in white stockings and a bloodstained weddingveil and some in headgear of cranefeathers or rawhide helmets that bore the horns of bull or buffalo and one in a pigeontailed coat worn backwards and otherwise naked and one in the armor of a spanish conquistador, the breastplate and pauldrons deeply dented with old blows of mace or sabre done in another country by men whose very bones were dust and many with their braids spliced up with the hair of other beasts until they trailed upon the ground and their horses' ears and tails worked with bits of brightly colored cloth and one whose horse's whole head was painted crimson red and all the horsemen's faces gaudy and grotesque with daubings like a company of mounted clowns, death hilarious, all howling in a barbarous tongue and riding down upon them like a horde from a hell more horrible yet than the brimstone land of christian reckoning, screeching and yammering and clothed in smoke like those vaporous beings in regions beyond right knowing where the eye wanders and the lip jerks and drools.

Oh my god, said the sergeant."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I Wonder What George Saunders is Doing

I (probably wrongly) assume he is working on a novel because he received a MacArthur Fellowship (a.k.a. Genius grant) in 2006 and since then has only come out with one book-length work--a collection of nonfiction essays called The Braindead Megaphone.

I watched Saunders on the Charlie Rose show with some other MacArthur Fellowship recipients. I can't recall the exact wording, but I remember him saying that he felt like he had been working in a very small room (figuratively) and that the award raised the ceiling for him and made him aware that he had larger ambitions. Sounds like he is working on a novel to me. His first two books, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and Pastoralia, each contain short stories and a novella. I found both of those collections hilarious and original, but I haven't yet read his stand-alone novella The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, his children's book The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, or his latest short story collection In Persuasion Nation. If I hear the slightest rumor that a novel is forthcoming, I will probably read his entire oeuvre and start waiting for the new book so I can read it in one sitting like a rabid Harry Potter fan. Why? Because Saunders is (or was) an "experimental writer" and I like his style. Self-loathing characters oppressed by technology and consumerism, corporate-speak, zaniness, with a vaguely concealed moral core. All of this is probably irrelevant to the fact that certain stories made me laugh on a page-by-page basis. I know he is now considered a "popular" writer, but he got a blurb from Thomas Pynchon, which, right or wrong, is all I really need these days.