May 11, 2010
cigarettes and your trigger happy finger tickles
my stiff toes
I look to your eyes with an unlucky gaze and in the
a bluebird flies away
I kiss the air and drop twenty-one grams of you.
a little colder, lighter, older,
I’ve died for you and you for me.
soft steps my love
this heist was ours and ours alone,
the gunpowder seeps from my skin and
pops about like a cork.
je (te) connais mieux
October 11, 2009
June 21, 2009
While I was in Mexico in January of 2009, I traded Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter for Jerzy Kosinski’s The Devil Tree. The man warned me that this was not Kosinski’s best work, and insisted I read Being There. I didn’t take his advice all too seriously as The Devil Tree was average at best, but when I came across a copy for five dollars I figured I would give it a try.
This book was a very pleasant surprise. The story revolves around a man named Chance, an orphan who, by chance, came to reside at an expansive estate. The actual circumstances behind how this arrangement came to be are never explained. More importantly, this is the first of many haphazard occurrences which shape Being There thematically as a novel of appearances and globalization.
It could be said that Being There is a book about postmodernity, but more specifically, I think this book is about expansion and thereby the loss of the individual, and America. The owner of the estate dies and Chance is forced to leave the confines of the house for the first time, and enter into an outside ‘reality.’
He is illiterate, and his own knowledge of social convention solely stems from television and the garden he tended to within the estate. Immediately, he is struck by a limousine and, by chance, the woman within the car is not only extremely wealthy but also, her dying husband is the president of the New York Stock Exchange.
Chance returns to their home, charms the dying diplomat, meets the president, appears on a television news broadcast, and from there is spun into a prominent political advisor and businessman. Chance knows nothing of these enterprises, and he speaks only about his garden which is interpreted by those around him as the use of natural metaphor.
In this way, the novel delves into the idea of appearance versus essence. All the characters in the novel project onto Chance an appearance that is in some way beneficial to their own agenda. He serves a purpose for them. Likewise, Chance emphasizes the statement “I like to watch you.” This assertion is misconstrued in two sexual situations, but the idea behind relates to possession through observation.
The novel is based around chance, not the character but that adjective pertaining to coincidences and occurrences, advantageous ones at that. With globalization, the world is expanding and all that is individual is at stake in this vast age of enormities. As set forth by Fredric Jameson in his famous paper The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, the postmodern subject is unable to ‘cognitively map.’ What Jameson means by this is the inability of the subject to place itself in a world of meaningful connections and thus determine value. So, in postmodernity, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted;” and isn’t this exactly what luck is? Is this not the very path that Chance happens to encounter?
Being There is well written. The metaphor is overt enough to decode, but not so difficult that one needs to be an English Literature major to grasp it fully. It is funny at times, and frustrating. There is the sense that Kosinski views expansion as naturally inevitable. Despite if you agree or disagree, the novel is very good and has moved Kosinski back into my good graces.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
try Thomas Pynchon's The Cryling of Lot 49 or
E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime
June 12, 2009
June 11, 2009
Think American Psycho, I know, bear with me.
Replace Patrick Bateman with a five foot three middle aged native of 'New Burnt Norton' aka some remote island meant to resemble New Guinea, and there you have it, the basis of Tama Janowitz's 1988 novel titled A Cannibal in Manhattan.
The idea is no doubt interesting. However, the overall attempt at a critique of western society and its values lacks the danger and immediacy which makes American Psycho so successful and engrossing.
The opening scene which depicts a hectic meeting between Mgungu Mgungu and Maria Fishburn, a white aristocrat from New York, is promising. Maria convinces Mgungu Mgungu to leave his three wives and return with her to New York City. Mgungu Mgungu is the sole narrator and the rest of the novel details his departure from life on New Burnt Norton and follows him through an indefinite stay in New York City where he goes from indigenous poster boy to homeless alcoholic to most wanted fugitive.
The question which lies at the heart of the novel concerns what it means to be civilized, and what it means to be savage. We are meant to determine that western progress and luxury does not necessarily entail a superior degree of sophistication or benevolence.
While on New Burnt Norton, Mgungu Mgungu is aware of products like Nike tennis shoes and famous figures like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Yet, all his knowledge lacks context and so there is a great degree of naivete in the narrative voice. I often found this naivete inconsistent and confused. When we are meant to be questioning western expectations and standards of civility, I often found myself apathetic to the cruelty which Mgungu Mgungu endures.
At times, the novel reads like a who's who of the seventies with characters arguably based on Andy Warhol and Robert Smith of The Cure, not to mention the book is dedicated to Warhol himself.
The novel has its moments. Yet, fashionably critique the egotism and commercial cuture of The United States, it does not. What makes American Psycho so good is that the reader is unsure of the actuality of the narration and, in the end, what 'actually' happened is irrelevant. The effect lies in the extremes and in the destruction. However, at the close of Cannibal, I was left not angry at society for having destroyed this blank slate of a man, but I was moreover exasperated with his gullibility and passivity.
All in all, A Cannibal in Manhattan is a good read. I simply believe it lacks the kind of tour de force necessary to accomplish its intentions.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
If you like Tama Janowitz,
try Jay McInerney's Bright Lights Big City
You say you may fall out the window,
and I almost want to push you.
My jaw is so goddamn sore and
you've settled on a pillow
with arms wrapped around my waist.
Sleep for you is moments away,
yet I try and keep awake,
pretending there are ends that don't always come
With Conor Oberst's newest ensemble, expect to hear more of the Americana inspired sound tentatively explored on the Bright Eyes album I'm Wide Awake It's Morning, and then refined on their most recent album Cassadaga. Lyrically, Oberst continues to swell and improve with verses so effortless you'd swear it was Dylan; well, almost. The band spent a good deal of time in Mexico, writing and recording the Conor Oberst album in Tepoztlan, Morelos. Where Cassadaga delved into mysticism and destiny, this new project goes about the act of reflection with more sobriety and composure than one would expect from Oberst. There is less wail, more subtlety. Here, we find another reinvention for Oberst, continued trifling with an ever-evolving sound, and a variety of songs very pleasing to my ear. Conor Oberst and the Mystical Valley band released their second album Outer South on May 5th, 2009.
Highlight: Cape Canaveral, found at 38 minutes
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