|photo of jockstrap by Jacklee|
Friday, April 29, 2016
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Some people may have Defoe like fantasies of being stranded on a desert island and igniting a hot affair with their Friday and others might dream of going to Bangkok or Vegas (a la Leaving Las Vegas) to live out their ultimate fantasy of dissipation. "Chacun a son gout" as the French say. Everyone has their little kink and with Passover for some Jewish guys and gals it relates to the fantasy of the unfettered enjoyment of matzo and butter. The movie might be called Leaving Scarsdale and it requires only a motel room and one of those large family packs of Streit's Matzo and a platoon sized supply of Breakstone’s. Remember the famous butter scene in Last Tango, well this one is a combination of the wonderful moment between Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider in the Bertolucci classic and l973 Philippe Noirot movie La Grand Bouffe in which a group of aristocrats take a vow of gluttony in which they will eat themselves to death. Imagine all that matzo slathered with butter with no stop signs in the form of family, friends or employers to report to. What a way to die surrounded by sheets of crispy unleavened bread bathed in the oily golden substance which lubricates our carbohydrate dreams. Fyvush Finkel could played the Nicholas Cage role, with matzoh substituted for alcohol as the addictive substance of choice.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
The brilliance of Colin Barrett’s short story about a dyspeptic poet (who refers to his neighborhood as “a budget version of the afterlife,” is described as looking at 29 like a “grotesquely ancient teenager” who makes his living from “cartoon porn” and has clients with e mail addresses like Pussysplitter112), "Anhedonia, Here I Come,” (The New Yorker, 4/18/16) lies in the words. It may seem almost tautological to iterate that writing is brilliant because of language, but Barrett calls attention to his main character, Bobby Tallis’ words almost immediately, since they are not the kind that are likely to roll off your tongue. They’re eccentric characters in and of themselves. “Dysphagic,” referring to “difficulty swallowing” is the first we meet. “Spumous, “ejecting a froth,” follows and then in order there are “sebum,” pertaining to an “oily secretion of the sebaceous glands,” “macrocephalic, “large head, “heteronormative,” the idea that people can be lumped into gender categories and “coprophagia” referring to species who dine on feces. And here are some lusty turns of phrase, “pullulating narcissim,” “palsied silence,” “originary trauma,” “incinerated introversion” with the coup de grace being “a harnessed baby’s loose limbs waggled and its head bobbed disinterestedly around” like “a trussed crab unaware that it is about to be boiled alive.” By the way “anhedonia,” the inability to experience pleasure, is a word first introduced in popular usage by Woody Allen whose Annie Hall originally used it as its title. Now it's the title of Bobby’s collection, a work which has been in progress for 8 years. “In terms of theme, he could not get beyond what he was convinced was a fundamentally spurious obsession with suicidal ideation, but simultaneously he felt that every other poetic topic or concern was an obfuscation, an eschewal, or a bald retreat from this theme. He’d been smitten with the concept of suicidal ideation since he was a teen-ager, but the problem, he figured, was that he had never truly wished to kill himself,” the author remarks of his character’s creation. One of the hysterically funny moments in the story occurs when another would be writer, a gay father who has his baby in his car and who is out on a mission to score drugs, attempts to get Bobby to read his work, after having tried to go down on him. “It’s the language…I just want to know if it’s doing something interesting or not.” The framing device is a commentary on the mixture of bottom feeding and prostitution we associate with the literary agora. The Maecenas of Bobby’s world is Fiachra Calhoun who runs a venue called the Andromeda. Calhoun, a sometime publisher, is bringing out a book by a college student whose name, Jess Tombes, itself constitutes a form of poetic justice. Bobby is stung with jealousy but thinks, “It wasn’t even a question of whether or not she was objectively better than him, it’s that Fiachra had thought so, and soon others would too.” How many short story writers have experienced these exact same thoughts about Lydia Davis? The New Yorker fiction department has outdone itself in publishing this masterpiece of vitriol. But it’s ironic since after years of avoiding subjects like this they had only three weeks before published an equally vicious satire by Ian McEwan based on one writer “appropriating” another’s works ("My Purple Scented Novel," The New Yorker, 3/28/16).
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Some people are content to satisfy their appetites and there are others for whom, appetite and satiety aren’t enough. Ambition may produce rewards but the net result is an utter emptiness as if all the work they had put into their success were simply a sales pitch for something that didn't exist. What is it actually like to be at the top of the heap? There is probably no more famous rock band than The Stones. Keith Richards wrote about being a Stone in Life. What is it like to be Mick Jagger at 72 and facing yet one more tour with thousands of fans cheering wildly? How different his experience is from the would be rock star hard put to get one gig in a down at its heels bar, whose patrons, swilling down their doubles barely acknowledge his or her existence. Their only company at the end of a long night of sets, in which they're essentially singing to themselves, is the beaten up cases in which they walk home with their instruments. Remember Anthony Quinn who played the over the hill boxer, Mountain Rivera, in Requiem for a Heavyweight? The forgotten, those who have lost the lottery are always seeing the reflection of neon bar signs on rain slicked streets. Yet Amy Winehouse whose life was the subject of recently released documentary is an example of the talented, recognized person who seems to have everything and then throws her life away. Was it that she made it to the top and was disappointed to find that there was nothing there?
Monday, April 25, 2016
Two of the most iconic faces of the 20th and 21st Century look curiously alike, those of Samuel Beckett and Keith Richards, and you wonder whether maybe Beckett could have been a fitting accompanist to "Sympathy for the Devil” or conversely whether Richards, might have been a perfect Nagg, the father of the biblical Hamm, who inhabits a dustbin in Endgame. It would be weird to see Richards performing without his axe, but the same bemused expression, a cultivated stoicism, an inimitable cocktail of pomposity, demandingness and complacency would make the rock star the perfect vehicle for the Beckett character. And imagine Beckett as a Stone, certainly he’s stone faced enough. Imagine the legendary perfectionism employed in the service of Richards' improvisatory style. Legendarily Richards never performs the same riff twice. His “Sympathy for the Devil” is always sui generis, which might not fit with the intractable nature of Beckett’s mis en scene, but certainly conforms to the spirit of his oeuvre and its all around attempt to render fractured consciousness. If consciousness is a crucifixion, then Beckett provides the stigmata. On the most basic level the great playwright and rock star so totally share the same weathered look that one might assume they’d both either attended the same Parisian sun tan salon or that both had competed in the America’s cup in another life. The lined faces, the haunted eyes, Beckett and Richards are fellow travelers—in fact ontological twins. Beckett may never have tried his hand at rock, but Richards gave his writing career a start with a very Beckettian sounding memoir called Life.