Speaking of Dave, he decided to involve me in his discussion of a book written by a self-hating gay satanist about how homosexual men should stop being nancies and start calling themselves androphiles.
I'll give the writer this: being a satanist is pretty hardcore. Is it Danzig hardcore? No, but maybe Dave Mustaine-level hardcore.
Not speaking of Danzig, Dave brings me into this here:
"I was going to do the work of coming up with some great zingers to try to answer what 'male-oriented' music and hobbies might be, but I'm rushed and busy right now. A. Peterson, I'm looking in your direction."
That Dave thinks I am a source of information when it comes to manly things makes me wonder if Dave has ever really seen or listened to me at all. Nothing about my being straight offsets my desire to talk to you about which G.I. Joe's would make up the most effective strike force or the fact that I, by myself and with no outside prompting, watched The Devil Wears Prada.*
* This isn't true. As far as you know. Don't dig to deeply here, people. I swear if you wait until I'm distracted and then say, "What was the name of Simon Baker's character in that movie with Meryl Streep?" and I respond out of instinct with, "You mean dashing journalist Christian Thompson!" you need to leave slowly and never interact with me again. In fact, this might be a good idea for all seven people reading this. Great. So it's decided. I needed the extra time to watch 27 Dresses anyway.
But I can do straight music, I suppose. The satanist says that listening to female vocalists is what makes gay men so, as he puts it, "Fabulousssss [limp-wristed gesture]." Okay, I only wish he put it that way. I desperately want to imagine this person as a flamboyant, campy John Waters clone who occasionally puts down his appletini long enough to say, "You know, our dark lord really can give you the answers you need to put your life back together. Oh, Lucifer, look at those Jimmy Chan's. I'd sell my soul to Christ for a pair of those!"
Is Jimmy Chan a real designer? Well, screw it, I'm not looking it up.
So here's your straight music, Dave. These are the first five songs that come up on shuffle in my iTunes. And I'm not going to cheat as much as I might like to do so:
1. "Hi-Definition" by Lupe Fiasco. (Yes, rap! That's pretty hardcore. This is going well).
2. "The Modern Leper" by Frightened Rabbit. (Yes, indie rock! I am pretty cool).
3. "Hearts of Oak" by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. (Uh oh, I hope something comes up to mix things up).
4. "What Was It You Wanted" by Bob Dylan. (Suddenly this is going so well it's going badly. This song, by the way, is off Oh Mercy. Not really a standout).
5. "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb" by Spoon. (Noooo!!!!).
Damn it. Don't you see what's happened here? Instead of finding all of the embarrassing music on my computer, I've found exactly what you would expect on the computer of a 25-year-old poseur which is far more embarrassing. I'm a zombie who purchased my identity wholesale along with this Twin Peaks box set and these Richard Brautigan books I think I love.
You know what might make me stand out:
Adam Peterson, Satanist.
Speaking of Dave, he decided to involve me in his discussion of a book written by a self-hating gay satanist about how homosexual men should stop being nancies and start calling themselves androphiles.
Octopus 11 is now live right here. Read it instead of whatever else it was you were going to do this morning.
I like this by Rebecca Guyon:
I like my shadow when I’m in this coat.
I look like a Russian soldier or I’m wearing a dress.
I need to be more friendly. I need to treat Estonians better.
I've also been reading the new Southeast Review. This is normally when I'd mention that I have something in it but my piece is awful and you should pick up the journal despite it. Not this time.
My piece is awesome.
Okay, that's not true. My piece is maybe okay, but if you'll allow me a moment, I'd like to do some avenging.
My piece, "Hope's Dancing Fancy," is a short short that takes its title and vampires from a longer story I wrote in graduate school. A story, I should say, that got a very odd reaction from the workshop. Honestly, it would have been better if I'd written a choose-your-own-adventure novel for class or just passed out handfuls of leaves and called it my story. Even months later I'd meet people and they'd say, "Oh, you're the guy who writes about vampires."
And I'd say, "Um, well, they weren't even real vampires. They just sort of wanted to be. That's why they had their teeth filed."
This would not make things better.
But I persevered and you'll be happy to know the first line of the short short is, "If we hadn’t decided to become vampires, this man wouldn’t be filing our teeth."
I will now cease avenging.
Also in that workshop were friends and non-vampire-focused writers Dave, Chris, Mark, and Naca. That's a good group. You should definitely watch that Naca video.
A man I jokingly considered my arch nemesis...
A man who has his own tag on this blog...
A man whose story was my favorite thing I read in my first fiction class...
A man whose worst novels were the only ones stocked at the Hays Public Library and whose best novels I hate on a level that must indicate some kind of success...
A man who outlived his main character by nearly 20 years...
A man who looks best in caricature...
John Updike, dead at 76.
I know this is all kinds of horrible and colonialist, but I don't care. I want to adopt an elderly Bolivian:
The hats! The sicus! The fact that they only eat marshmallows!
Okay, so that last one probably isn't true, but they are adorable enough that I'm not ruling it out.
Fun Fact (according to Wikipedia [so let's just call it a Fun Educated Guess]): "The position of the hat can indicate a woman's marital status and aspirations."
That's brilliant. It turns out that we're the cute ones with our clumsy system of wedding rings and haircuts. If we're lucky, the Bolivians will adopt all of us. I, for one, can learn to live off marshmallows alone.
And by 'learn to' I mean 'continue to.'
I imagine I'll be going to this and you should, too:
Thursday, January 29th
Callen Conference Center, Smith Curtis Building
Nebraska Wesleyan University
The rest of the reading series this year is equally dynamite though, if I may say, not exactly the most diverse group (stylistically or otherwise) I've ever seen. Still, it's a style I like so I don't really know what my problem is. I guess I don't have one. Besides, I'm probably wrong about the styles. From what I've read, all of these are writers capable of doing pretty much whatever they want and doing it remarkably well at that.
Brian Evenson on March 3
Sheila Heti on March 31
Gary Lutz on April 16
Those are some crazy great writers, no? I'm excited.
Stock Photography Review
As it's not unusual to find details that are just slightly off in stock photography used in America--a t-shirt in German, an automobile that you eventually realize has its steering wheel on the "wrong" side--I thought I'd take a look at how other nationalities get treated. I tried to take an image off of the first page of the search results whenever possible.
Except for with the Dutch. Nothing came up for the Dutch. My apologies to everyone in Nijmegen.
Dr. Golding was on his way to a costume party at Secretary Williams's flat in Kingston when a man stopped and asked if he might take the good doctor's photo. The doctor was self-conscious of the costume but was flattered the outfit worked so well, especially since he had spent the best of the previous night sewing the fake dreadlocks into his hat and having his son, who was home from reading economics at Oxford, teach him how to roll the comically oversized cigar.
"Certainly, sir" he replied. "I'm in no great hurry. The Lady Williams considers it an insult for a guest to arrive on time. Oh, yes, naturally you'll want me to pretend to puff on my cigar. May I ask why you want the picture? Ah, you've run off. Good day, good day!"
Okay, look. We're all going to need to get our stories straight should Ms. Cooper come around asking about that report I did on Germany in the 6th grade. Clearly I had some facts wrong.
I mean, that climate does not look at all temperate and marine with foehn wind.
I knew they weren't to be trusted.
Oh, wait, we'd probably be the ones spying in this (or any other) scenario. Yep, never mind. Those Swedes are all right. Except for those things they had to say about the Norwegians.
Is the part of the stock photography review where I mention Jill Biden is sort of hot? Well, it's going to have to be. Jill Biden is sort of hot.
So maybe the Swedes were on to something because these Norwegians seem a little...off. I don't even know what's happening here, but if I had to guess I'd say its the most sterile murder in history.
Looks like someone surrendered to sleep. Am I right? Who's with me?
This is so racist.
This is so racist.
This post exists only to get my numbering system back in order. You may have some questions about this, and I'll do my best to answer them.
Why do you have a numbering system?
I don't know.
Why doesn't anyone ever point it out when you mess up?
I don't know.
Who actually cares that it's messed up anyway?
I don't know.
I hope this provides you the necessary reassurances in the infallibility of the systems of man in order for you to continue on your day with the minimal amount of worry.
I once had a liberal professor try to convince me that George F. Will is one of the good guys, one of the conservative commentators that, though I might disagree with him, should be taken seriously as a political thinker. Like this professor, finding those on the other side of issues that are as sincere and honest about their political beliefs as I try to be about mine, is important to me. For the professor, George F. Will became his nemesis, sort of a Rommel to his Patton, someone he could test his ideas against, all the time respecting his "enemy" more than many of his allies.
I supposed I believed the professor--or just couldn't find anyone better in the intellectual wasteland after the Limbaugh-ization of conservative thought during the Bush years--and so started treating Will as the best of the available conservative columnists. Not that I sought him out, mind you, but just about every newspaper I've ever subscribed to has run his column and my parents get me a subscription to Newsweek every year, so Will has just always sort of been there. I don't usually agree, but most of the time I can tolerate him.
His final column on the Bush administration is something else though. Some choice moments:
*"Furthermore, some, and perhaps many, Americans probably are alive today because persons conspiring to commit mass murder were thwarted by the president's ferocious focus after 9/11."*
Fair enough. Probably not true, but I'm fine with having this be the up-beat tenor of the closing days of the administration. Still, this is hardly the redemption Will thinks it is considering Bush was president before 9/11 and this cuts both ways. He certainly doesn't deserve all of the blame but nor does he reserve all of the credit for the lack of attacks since then.
*"The administration's failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina were real but secondary to, and less shocking than, the manifold derelictions of duties by the governments of Louisiana and New Orleans."*
Really? I mean, I know no one did great here, but, um, really? You don't think FEMA's failure--which, I should remind everyone, IS A FEDERAL AGENCY THAT EXISTS SOLELY TO HANDLE SUCH EVENTS--messed up at least as much as the city of New Orleans? It's embarrassing to pretend that any major metropolitan area, let alone even a small town, should be expected to handle a mass evacuation and then be able to house all of its citizens who return to find their homes destroyed.
*"On the other hand, among Bush's excellent legacies, gifts that might keep on giving for decades, are two justices—John Roberts and Sam Alito."*
Now this is just being a jerk, George F. Will. Funny though.
*This one is the really killer: "Within the lifetimes of most Americans now living, today's media-manufactured alarm about man-made global warming might be an embarrassing memory. The nation will then be better off because Bush—during whose administration the embarrassing planet warmed not at all—refused to be stampeded toward costly "solutions" to a supposed crisis that might be chimerical, and that, if real, could be adapted for considerably less cost than will be sunk in efforts at prevention."*
Look, I understand that as a conservative he's honor bound not to believe in global warming--fine--but this has to be one of the dumbest things committed to paper recently. That's not even considering the clunky language ("embarrassing planet?" "crisis that...could be adapted?"). Mostly it's stupid because Will's argument here is that George W. Bush was right to spend no money in developing new energy technologies because, you know, that worked out so well for American automakers. Besides, even outside of global warming, there a dozens of good reasons for the American government to seek to advance technology that doesn't leave us dependent upon a finite resource controlled by the very people Will thinks want to kill us.
There's a bit of a strawman argument here. Will seems to think that George W. Bush was fighting off hoards of tie-dye wearing hippies who wanted energy rationing and building freezes when the reality is that he was fighting off market-driven solutions in favor of adopting a 'drill, baby, drill' mentality. Why would George Will possibly be against a free market cap-and-trade system? American workers, politicians, and, most of all, businesses are now looking toward energy technology as the industry that is going to decide the fate of the country through the next century, yet were supposed to be happy that our president spent his years trying to destroy the arctic in order to fuel our SUVs? The problem here is not that George Will (and, so he thinks, George Bush) doesn't believe in global warming, it's that Will is praising the president for doing something we know for a fact was a disaster both environmentally and, more important to men like Will, economically.
And the worst part is that the former president was stampeded toward solutions. He was the key figure in creating an alternative to the Kyoto Treaty that included some of the "developing" nations left out of the older treaty. Now, we can debate whether or not the new partnership is effective or if its goals should be mandatory instead of voluntary, but it's certainly an acknowledgment by Bush that there is such a thing as climate change. I mean, it's in the title of the organization he started for Christ's sake.
In fairness to Will, I should mention that the rest of the column is not nearly so flattering to Bush though mostly its another elegy to what "real" conservative believe and how it was conservative politicians who failed rather than conservative ideology. Enough has been said about our former president and there's certainly no reason to relive his years in office here, but I just found Will's tortured tribute important for anyone thinking we're going to get a new day in politics. As the handwringing has already started up at Fox News--good god, he didn't use a Bible during his second oath!--it's only a matter of time before we're reminded how much some have at stake in keeping these imaginary divisions in place.
* The Omaha-area radio show my brother and his friends do (and that I mentioned here) is now available in podcast form here. Understandably, as it was their first show, it gets off to a rocky start but then they turn my brother's mic off and everything is okay until they turn it back on again. There's some great stuff on using public money to build a stadium. Here's a summary: don't.
* I don't think I have yet linked to The Home Video Review of Books. If you find my own book reviews pedestrian and unenlightening, you'll like it. This review of Craig Santos Perez's from Unincorporated Territory is my favorite:
Possible Explanations for Why the Entire City of Lincoln Smells Like Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal This Morning
1. Maple & brown sugar oatmeal tanker truck accident (this would explain the quarantine, too)
2. What I'm actually smelling is my stroke
3. That one law
4. Lincoln got into some poison ivy
5. Tomorrow's rodeo at the event center is going to be the best rodeo ever
I'm out of explanations.
A Plot Synopsis of the Movie Adaptation of Dave's Book on Taxidermy
In a world with only one salaried taxidermist at an American museum, that taxidermist is about to uncover a conspiracy for the ages and discover just how alone he really is...
The story centers on Carl Akeley the Fourth, a taxidermist with a taxidermy degree from MIT and an advanced taxidermy degree from Oxford who comes from a long line of taxidermists that believe in the legend of a fantastic treasure trove of artifacts and gold, hidden by the founders of the American Museum of Natural History, and forgotten to all but a few. The first clue was given to Carl's great-great grandfather Carl Akeley the First by Theodore Roosevelt, former president and noted naturalist, saying simply, "The secret lies with Charlotte.” At this point it’s important to know that Charlotte is the name of an elephant Roosevelt shot and had stuffed.
Using sophisticated computer arctic weather models, Carl, with his friend Steve and financier Harold, finds the wreckage of a ship from an African hunting expedition, the Africana, containing Charlotte’s body on which they find a tusk engraved with a riddle. It’s a very big tusk, but they figure they have to take it with them and that if this whole treasure thing doesn’t work out, they can sell it on the black market. After examining the riddle, Carl deduces that the next clue is on the back of the American Bald Eagle under heavy security in the American Museum of Natural History. While Carl sees gaining access to such a highly guarded artifact as an obstacle, Steve finds no problem in stealing it. In the standoff, Steve escapes and the Africana explodes with Carl and Harold inside, nearly killing them.
They attempt to warn the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and Dr. Susan Cotter at the American Museum of Natural History, but no one takes them seriously, believing the eagle to be too heavily guarded to be under any threat. Carl thinks otherwise, however, and decides to steal it to keep it from Steve. Carl and Harold manage to steal the Eagle during a 70th anniversary-gala, just before Steve arrives. Dr. Cotter, who is holding a replica eagle, is kidnapped by Steve who thinks she has the real one, and Carl has to engage in a car chase to rescue her. As she will not leave without the eagle, and Carl will not let her leave with it, she is forced to go along with them to protect the eagle. The eagle is so big it barely fits in the backseat of the cab. Not to mention the tusk which Carl estimates is probably worth about a $1,000 bucks. There is a lot of discussion on how to fit it all. In the end, they manage.
Carl and Harold agree that the only place to hide from the police would be Jon Voight’s house. Despite Jon Voight’s disbelief in the treasure, Carl manages to reveal an Ottendorf cipher on the eagle’s back stitching, referring to characters in the (original) Carl Akeley’s Fundamentals of Taxonomy. The coded message in the letters leads them to the Field Museum in Chicago, where they find special deer taxidermied by Carl Akeley inside of an exhibit in the building. Carl examines the back of the deer with his glasses, to find another clue. After a short chase, Steve gets the eagle from Harold and Susan, and the FBI arrests Carl, who has the tusk (which he offers the FBI as a bribe, slightly exaggerating its value to $1,500 bucks to make it a more attractive bribe). Carl is actually a little relieved he’s arrested as by now he has an eagle, a tusk, a deer, and his rather cumbersome aviator glasses to carry.
When the FBI attempts to use Carl as bait to get the eagle back, Steve arranges to have him escape by jumping from the deck of the USS Intrepid into the Hudson River, a feat not too difficult for Carl as a graduate of the Navy Diving and Salvage Training Center. Did we mention that? Well, he is. Using Jon Voight, Harold, and Susan as leverage, Steve forces Carl to interpret the clue on the back of the eagle, a reference to a secret chamber under the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. When they arrive at a seemingly dead end, Jon Voight makes up another clue to keep Steve going, telling him a wood mouse is the clue to the Natural History Museum in Wisconsin. Steve goes to Wisconsin with his men, leaving everyone else to die in the caverns. Carl is a little bummed the men are gone as they were carrying his animals and animal pieces and it's like no one else is even helping.
After Steve leaves, Carl reveals there is another exit that must be through the treasure room. They find a secret passage into another chamber. To their disappointment, they find it empty, and assume that the treasure was already moved. However, they realize a secondary exit must have been created in case of cave-ins. Carl examines the walls of the room, to find a hole the shape of the tusk from Charlotte (the elephant). This lock opens a door into the true treasure room, containing artifacts from all periods of taxidermy. But it also consumes the tusk, totally costing Carl like at least $1,800 bucks.
When they leave through the second exit and the FBI arrives, Carl discovers that the chief investigator, Special agent Chip Kind, is a taxidermist. Carl proposes to give the treasure to various museums around the world, with credit being given to the entire Akeley family and Harold, with Dr. Cotter not being penalized for the theft of the eagle. However, Kind says that someone has to go to prison for the theft of the eagle, so they fly to Wisconsin, where Steve and his men are breaking the lock to gain entry to Wisconsin Natural History Museum. FBI agents emerge from hiding and arrest them under charges of "kidnapping, attempted murder, and trespassing on government property." The U.S. government offers Carl and his friends 10% of the taxidermy, but Carl only takes 1% and splits it with Harold. This amounts to approximately one turtle. With his share, Carl and Susan buy a mansion once owned by a man who knew Carl Akeley, and Harold buys a red Ferrari 360 Spider. Oh, it should be mentioned that both Carl and Harold are independently wealthy.
My Amazon.com Recommendation Robot knows me so poorly it makes my Netflix one seem like my spouse (or, more accurately, the woman who knocked on my door at midnight last night asking for gas money. We really got to know each other while discussing the wisdom and likelihood of her walking to the gas station when it was three below zero out). My current front page recommendation headlines:
* Save big on LeapFrog learning toys (probably because I looked at my own book yesterday and it naturally figured I was a kindergarten-level reader)
* Shop bestselling products from Optimum Nutrition (some kind of protein supplement company. Who told Amazon.com about my deltoids?)
* Save $20 when you spend $80 on Boys' New Balance shoes (I'll have you know I only buy Saucony athletic shoes. Plus, I step up to a man's size 6 in the months when I need heavier socks)
* Save up to 50% on Juniors' Dresses (I don't even want to know. It must think I'm either a profoundly confused individual or that I'm some be-childrened divorcee ala Randy Quaid's character in the noted McDonald's commercial Bye Bye Love)
* Bestsellers in LEGO Star Wars toys (Whoa...)
Okay, so that LEGO Star Wars one was a lucky guess, Amazon Recommendation Robot. And I do have a birthday coming up in March...Hint.
Local uber-critic L. Kent has an article out today headlined, "Marijuana has taken a place in the music world."
First line: "Marijuana may no longer be exclusive to musicians."
Jesus, L. Kent, the rest of us are trying to have a city here. You're making us look bad in front of the cool towns. I really hope Portland doesn't see this.
Look, I don't care about marijuana one way or the other, but I do care about newspapers and print media as a vital part of American democracy. Or I did. This doesn't really seem to be upholding that (or any) standard. From now on I'm getting my news from Facebook status updates like everyone else. Speaking of which, did everyone hear Tina's cat is sick and Adam is cold? Good.
I would actually think this was some kind of very clever anti-drug initiative--hell, after reading that article I don't even want to listen to Bob Dylan ever again--except that L. Kent is down with the Wu-Tang Clan (or at least Ghostface Killah). Clearly the man's got street cred.
I really want to email him to ask how he decided which Kottonmouth Kings song to use. Couldn't he have just said 'ALL'? Oh, or if he hears from any artists who want to protest their inclusion on his list. I'd say Tom Petty has a pretty good case for "Mary Jane's Last Dance" not being about pot.
Note: This post is a reaction to a local news story and is in no way a statement about the use, legality, or perceived 'coolness' of any drug. Adam is too cold to get fired.
* I have unanswered questions about the movie Baghead. I also don't want to give anything away, so if you care and haven't seen it--and I'm not saying you should though maybe you should. Or not. It's okay, wildly uneven, should have been better--just don't highlight this text below and you can remain spoiler free. If you have seen it, let me know what you think. If you haven't seen it and don't care, you still shouldn't read the question but should instead imagine your own baghead movie which you will then want to talk about authoritatively as if it's the real baghead movie, making sure to accuse those who try to correct you of being sexist.
Who was wearing the bag when the baghead enters Michelle's room? It's established that it's not the filmmaker guy since he's not there yet. The woman says it wasn't her and since she's not a very good actress, I'm inclined to believe her. Now it could have been Matt (the dude Michelle was expecting), but then why would he just show up and leave? It also could have been the other dude who would have had a reason to leave (he was disappointed the girl was expecting Matt) but not a reason to put on Matt's clothes. So, since the filmmakers decided to make their movie less interesting by being very literal, what's the explanation for this? Maybe I'm over thinking it, but every other appearance by the baghead gets painstakingly explained. I think this only bothers me because it leads to the movie's funniest line, "A baghead didn't see you naked!" Clearly, like the filmmakers, I'm captivated by the idea of a baghead. Also, it's hard to type in white. I probably should have waited until I was done typing and then switched the font color. Next time.
* This is far less important than baghead-related matters, but it's been brought to my attention that my tiny chapbook thing My Untimely Death from Subito Press has more or less sold out. The three copies left at Amazon here are apparently the last of the first print run. I only mention it because I'm relieved that I am no longer going to be responsible for an unsold box of books that a Boulder janitor would have to throw away in 2015. Unfortunately, I'm told the intention is to print more, but there is some question as to when. Keep your fingers crossed that funding falls through, future Boulder janitors.
I suppose I also mention it because I still have 10-15 and would give a copy to anyone who wants one. I have done a remarkably poor job of distributing my copies. Please take one.
The Confessions of Max Tivoli
So I had to read one more novel in order to keep up with my company's book club which, by the way, has dwindled to myself and two other people making it more of a book triumvirate which could be held in the backseat of a Civic. I look forward to the day when someone else quits halfway through whatever Elie Wiesel memoir we're reading and it becomes a Book Partnership/Beach Volleyball Team.
The novel in question is Andrew Sean Greer's The Confessions of Max Tivoli, an absolutely gigantic selling book from 2004 due to a glowing review from John Updike in the New Yorker and Mitch Albom picking it for the Today Show's book club. I won't hold either of those things against the book, but O how I want to. I also probably shouldn't say it was a best seller 'due' to those things, but I'm sure they didn't hurt, neither did all of the other blurbs which are suffocating my paperback. Not knowing much about it other than its premise, I was a little unprepared for not just how big the sales for the book were but how, if you believed the praise, you might expect the response to have been even bigger.
Here's a sample:
"Enchanting"--John Updike, The New Yorker "Devastating, heartbreaking...an astonishment."--Esquire "****"--People "Quietly dazzling...keenly affecting."--The New York Times Book Review "This year's break-out novel."--Entertainment Weekly "A devastating new writer"-Michael Cunningham "A fable of surpassing gravity and beauty."--San Francisco Chronicle "One of the most talented writers around."--Michael Chabon
That's an impressive cross-section of both mainstream and literary voices coming out in favor of the book, and, I admit, the book deserves everything it got. Mitch Albom excepted. Nobody deserves that.
While I don't think I liked it as much as anyone quoted above, there's no reason to be a snob about something so well written. Mr. Updike is right to call it "enchanting" because there is very much a magic to the prose. Greer writes incredibly well, with a Chabon-esque delicacy and ornateness which might veer toward cloying but never quite lets the reader catch his or her breath long enough to ask questions. The confessor is, like Mr. Greer's reviewers, in a state of near constant rapture and no feeling or detail--especially if that feeling be love and that detail be old-timey--is above getting a few long, melodic sentences.
It's a self-consciously anachronistic style which works nicely with the turn-of-the 20th century setting and the slightly Gothic plot. Like Benjamin Button before him, our Max Tivoli is born an old man and ages backward, along the way loving the same woman three different times (once each as an old man, a middle-aged man, and then as a young boy). So it is a love story, and a rather small one at that, something that costs the book a fair amount of gravitas since the plot seems to call for something epic (Fitzgerald's story seems to have the same problem, the new Button movie seems to go to far in this direction from what I've read). It's not that love stories are bad, but that the book's lessons on loves are summed up with its first line, "We are each the love of someone's life."
While this is a perfectly acceptable first line, it is also a perfectly dumb thing to say about love. This is a book where love experienced as a teenager is permanent not just for one character but for all characters across genders, sexual orientation, and lifecycles. Greer is good enough that it doesn't ever come across as damningly sentimental but it also isn't a particularly complicated way to look at the world. The are other failings, too, mostly in how reluctant the book is to ever be away from its key relationship, as if taking more than two pages to explain the years Max is trying to die in a war will break the spell start asking questions.
Because there are questions (She really wouldn't recognize him/notice he's growing younger/believe him when he tells her?), but, in the end, they are all questions answered by the book's premise. To buy into Max's birth you have to buy into his life, and Greer makes it easy with a tight structure that forgoes most of the interim years to focus on Max at 5/65, 35/35, and 12/58. It's such a well-plotted book that I wish Greer would have left behind the revelations he gives at the end of each section since they are neither surprising nor necessary. What drama there is here has been figured out long before Greer gets around to pulling the rug out from under us (especially with a certain character's "coming out" which is an unnecessary move as Chabon-esque in its shoehorning as the novel is in its prose).
In the end, the book works because of its style, simple structure, and even simpler take on its narrator's predicament. And it does work, problems and all. It's exactly the sort of a book I was expecting to read in a club like this only with prose to match what I might otherwise choose myself. The book may not last long--it's not one for the ages--but it's a good novel, a very good novel even, and so maybe Greer made the right choice to keep a big idea small. So what if the world is larger than this, because it's rarely as lovely. That's something, too.
For some unknown but presumably awesome reason, my brother and two fellow North Platters now have an Omaha-area radio show on 1180 KOIL. The show is called "The Weekly Grind" and will tackle Omaha news, sports, and politics from the young professional's perspective between 10 and 11 every Saturday morning. The first show is this Saturday and will feature Neil deMause, author of the book Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit (from the always reliable U. of Nebraska Press), talking about Omaha's one and possibly two new baseball stadiums.
If I may be so bold, as an official brother of a co-host, I'd like to suggest some future show topics:
* Electoral Collage: Redistricting and Electoral Vote Distribution
* Oma-HA! (this would be a running segment mocking a city politician/celebrity)
* Bill Parcells: What Might He Be Doing Right Now?
* The State Capital: Should We Invade Lincoln and Take it Back?
* Young Professionals: Is This a Category That Includes Us Now That We Spend Our Weekends Landscaping?
* Brothers: What Would They Say if Given a Shot to Fill Five Minutes on the Radio?
* From Sacramento to St. Louis: Cities That Aren't as Good as Omaha
* Poseurs: Where Are Omaha's Professional Sports Allegiances and Why Do Jeff and Mike Not Root for the Kansas City Royals?
Those ideas are all up for grabs, fellas.
Seriously though, good luck. I'll be tuning in.
Friend, writer, and all-star blogger Chris Higgs tagged me to do one of those seven things about myself chains, and I'm honored to have a spot on his list of luminaries (it's the only list Kanye West and I both appear on that isn't a list of people banned from a certain Macon-area Waffle House). That said, I had no intention of actually participating until I realized I had nothing else to post today. It was either do the list or begin my painstakingly detailed character guide for Fox's new hit drama Fringe so...
1) Adam Peterson couldn't live with what he did.
2) Adam Peterson gave up the dream.
3) Adam Peterson is second from the left.
4) Adam Peterson lost a father.
5) Adam Peterson is in favor of expanding the existing hog feeding facility.
6) Adam Peterson is bone stock.
7) Adam Peterson was 25.
I recently read or re-read these two books, and while I don't feel like I have the critical faculty to say anything particularly illuminating about them, I thought I should mention them so you too can experience the goodness.
Novel Pictorial Noise - Which only has one bizarrely inconsequential customer review on Amazon.com (speaking of which, if you're looking for the best customer review ever, it's definitely here. My mouth is permanently agape after that. Be warned: that review will cost you your wonderment).
As in Every Deafness - So, so good. I think I bought the last of Amazon's copies when I gave it away as a gift, but you get it from Flood Editions. If you hide a prison shank in it, it will change someone's life.
If you're curious, and lord knows you shouldn't be, I've been avoiding novels and watching movies/reading poetry while I'm doing this thing I'm doing. That's why this blog has been so movie heavy the last few weeks. I felt like I was getting a little John Irving-y while reading Garp so now I'm only enjoying work that has creative syntax or car chases or, preferably, both.
As for this thing I'm doing, it's building model airplanes, of course.
5 Things I Cannot Make My Netflix Recommendation Robot Believe
1. I do not want to see a movie called Tokyo Gore Police - This actually becomes less true every time I say, think, or write Tokyo Gore Police. When you get right down to it, I might actually want to see a movie called Tokyo Gore Police. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the real problem here is that I'm embarrassed my Netflix Recommendation Robot knows I desperately want to see a movie called Tokyo Gore Police.
2. I do not live in Lincoln, Nebraska - I'm torn between avoiding the Local Favorites section and actually, you know, having my movies mailed to where I live. Is it worth it to change my address to something imaginary in Brooklyn if it means I don't get to actually watch the more interesting movies being recommended to me? Probably. You think I'm joking but here are the current Local Favorites:
The Jeff Dunham Very Special Christmas Special - Basically, blue collar comedy done by a ventriloquist with stereotypical dummies like a redneck and a dead terrorist. No, I don't know how or why I know this.
Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story - Something about Dakota Fanning and horses. Inspirational. Presumably someone has cancer. I really hope it's not the horse.
Though None Go With Me - I'd never heard of this one so I'll let Netflix's description speak for itself, "Based on the acclaimed book by Jerry Jenkins, this Hallmark Channel family drama stars Cheryl Ladd as Elizabeth Leroy Bishop, a dedicated Christian who devotes herself to serving God. Spanning 50 years, the film highlights the unwavering faith of Elizabeth, who endures heartbreaking loss and tragedy while on her spiritual journey, ultimately learning that her piety has transformed others."
Facing the Giants - A religious movie about a football coach who puts his life in god's hands and finds a stronger purpose and salvation. I assume this means he institutes the A-11 offense.
Molly: An American-Girl Story - Okay, so this one I've already seen. Four stars.
4. I do not want to see Alien3 - I'm not sure what it is about my having seen Alien, Aliens, and Alien: Resurrection that makes it think I want to see Alien3, but I assure you I do not want and have never wanted to see it. I've never even heard of Alien3.
5. On a related noted, I do want to see Aliens vs. Predator 2 - I don't know why my giving the first one only one star would make anyone think I wouldn't be in line to see this. I mean, it's Aliens. Fighting Predators. With tortured explanations as to why Aliens are fighting Predators. It's only the local favorite of a little place called my heart.
Dear Anders Landers,
Help! A friend is facing a tough choice over a costly car repair and you always know just what to do. Should I disinvite my step-mother from the wedding even if it means my father won't be there or should I finally tell my neighbor that the jokes he makes in front of my children are inappropriate?
The Hustler and The Color of Money
I've seen The Color of Money probably five times, maybe more. It's hard to say for sure as I've mostly caught ten to twenty minute segments of it on television, usually starting somewhere around Cruise and Newman splitting up before changing channels after Forest Whitacker hustles Newman (the best scene in the movie). For a few years, mostly when I was in college, television was lousy with the movie; I think I even caught it on ESPN2 once. It's just one of those movies that works better cut up with Swiffer commercials than it does standing alone which, I suppose, is its own kind of accomplishment.
It's not Newman's best (even though he won his only Oscar for it) but it might be Cruise's. Also, I'm going to do no research on this topic other than looking up how to spell her name, but I'm positive it's Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's best (don't even give me any of that Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves nonsense). There's also Whitaker and a coked-up John Turturro doing the movie's finest work in their limited screen time. And as far as Scorsese goes, it certainly was a detour on the road to Goodfellas, but I think it also presaged on audience-pleasing streak that manifests itself in his recent movies.
It's not a great movie, but I liked it. Liked.
Then I saw the movie it is ostensibly a sequel to, The Hustler, and it ends on a note that makes the existence of The Color of Money impossible. I don't mean physically--it's not as if someone dies and gets resurrected ala Spock--but emotionally it is inconceivable that Newman's character in 1961 grew into the man he portrays in 1986. And even if it could happen, how he got there should be the movie not what he does once he gets there. At the end of The Hustler, Newman is disillusioned and broken, well on his way to killing himself with booze or a stubborn refusal to back down or, most likely, both. It's a great ending. It's a great movie.
Then, through 25 years of abstaining from pool but with great success hanging around pool--you know, sort of like how addicts do best when hanging around people consuming their drug of choice openly and without negative consequences--Newman's Fast Eddie decides that he wants to relive his traumatic experience as a young hustler only in the role of the man who broke him.
Here's what this is like:
It's like if Hamlet ended right before the climactic sword fight and then, in a sequel, an old Hamlet is running around ear-poisoning his enemies.
It's like if George, after killing Lennie, grows old and decides to become a senile, bunny-petting migrant worker because, hey, what could go wrong.
It's like if Dr. Wayne Szalinski decided after his disastrous shrinking ray to create an enlargement ray. Um, never mind.
At the end of The Hustler, Newman's character is essentially offered the chance to become Newman's character in The Color of Money. He's disgusted. He knows what he has to kill inside himself to win, and he can't do it. Until, 25 years later, he can not only do it but wants to recruit others to do it, too. It's not unusual to decry a sequel for its disposability but rarely is one so antagonistic toward its precursor's ethos.
There's a reason why Newman's moral dilemma comes off as shallow in Color while George C. Scott is perfectly sleazy in The Hustler (was Scott always that good? I haven't seen Patton, and can't say I really care to, but he's great in The Hustler). Newman can't have internal conflict because the thing that makes his character memorable is how stark his choices are. He's a loser or a winner. He's got character or he doesn't. He's either given up his principles or he hasn't. Either way, there doesn't seem to be a path that leads him to where (they tell us) he is 25 years later.
That's the problem with making sequels using indelible characters. They're ours, not yours.
I'm just going to go ahead and reuse last year's resolutions:
New Year's Resolutions
1. Post more. Dropping under 20 a month is just embarrassing.
2. Take stairs to office. Initially I wrote "Take stares to office." I'll do that one, too.
3. Start reading Ward 6. That doesn't really need an explanation.
4. Make more salads. It's not that I feel like I don't eat enough salad as is, it's just that I feel like I need at least one diet related resolution.
5. Stop spending 6 hours per day thinking about Bill Parcells.
6. Train dog. I'm not sure what to train her to do though. Possibly to eat all the extra salad I'll be making.
7. Use spell check. I'm serious this time.
The new issue of NOÖ is up right here. There's a lot of good work to start the year with, work that is all kinds of awesome from people you like.
And me, too, though I think we all know how you feel about me at this point. Don't let that stop you from checking out the others. I'll just be over here thinking about football while you're away.