The Road…h

…movie was pretty good, but not as good as the book.

And I know, I know people always say that. But in this case it really is true.

I liked it (the movie) but it just didn’t have the same effect on me as the book, you know. I think it has something to do with the language. Cormac McCarthy’s voice is so…particular, so evocative. I’m not sure it can be captured well in film. It is captured quite well in the audio book version of the novel. Same goes for previous novels such as All The Pretty Horses and No Country for Old man. Although I have to say that I think the Coen brothers did a very good job of translating Cormac McCarthy’s voice and style and asthetic to film. In fact, it was spot on  as far as I’m concerned. I was so sure it would be too, when I heard that they were making NCFOM into a movie. They just seemed like the perfect fit. Which of course is why that movie won so many awards.

I’d had similar hopes when I learned that it was going to be directed by John Hillcoat because of a movie he directed entitled The Proposition, which was an amazing albeit very brutal movie, but I wasn’t as sure as I was about the Coen brothers doing NCFOM. In fact, so certain was I that the brothers Coen would make a great movie out of that novel that I actually argued it’s merits with someone who had seen it and didn’t think it was all that good even before I’d seen it. Of course, I later saw it and felt entirely justified in my stance.

It’s funny because I wasn’t as enthralled with NCFOM when it first came out. I remember liking it but thinking it was just kind of a Cormac McCarthy-esque thriller, you know. That was partly because it didn’t impress me the way All the Pretty Horses, the first Cormac McCarthy novel I ever read, had. And there’d been a lot of build up, waiting for it to come out. It has been about seven years since he last novel, Cities of the Plain, kind of let down as the third installment of the Border Trilogy, which started with ATPH followed by The Crossing. Point being I was anxious to read something  new by McCarthy. And even though NCFOM was quite an improvement, I found it a little disappointing. And who knew  how long I’d have to wait until the man’s next novel.

Turned out not that long. The Road was published the next year. I had no idea it was coming out. I just remember opening a box of new book at the library where I work and seeing this book with a glossy black cover with the title, The Road, in a muted brown color, and Cormac McCarthy’s name in an even more muted gray color. It was like discovering something you’d always wished for but hadn’t had the chance to yet. My heart began to beat faster. My hands shook a little. For a second I was sure that I was imaginging it, hallucinating. But I wasn’t.

I began reading The Road immediately. And I know that people say this a lot but I literally could not put it down. And as soon as I finished it I began reading it again right then. As soon as I was able I ran out and bought a hardcover copy, because I wanted to have a first edition. If only there was some way to get it signed.

I knew instinctively that it was a great book, a superb novel, and there was no doubt that it would win some literary prize. And I was right. I won The Pulitzer and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, as well as being nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Being selected as an Oprah Book didn’t hurt none either.

Perhaps the movie version never had a chance to live up to my expectations.

But don’t think I’m ragging the movie. Because I’m not. It was excellent. And there were some moments in that book that literally made my heart race. And Viggio Mortensen was the perefect cast for the father, as were all the character castings. The kid who plaed The Boy, Kodi Smit-McPhee, was excellent. But perhaps the most stunning performance came from Robert Duvall, who plays the feeble old man that they (The Man and The Boy) encounter and take a meall with, mostly because of The Boy’s insistence.

Still, I’m not sure I’d automaticlly recomend this movie. It is not for the average movie goer. Most people aren’t going to want to see this movie; no feel good fare it be. Which is why during Thanksgiving I purposely refrained from talking about it when the subject of movies came up. I’d learned my lesson after reading the book, when I was talking aboug books at some family gathering and mentioned the novel — I got a response like a tumbleweed blowing through a ghost town pretty much.

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GenX in recession

What is a recent Washington Post article (which I was hipped to by The Gen X Files blog) saying about GenXer attitudes in light of the current recession?

They’re antsy and edgy, tired of waiting for promotion opportunities at work as their elders put off retirement.

Huh. Doesn’t sound all that different than before the recession or during the last recession or before that one too. But there is something that’s different compared to when GenX workers were the age that Millennials are now. And that is this:

A good number of them are just waiting for the economy to pick up so they can hop to the next job, find something more fulfilling and get what they think they deserve. Oh, and they want work-life balance, too.

That’s right. Screw loyalty! To any company anyway. Because we’ve learned the hard way that such loyalty will get you nothing in the end.

I learned it long before I entered the work force, when I was witness to General Motors attempts to force my father out of his job as an engineer before he was ready. He worked for GM for 35 years but that mattered little because it was cheaper to higher a younger person who would work for less.  I say attempts because my old man is stubborn as hell and he wouldn’t budge until he got a good retirement package, even when they demoted him to a basically a data entry clerk. Of course, years later GM reneged on their deal to provide health coverage to my father and mother for the rest of their lives.

I learned it again when, in my first foray into the corporate world, I (along with others) was booted in order to balance a budget. Of course, it wasn’t put that way but it didn’t need to be said.

More recently, I learned that there is no loyalty in the economic world when CitiCard arbitrarily hiked my APR from 12.24% to 17.99%. No real reason was given for this increase, although later I was reminded of the bill that goes into effect in Feb. 2010 that cracks down on the credit card companies; they’re all uping their rates before that law goes into effect. Fuckers! And it didn’t matter that I’d had a CitiCard for 17 years, that I’ve always paid my bill on time, that my wife also has a CitiCard, that our mortgage is through CitiBank or Citigroup or whatever the fuck they call themselves. And this is a company that was given government bailout funds.

But enough ranting. Because this whole situation has me wondering. What will come of GenXers being put out of work and not being afford the oppor5tunity to return to the same level again. Perhaps a resurgence in creative endeavors, not just technology-driven but in terms of  art and Literature, music and movies, poetry etc. Certainly family cohesiveness will become stronger. Which is to say, as the article notes, Generation X is tought, resiliant, creative, and we’ve been here before. So bring it!

new volumes for my GenX library

I’m always on the lookout for books about GenX and by GenXers. Thank  to JenX67 I’ve got two more to read, review and add my collection.

The first is a novel entitled “It Feels So Good When I Stop,” by Joe Pernice, who is also a musician, and apparently a big deal indie rocker song writer. Perhaps it is a GenX sin of sorts to not be up on my Indie rock, but I admit that I am not and never have been. In any case, based on this review in the LA Times I’m looking forward to reading this novel, and hopefully will find the time in my “busy” slackery schedule (that ass groove aint gonna make it self) to perhaps tap out a few mindless ramblings on it here because I know there are hordes of you out there that absolutely can’t proceed with your existence until you know what I think about whatever it is I happen to be blathering about at any given moment. We’ll see (the phrase I most utter to my daughter these days,  and to which she hs begun to roll her eyes — sarcasm at  almost 9, ugh!)

The second is a collection of poetry entitled, “Acutal Air,” by David Berman, another musician (Silver Jews; again I plead ignorance). Berman and his collection were referenced in the above mentioned/linked review of Pernice’s novel. Apparently the two got their MFA’s together. Anyway, I was pretty geeked to learn of this collection since I’m not really that hip to GenX poetry. I”ve got my own collection of poetry but not specifically GenX. Not saying it doesn’t exist. It no doubt does, in abundance for all I know. I’m just not that adept at sniffing it out.

PPF (Pointless Point of Fact): Both of these guys are 42, precisely my age, which is distressing in a way since my novel is still in progress and I fear will languish their until the end of days.

The dark side of It’s A Wonderful Life

I’m always slightly confused when the movie It’s A Wonderful Life gets lumped in with other “sugary” holiday movies, because it is anything but. Oh, to be sure, it has it’s share of gooey sentimentality, and of course in the end Carpa goes rigth for for the marshmallow moment and, I think by most any standard, hits it dead on, but there is also a serious dark side to this movie that it seems to me most people tend to ignore or perhaps block out, maybe because it ends on such a feel-goody moment. Of course, that moment wouldn’t nearly have the impact that it does if it wasn’t for what directly precedes it. I’m talking about George’s descent into a kind of madness that comes into full view in a close up shot of him staring directly into the camera after encountering his mother, a once warm and wonderful woman turned bitter and cynical and distrusting, who does not recognize him, her own son. For me that is truly one of the most terrifying moments in cinema.

This article explains more.

The author of the piece writes:

Lots of people love this movie of course. But I’m convinced it’s for the wrong reasons. Because to me “It’s a Wonderful Life” is anything but a cheery holiday tale.

I’ve always thought pretty much the same thing, which explains may explain my attachment to it for years, even as a younger man when I was rather cynical about Christmas. Of course, in many ways I still am, but I realized some time ago that no one wants to hear my laments. Also, I have a daughter who is not quite eight and I don’t want to be the one to disillusion here. Life will do that soon enough, I fear, and expect.

Anyhoo… the truth about this so-called happy holiday movie is this:

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home renovation.

What could be more disturbing? Seriously, I want to know.

The author of this article points out an irony that I’d never really considered before:

Take the extended sequence in which George Bailey (James Stewart), having repeatedly tried and failed to escape Bedford Falls, N.Y., sees what it would be like had he never been born. The bucolic small town is replaced by a smoky, nightclub-filled, boogie-woogie-driven haven for showgirls and gamblers, who spill raucously out into the crowded sidewalks on Christmas Eve. It’s been renamed Pottersville, after the villainous Mr. Potter, Lionel Barrymore’s scheming financier.

Here’s the thing about Pottersville that struck me when I was 15: It looks like much more fun than stultifying Bedford Falls — the women are hot, the music swings, and the fun times go on all night. If anything, Pottersville captures just the type of excitement George had long been seeking.

Perhaps because I disagree that what Pottersville is is what George really wants. True, he wants the shake off the dust of that sleepy little town and see the world, which may include honky tonks and dance clubs and even prostitutes, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want Bedford Falls to stay exactly the way it is. He does. He just doesn’t want to be stuck there all the time. But he does want it there to return to, you know, when seeing the world becomes tiresome, making him weary for a saner, more pure world. George might not be able to articulate it but that doesn’t make it not so. After all who of us have left home and returned haven’t been at least slightly disappointed at any changes that have occurred in our absence. It doesn’t just seem not right, it feels like a person slight.

The author also points out that just because a bunch of people show up at George’s house with enough dough for him to account for the missing $8,000 doesn’t meant he wouldn’t still got to jail. I’ve always suspected as much myself. But I figured, you know, since everyone in town basically loves George that they’d be willing to simply look they other way blah blah blah. Problem solved. Besides, it’s Christmas….whatever that’s supposed to mean.

Perhap I am even more warped than the author of this article, but I can’t help wondering about the implications for the future of George and Mary’s marriage. It seems to me it could be headed for trouble. There’s nothing to indicate that George and Mary are particularly religious. They’re married in the Bailey Boarding house after all. Mary isn’t wearing a gown but rather a skirt suite, thought that may just be out of convenience so that they can bolt town for their honeymoon after the ceremony. Still, even George admits in his most dire moment that he is not a praying man. In any case, one can assume that they aren’t particularly bound by rigid church tenants regarding marriage, not that one has to be particularly religious or even religious at all to take one’s marriage very seriously anymore than being religious is a guarantee that one’s marriage will be more solid. That’s only part of my point. What I was considering is that even thought Mary is wonderful wife and mother and homemaker, not to mention attractive and passionated woman — shit, they have four kids — one has to consider the possibility for,uh, extra-marital shenanigans on George’s part with Violet Bick deciding to NOT leave town. It’s clear from the time she’s a young girl that she’s got a thing for George Porgie and has not compulsion about throwing over whomever she happens to be with at the time to tempt him with her allure. Not to mention she’s not friend of Mary’s. In fact, on can easily imagine that Violet might even take a certain kind of pleasure in luring saintly Mary Hatch’s husband away from their marital bed. I know I can. Surely I’m not the one. Come on people, don’t leave me hanging by my twisted rope alone.

Of course, in her despair over such a betrayal, one can imagine Mary her pique running into the arms of Sam Wainwright, who might feel that he is due something in return for the 25 grand his office forwards to The Bailey Building and Loan. And what better compensation than a tumbled with sweet Mary who threw him over for George in the first place. And things would only spiral out of control from there. And then what would become of Bedford Falls? The possibilities are frightening, and I think would make quite an interesting sequel.

Where’s Jan?

So when I finished Maureen McCormick’s memoir and thought, well, that’s several hours of my life that I’ll never get back, I noticed in the acknowledgments that she thanks every major cast member from The Brady Bunch show except Eve Plumb, Jan. Isn’t that curious?

Yeah, you’re right. Not so much. But it still got me thinking. So I looked up Eve Plumb on wikipedia. And I learned that Plumb is an artist. She paints. Her wikipedia page has a link to her site that displays many of her paintings. I thought some of them were kind of cool. Like these:

I like the way tablecloth contrasts with the wood wainscoting and wood chair.

I like the sharp shadows in t his one. And the coffee cup. Plumb seems to have a thing for coffee cups and mugs. Me too.

I like the POV of this one and the people at the next table. Although the salt and pepper shakers seem out of place. But what do I know, right?

This one’s interesting too. Plumb seems to have a thing for unoccupied seats at tables. Makes you wonder if she dines a lone a lot. Anyway, I like it.

What caught my attention in this one was the sign that reads “New Low Price,” which seems odd but interesting associated with apples or perhaps red peppers. I mean, it’s the kind of thing you’d expect to see attached to real estate sign or a car but not fruits and veggies. I wonder what her motivation was for doing that.

This one is entitled Room Service. So why the two green apples? I like the contrast with the white linen napkin, though.

Another empty chair and cup of coffee.

I really like this one. The feel of it. The warm golden colors and the starker sunlight. Plus that little blue pitcher really anchors it somehow. I suppose that is why it is called Blue Pitcher. I dig the specific style of chairs and table. It reminds me of the kind in my grandparents kitchen in their house in West Virginia. Although different colors.

Something GenX about this, which make sense since Generation X has been dubbed the Jan Brady of generation, sandwiched between two more dramatic attention-seeking generation.

I suppose that Eve Plumb’s life hasn’t been nearly as dramatic as Maureen McCormick’s since The Brady Bunch ended, but somehow I think she, Eve, would be more interesting to talk to.

Yes. I am still reading Infinite Jest

Lest any of you think I wussed out and gave up. Indeed, I did not.

Currently, I am on page 130-something. It can be dense and slow going, and yet still absorbing. In fact, it’s often exciting, even exhilerating. I realize that probably sounds pretty geeky, but its true. There is so much going on, and I’m sure that I’m only grasping about 10% of it, but still its worth it for what I am absorbing.

In some ways it is a manic experience, reading DFW’s prose, especially the prose in this novel. It seems as if you can feel the author’s intensity via his words. Although, I have to admit that in the evening, after a full day of work, the size of that book can be daunting, and I look for ways to avoid reading it. Such as getting interested in reading his short stories, particularly from Girl with Curious Hair, his first collection. Plus, working at a library I am often seduced by new books coming in.

And just yesterday, I started a new novel, Revolutonary Road, by Richard Yates. I’ve been meaning to read this one for years. I’ve always heard it was very good. Apparently, a lot of writers are fans of it, but it isn’t necessarily widely popular. Written in the early 60s, it is set in the mid-50s and is concerned with a young married couple who seemed to be frustrated by the banality of 50s suburban life. I’ve started this novel a couple of times but never got far. Not sure why. This time is different. I’m getting into. I wonder how much of that has to be do with being married now and living in a suburb. What inspired me to pick it up again? They’re making a movie out of it. I was surprised. Saw the preview last weekend when Colleen and I went to see Ghost Town, with Ricky Gervais, a movie that is better than it appears based on the trailers. Anyhoo… RR is going to star Leo Cap and Kate Winslet. And yeah, my first reaction was: is this a good idea, putthing these two in a movie togther after Titanic? Apparently somebody thought so. I’m pretty confident that Winslet will give a good performance. If anything queers this film, it will be Leo. It will be interesting to see how he plays the role of a married man that works a humdrum job and struggles to keep his life together.

My point: despite the fatigue of daily life and other enticing reading distraction, I am making progress on Infinite Jest.

Check out these blogs

These come from a fellow Eastern Michigan alum, whom I read about in my recent alum magazine. His name is David Donar and he has two blogs.

The first one is political graffiti and it features his political cartoons. I dig political cartoons.

The other one is donklephant, a political blog for those “tired of rhetoric, bomb-throwing, and political hackery” which sounds like a refreshing idea to me.

David Foster Wallace, the Teacher

A frend of mind sent me this link, a post about what kind of teacher DFW was. He sounds like he was a very good one, tough but fair, and cool.

Interesting note: on rate my prof it was noted that he liked to chew tobacco and spit into a cup during class.

PS: I’m approaching page 100 of Infinite Jest. Woo hoo! Only some 900 pages to go. I’m on fire, baby!