with the gals away the movies will play

Wife and daughter out of town, visiting family in California — Mahattan Beach and San Fran. With them gone the house is empty and quiet. So to fill the void and my time I’ve been watching a lot of movies, more than I have in some time.

This weekend, among other movies, I watched:

The Informers, based on the Brett Eston Ellis book of the same title, which as been called a novel but seems more like connected stories. In any case, I’m interested in any works of BEE’s. Set in 1983-84, this is typical Ellis fair, involving rich LA young people that do a lot of drugs, have a lot of sex. Sort of the counter-view to, say, John Hughes version of the 80s, which much less ominous, more bubblegum pop. It didn’t do well at the theater, but I liked it, for the 80s details as much as anything else. Although one thing that seemed off was the that the girls’ hair styles seemed more late 90s, i.e. straight and blonde as opposed to done up with Aquanet and brown with frosted blonde highlights etc. But maybe things were diff in LA at the time.

Good performances all around, especially by Kim Basinger and Winona Ryder, who deserves more roles but for some reason seems to have gone a little undeground — very GenX. Mickey Rourke is a good scarey guy, as per usual. Billy Bob Thornton is okay, but I’ve never been a big fan of his anyway, especially since he fucked up All the Pretty Horses, although I’ve heard it was the studios doing more than his, but in any case a serious missed opportunity.

At this point, I think the only novel of Ellis that hasn’t been made into a movie or is in production to be made into one is Glamorama. But then Ellis is,  at least in part, bank rolling these projects. Perhaps the reason he moved from NYC back to LA area. He’s an ex-prod on this film. And it seems a worthy effort. Not as good as Less Than Zero and American Psycho but then the original material wasn’t as good so. But then those movies had actors in roles they were made play, baby — Robert Downey Jr. and Christian Bale.

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What to read next?

Finally finished reading Glamorama by Brett Easton Ellis. Now — boom! — I’m done. I can talk about it if the opportunity presents itself, although I can’t really imaging that happening, but I’m not really going into now. Something about Ellis’s writing is compelling and tedious at the same time. It’s strange. I wonder if that is reflective of the author’s personality at all?

So now the question is what do I read next?

Of course, I’m still in the midst of Millennial Makover, but I’m feeling my enthusiasm wane considerably. I doubt I’ll finish it, but before I do I hope to blog on the way the authors talk about the three different generations — Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials — by detailing the TV shows that they grew up with and which refelct their specific mindset or cultural sensibility or whatever.

Anyhoo…I’ve moved fictionally anyway.

First to Netherland by Joseph O’Neil. It got a pretty good review in The New York Time Book Reivew, if I remember correctly. It was described as one of the better novels about 9/11, another sort of literary genre that I am interestred in. I started reading it and liked it, the writing, but something about the main character put me off. He seemed a bit of milk sop. I don’t know. He was from London, I think, and moves to New York, but after 9/11 the marriage falls apart and wife  insists on leaving, certain that another attack on NY is inevitable. But really she wants to get away from her husband, because when he offers to leave his job and go with her she basically lets him know that it is because of him that she is really leaving. Anyway, the whole set up annoyed me, the way it was wrought, the characters. Blah. But I suppose that says as much about me, if not more, than it does about the book. I haven’t give up on this book but decided to set it aside.

And I moved onto All the Sad Young Literary Young Men, by Keith Gessen. I was eager to read this book after seeeing Gessen on an episode of Titlepage.tv. Also I learned that he is one of the founders of n+1, a literary journal, for which he has written reviews. I remember reading that he had a penchant for being a tough critic, even brutal. Perhaps I was missinformed. Anyway, I admit that fact alone made me want to find fault with his work. Also, I find the title of his novel a bit pretentious. I’m more partial to hip titles, such as Less Than Zero and Bright Lights, Big City and Generation X. But of course there is more to a book than a title and based on the first chapter that seems to be the case with this novel. I’m digging it so far.

But I’ve also recently nabbed a copy  of White Noise by Don Delillo. For me, Delillo rates as one of those authors that I’ve always meant to read, always felt that I should read, but just never got around to it. White Noise was published in 1986, the year I graduated high school, and though I suppose there’s no real serious reason to attach significance to that fact, I do. Perhaps it is slightly legit, as Delillo, I think, tends to write fiction that comments upon and dissects the culture.

Also, just nabbed a copy of The Postman, by David Brin, because, I’m a shamed to admit, I actually have a strange fondness for the movie, staring Kevin Costner. It isn’t that I find it to be a particularly good movie, but I like the premise. I like dystopian stories.

And a nonfiction book entitled Just How Stupid Are We? which is the kind of hysterically-titled book that both intrigues and annoyes me at the outset, and so I feel compelled to read it, so as to either refute it, at least in my head, or find something worthwhile that isn’t all ranting down fall of society bullshit.

 

 

 

 

 

Tying up some reading loose ends

I finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road, for a third time and participated in a library-sponsored book club. The book club consisted of a group of retired people, and I was particularly interested in their reaction to this particular book. It was not entirel positive. In fact, when I was introduced to the group as a big, big fan of Cormac McCarthy some of the members jokingly told me to get out. I think they found the story a bit too depressing and gruesome. Can’t argue with that. Still, they had plenty to say, and it was a lively discussion. All in all it was pretty cool, I have to say. I had my doubts, but I enjoyed it. Not sure if I’ll do it again. Perhaps when the book club reads No Country for Old Men, also by Cormac McCarthy.

So now I’ve returned to Glamorama, by Brett Easton Ellis, in large part to simply finish it. In some ways it seems a bit of a chore. There’s something both compelling and repelling about this Ellis novel, but then I found American Psycho to be kind of the same way, and I read that finally, at least in part, so that I could say that I’d read it all the way through, but also to provide myself with some ammo for people who like to bash it. So it is with Glamorama. It is an interesting book but I can see why perhaps many people did not like it. One thing I would like to note, although I doubt that it is very novel, is the main character’s (Victor Ward/Johnson) penchant for the phrase “spare me,” which he is constantly invoking. By the end of the novel, when he is caught up in terrorist plots, he is literally pleading to spared. Ironic, don’t you think? Anyway, I’ll be glad to have finished it so that I can move on.

I am also still in the midst of High Fidelity, by Nick Honrsby, but I’m not so sure I’ll finish that. I saw the movie and know how it ends in any case.  But since I consider this a good example of GenX lit I’ll hang onto to it in hopes of finding time to read the rest. Because for some books there is more than just knowing how it ends.

I do want to finish reading Millennial Makeover, the nonfiction about political cycles and the roll of the Millennial Generation in bringing about a new political realignment, but I fear that I may end up giving up the ship before I ever get to the end.

 

My schizophrenic compulsive reading habits

Sometimes I feel as if my reading habits are beyond my control!

Recently I set aside Brett Easton Ellis’ novel, Glamorama, which I’d begun some weeks ago, when traveling to New Orleans with my wife, Colleen, to re-read The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, because I may participate in a book club discussion group. I stress MAY. So-called typically of Generation X I don’t like to join stuff.

I am also still reading Millennial Makeover, a nonfiction book about the Millinneial generations rise as a politically significan generation and how they’ll factor into the next cycle of political change/dominance, or whatever. It’s intersting stuff. I’m at the part where the authors are describing the four generation of the current generational cycle — Boomers, GenX, Millinniels, [to be named later] — by the societal attitudes of each given generation’s time as reflected in popular TV shows. I dig that kind of stuff.

And last night, I hit the book store to use up the remained of my bookstore giftcard that I got for my b-day back in December, and bought Max Brooks The Zombie Survival Guide. I’ve been wanting to own a copy of this satirical work since we got a copy here at the library some time back. Because I admire good satire and dig all things zombie and undead. I’m not positive but I think that Max Brooks is the son of Mel Brooks, famed comedian and moviemaker.

 Plus I’ve got an ever-growing stack of books next to the chair in our office. Like The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria.

Man, I wish that I could read faster.

 

Glamorama

I’m still reading this Brett Easton Ellis novel. Yeah, I know. What can I say? I’m a slow reader. Always kind of have been. When I was kid I had comprehension problems. To help it I had to read stories from the newspaper with my mom and then tell her what I’d read. I became a pretty careful reader early on, and as a result a slow reader. I suppose it was inevitable that I become an English major in college, although I never like English class very much, until I got to college. Then…..

Anyhoo…I’m almost finished with Part 3 of Glamorama, on page 319 of 546. In some ways it feels as if the narrative moves too slowly, and yet I find myself caught up in it, despite the shallowness of the characters and dialogue, the preoccupation with looks and name brands, celebrities of all sorts blah blah blah. The conversations that take place are of the type that if I heard them out in public I’d cringe, and want to move away from the people having them just so that I wouldn’t have to hear it. So why am I compelled to read such dialogue? For that matter, why do I find the characters and dialogue interesting? Because the truth is I do not have to force myself to read this book. True, it’s taking me awhile to finish it but that is due to a lack of time, not a lack of interest.

Of course, the difference is that this is fiction, a reflection of the reality, a comment on the reality, even a satire of the reality, and not the actual reality. There is more going on her then just the vacuous chit chat of Victor Ward and his entourage or whatever.

The wikipedia entry for Glamorama dubbs it a satire, similar to American Psycho, but where AP was satirizing consumerism, Glamorama is about our cultural obsession with celebrities and beauty. The entry also provides an interesting note about the similarities between the novel and the Ben Stiller movie Zoolander, and states that Ellis at one point claimed to be considering a law suit and then later that he couldn’t talk about it due to an out of court settlement. I’ve seen Zoolander, but it’s been awhile, and I don’t remember it all that well, and at the time I hadn’t read Glamorama, of course, nor was I aware of the plot of the book.

An interesting device in the first part of the book, set in New York before the real plot begins in earnest, is the repetition of the phrase We’ll slide down the surface of things… , which is taken from the U2 song, Even Better Than The Real Thing, a song I recognized immediately upon hearing it.

It seems to set the tone and initial motion of the plot in the first part of the novel, i.e. Victor Ward’s slide down the surface of things into public humiliation, losing his supermodel girlfriend Chloe, when she realizes that he’s been cheating on her with another model, Alison Poole, who also dumps him, when he’s busted cheating on both of them with an ex-girlfriend from his college days at Camden, the college setting for Ellis’s second novel, The Rules of Attraction, not to mention the college the main character, Clay, from Less Than Zero attends. Also, Victor loses his hip position as club manager for scary dude boss Damien because he was dealing behind the boss’ back to open his own club — a big no no apparently in this world. But he still seems to hold out hope afterwards that he’ll get a role in Flatliners II.

The second part of the novel (although it may have begun in the first part) features a device in which Victor describes what is happening to him as if it scripted and being shot in a movie. He takes his cue on what to say and how to feel from an imaginary director. I swear I had this precise idea years ago, before the book was published. Dammit! If only I’d gotten my slacker ass in gear, I’d be reaping the benefits of such a brilliant idea.

According to the wikipedia entry, the latter parts of this book get pretty violent, like American Psycho violent. Interestingly enough there wasn’t the uproar about it that there was with American Psycho. Why not?

In any case, perhaps Glamorama is a book worth rereading now because of this theme articulated in the wikipedia entry:

…the parallel between the fear of the unlikely, horrible fate of being killed by terrorists and the fear of the extremely likely, rather less horrible fate of being unable to live up to the beauty of professional models. Both fears are fed by the media.

Although ten years after the publication of this novel, the fear of being killed by terrorists doesn’t seem nearly as unlikely as it did then, even though it may in fact be just as, if not more, unlikely. But now more than ever both terrorism and celebrity are fed/fueled by the media. Was Ellis once again far ahead of his time? As some claim he was with American Psycho?

A review from The Guardian touches on what I consider to be one of Ellis’ main themes, when it states: At the same time, it shows that everyone in Glamorama is reprehensibly lacking in real feelings. That theme is the subjugation of real feeling by intensity of sensation, definitely a dominant tone in this novel so far. And I haven’t even gotten to the extreme violence in it yet.

Vacation Reading List

Whenever I go on vacation I make it a point to not just grab any old thing to read. I try to pick out something that I’ve been meaning to read but have been unable to yet. Especially if I am going to be on a plane because that affords me a solid block of time to delve into a book. For this trip I brought along several books — 2 novels, 1 story collection, and 1 non-fiction book. I did not expect to read them all. I don’t have such a capacity. But I seem to need a tiny library when I do travel. Just in case.

For this trip my focus was on Brett Easton Ellis’ novel, Galmorama. It is the only book by Ellis’ that I have not yet read. I’ve had a hard copy edition for some years and have attempted to read it several times but never got further than maybe 20 pages in. I bought a paperback copy to read on the plane as it is a rather bulky book and have read about 60 pages in so for.

In some ways Glamorama resembles American Psycho. In fact, Patrick Bateman, the MC of AS makes an appearance in this novel, which was written after AS. But then a lot of people make appearances in it. The novel is concerned with celebrity culture. The main character is Victor Ward, male model and It Boy of the moment. He’s opening a new club. And the invite list is long, full of all manner of celebs. Victor is dating a big time model, Chloe. But he’s also running around with Alison Poole, another model/actress, who happens to be the main character in Jay McInerney’s novel, Story of My Life.

As with American Pyscho, the obsession with superficial details is frustrating but oddly compelling as well.

I did just finish a part where Victor meets with his father, which provided a bit more depth to the character, but it was short-lived. And yet enough to compel me on. The plot is supposed to involve terrorists eventually, in some way, I understand.

My main purpose in reading Glamorama is to explore a theme in Ellis’ work that I read about in a more recent article about the author. That theme is essentially the subversion of deep feeling by intensity of sensation, mainly via drug, sex and violence. When I read that it made immediate sense to me. Not just in terms of Ellis’ writing but in much of the culture of the 80s, in which I came of age.

I am always seeking out good reasons to use to defend Ellis’ work, as he has so many detractors and critics, some savagely so. I like to be at the ready to counter such arguments, especially to types who rant about his novel American Pyscho but who have failed to read it, and in fact refuse to read it.