Did You Get That Thing I Sent You?

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Archive for October 2008

Grant Morrison

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It was inevitable that a comic book related post would happen, but I expected to delay it a bit, and while I always knew my opening statement in what would eventually unfold on this blog, (and has been unfolding, to the dismay of my friends, in real life for years) as a long treatise on the virtue of juxtaposed images and words arranged sequentially, would hinge on Grant Morrison, I expected, I say again, to delay this inevitability, until I had worked out an air-tight plan to convince the skeptical to take a dive into comics.

Unfortunately a few things recently happened:

  1. All-Star Superman, Morrison’s so-good-it’s-almost-silly 12-part summation of the myth of The Man of Steele, ended.
  2. Newsarama is in the process of dissecting the monumental work with its author through a 10-part interview.
  3. I watched the above youtube video and thought:
  • Grant Morrison is a loon, or a prophet, or both and,
  • That the ideas and experimental narrative techniques of a man who champions heavy drug intake and the earnest practice of magic are so celebrated and popular in the world of comics is testament to the boundary-pushing tendencies of the form, or to the boundary-pushing tendencies of the form’s core audience, or to both.

Grant Morrison is a Scottish comic book writer, screenwriter, and playwright. His has held famous stints on Animal Man, JLA, and New X-Men, and created many critically successful original titles, such as Seaguy, Flex Mentallo, and WE3. He is currently the writer on Batman and the DC limited series, Final Crisis.

This is some stuff about him:

An interview with ‘Arthur,’ a British counter culture magazine, wherein Morrison discusses witchcraft, the kaballah, the aboriginal Dreamtime, encountering and discussing with demons and aliens, and the ten years he spent on drugs.  This is the guy who writes Batman.

That Newsarama interview I was talking about, which is much more about comics than the previous interview.

And here’s part two of the video at the top of this post, if you’re interested.

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Written by Peter Kelly

October 29, 2008 at 5:47 pm

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Paul Auster

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Paul Auster is the Brooklyn-based author (a blog theme or mere coincidence?) of a great many things, notable among which are The New York Trilogy, The Brooklyn Follies, and the screenplay for just kinda “eh” 1995 film, Blue in the Face.

While Auster has been just showered with illustrious praise and recognition, it kinda boggles my mind that he isn’t more popular among academics specifically and the book readers widely, in the United States. In pitch form he appears the perfect candidate for American Lit superstardom: A postmodern noir crime novelist. Yet his rightful position among the (oft-listed on this blog) literary elite seems to have eluded him for whatever reason. My gut points to the absence of a “massive text” in Auster’s career, some massive and prohibative tome for people to stare at in awe (Auster’s most celebrated work, The New York Trilogy, at 308 pages, is actually three 100ish page novels shoved together).

The thing is, plenty of people read Auster. It’s a shame more don’t. I’m going to now disclose that The New York Trilogy is no-joke-bar-none-sorry-Ulysses-sorry-Sun Also Rises best book I have ever read. So obviously there is an agenda driving my argument he should be celebrated more (I once told a professor about my favorite book, and he had never heard of Auster- amazing). I could, and hopefully someday will, write an entire essay on why Auster is among the most effective writers alive, thanks to his particular practice of boiling issues of identity confusion and everyday disorientation over a rather strictly formalist paragraph structure. What I mean by this is that Auster drops some heavy concepts in a very matter-of-fact manner, but you never stop to reread or wonder what’s going on (though at the end of his stories its hard to say what has really happened). His style is extremely fluid, and possesses that page turner quality typical of airplane reads. And maybe this is the reason he hasn’t achieved the attention he deserves. Maybe the man is too difficult for your average Dan Browner but too straight forward for the Proust set.

Some examples:

A pretty good op-ed by the man in the NYT from April, back when everyone was talking about how it’s been 40 years since April, 1968. Nothing very noir about it but you get the sense of fluidity I alluded to in the above letters.

Writing New York,” from some collection where apparently a different author wrote in argument for each state. Make sure to use the “zoom in” function.

The first few dozen pages of City of Glass, the first and most famous novel in The New York Trilogy. It’s just a sample, which I know is infuriating, but I defy you to read this and then go about your day without it haunting your thoughts.

Written by Peter Kelly

October 29, 2008 at 12:28 am

Sorry for no updates…

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I was doing other things this weekend.  Didn’t have the time.  Three new updates this coming week…

Written by Peter Kelly

October 25, 2008 at 4:19 pm

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Tao Lin

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Tao Lin

Tao Lin

Tao Lin is the Brooklyn based author of a novel, Eeeee Eee Eeee, a collection of short stories, Bed, and two collections of poems, You Are a Little Bit Happier Than I Am and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.  He has another book coming out soon that is supposedly called Richard Yates, though at a recent reading he told me it was going to be called Werner Herzog.

Now, the thing I am required to mention here, the “hook” of this post, is that Lin made (internet) headlines a few months ago by selling shares in his forthcoming novel, the idea being that in turn for supporting Lin financially through the writing of the novel, investors would share in the novel’s eventual yield.  Much has been made about this bold move in the “blogosphere,” which was surely Lin’s plan all along, but I’ll reserve my judgment except to say that I think the whole thing is the perfect embodiment of what Lin is, a man whose talents lie more in self-promotion than writing.

Not that Lin is a bad writer.  In fact he can be good and sometimes even great.  Or at least interesting, original, genuine, which is all at least as good as being “good.”  When he’s at his best he manages to connect to that part of us that is, in one way or another, permanently bored and mildly nihilistic, and Lin helps us laugh at/with this odd part of our identity. Here’s an example, from the first story in Bed:

Though if love was an animal, Garret knew, it would probably be the Loch Ness Monster. If it didn’t exist, that didn’t matter. People made models of it, put it in the water, and took photos. The hoax of it was good enough. The idea of it. Though some people feared it, wished it would just go away, had their lives insured against being eaten alive by it.

Lin is the best author to come from a 20-something writer movement that could be called “depressocore,” if they don’t already have a name, and seems to be based primarily in Brooklyn (gasp).  The subjects for these authors (who include but are not limited to Ellen Kennedy, Brandon Gorrell, Zachary German, as well as Lin) are primarily depression, depression, loneliness, and depression.  They write like if Ernest Hemingway didn’t strive for truth but instead just went to Walmart.  There are no capital letters in their blogs, which somehow all look like American Apparel products.

But Lin is not only the best writer from this movement, he is also far away the most successful, and this actually has little to nothing to do with his ability as a writer.  Lin is an old school self-promoter in the internet age, constantly giving out free copies of his books, pulling online stunts like the share selling fiasco, and even mobilizing a small posse of groupies (“interns” he calls them) to promote his books on blogs, message boards, and especially to the editors at gawker.  The irony of Lin putting himself out there so much is that, as you can see for yourself in the below links, Lin’s writing is all about being awkward and wracked by anxiety— to the point of paralysis, for some of his characters.  But maybe being exhibitionist about your nervousness isn’t ironic anymore.  After all, artists have been selling anxiety since Kafka, and in some (e.g. Rivers Cuomo) aspiring towards increased sales has become a sort of singular escape from insecurity.  For a generation that posts every single detail of their life on facebook, myspace, livejournal, twitter, and youtube, maybe being anxious and depressed isn’t as weird as being anxious and depressed and not telling everybody about it.

Here’s that first story from Bed, which contains the excerpt posted above.  It’s a great example of his strengths (and weaknesses) and probably the best thing he’s written.

A poem called “I Went Fishing with My Family when I Was Five,” which is short and dumb/funny but I post mainly as an example of how Lin is a very “internet centric” writer, and what that means.

A really hilarious essay on Seattle in the online magazine The Stranger, which seems pretty cool and a good website for if you happen to live in Seattle.

Written by Peter Kelly

October 18, 2008 at 8:49 pm

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Batman to Robin

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dance dance dance

dance dance dance

Robin: “You can’t get away from Batman that easy!”
Batman: “Easily.”
Robin: “Easily.”
Batman: “Good grammar is essential, Robin.”
Robin: “Thank you.”
Batman: “You’re welcome.”

Robin: “Holy molars! Am I ever glad I take good care of my teeth!”
Batman: “True. You owe your life to dental hygiene.”

Robin: “Batman, maybe I should stay home tonight. Homework, you know.”
Batman: “I think you should acquire a taste for opera, Robin, as one does for poetry and olives.”

Read All of Them.

Written by Peter Kelly

October 15, 2008 at 5:06 pm

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Hunter S. Thompson

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Look at this guy

Look at this guy

I wrote this just really embarrassingly long post about how Hunter Thompsonadded a figurative cigarette butt to the dry American landscape of the late 60s that would become the “culture war” forest fire we’ve been enveloped in ever since, but I’ll spare you (and mostly me) the pain and summarize by saying Thompson was too bitter and self-obsessed to be great cultural critic and, let’s be fair, far too loony to be a real journalist of any description (I don’t plan on backing up these claims since that’s what got me into the mess to begin with). What he was was a great humorist, the kind of comedian who creates a character for himself and then puts this self-character into hilarious situations where he says hilarious things and everyone is square except for him and damn if it isn’t good old fun; Ferris Beuller the Freak.

I touched on this in the DF Wallace post, but it’s really damn hard to look at a writer when he has a real public persona, to seperate our preconceptions from the individual quality of the work. With Thompson this is particularly difficult, since the draw of his work is this public image of Thompson the Character, who is unquestionably more famous for the anecdotes about his exploits than the way he put words on paper (now seems like a good point to confess I haven’t actually read either Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail in their entirety). The phenomenon of percieved authorial persona shaping the judgment of fiction has had varied effects on writers, ranging from career making to life destorying. In Thompson’s case it was integral to his success, since everyone wanted to see what that kooky gonzo would do next.

On the other hand, Thompson by now may have been destroyed by association. You can just picture the same kid who reads Chuck Palahniuk and Chuck Klosterman (why is everyone who sucks named Chuck?) holding a copy of the Rum Diaries on a train headed to Williamsburg.

Judge for yourself:

The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved– Wherein our hero attends the Kentucky Derby, first meets friend-and-cover-artist to be Ralph Steadman, consumes a lot of alcohol, and makes funny yet unfortunately regionist remarks about Southerners; The read that inspired the post.

Jesus Hated Bald Pussy (actual title)- A not quite there essay on GWBush that kind of highlights what I was saying about him being a lacking cultural critic but rather funny dude.

The token interview I throw in- Just to remind you that we loved this guy not for what he said but for the way he said it.

Written by Peter Kelly

October 9, 2008 at 5:36 pm

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Gabriel Gudding

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Gabriel Gudding

Gabriel Gudding

Writing about poetry is very difficult, but here’s where I do a thing where I try: Gabriel Gudding is a poet who lives in Normal, Illinois, where he is an assistant professor of English (go fig!) at Illinois State University.  Gudding’s poetry is the kind of often surreal and incidentally raunchy stream of consciousness that reads like the rants of a particularly eloquent crazy homeless man— the well-read and witty kind that probably doesn’t actually exist but nevertheless pops up constantly in like Dickens and such.  So think of him as that brilliant Vietnam Vet you’re always sorta hoping to meet on the sidewalk.

I was introduced to Gudding by a professor I admired in college, and while there is no wikipedia page on Gudding (what? the middle school I went to has a wikipedia page), I’ve somehow acquired a few anecdotes about the poet: that he taught creative writing to inmates at a prison near Ithaca, NY (Five Points Correctional I think- From a google maps review: “Not a nice place to visitLeigh- Aug 2, 2007: I’ve a friend incarcerated in Five Points and from what I understand it is a particularly unpleasant place to spend time.”  I’m not shitting you somebody took the time to note this on google maps), that he got his masters from Cornell, that he grew up in Minnesota.

And he’s really funny, or at least his poetry is.  But what’s occurring to me as I write these blog posts is, who wants to take your word on these things?  You wouldn’t watch a movie without checking out the trailer, would you?  Here’s a sample of his work, from the title poem in his collection, A Defense of Poetry:

1. The lake trout is not a furious
animal, for which I apologize
that you have the mental
capacity of the Anchovy.
2. Yes the greatest of your sister’s
facial pimples did outweigh the
Turkey.
3. I was eating Vulture Beast
Cream, I was eating Lippy
Dung Cord, and I said “Your
ugly dog is very ugly,” for he is.

Gudding is the author of the excellent A Defense of Poetry and the slightly spotty if not lacking for good intentions Rhode Island Notebook, a slapdash sort of “here, publish all this” project conceived and executed exclusively on the road over many trips between Illinois and the titular state.  That’s good too, though.

“And What, Friends, is Called a Road?”, the quite solid intro to Rhode Island Notebook.

The rest of that poem I started for you, which is really the Must Read of this post.

On Kindness and Hipness and how They Relate to Cultural Production,” a very cool essay Gudding wrote.

Written by Peter Kelly

October 1, 2008 at 12:17 am

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