Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The despondent dishwasher

Jeff worked too hard washing dishes to come to the museum and see a substandard Frank Stella. The milk crate appeared under his bottom as his body slumped to the floor.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Driving on the rim is good

Thomas McGuane's tenth novel, Driving on the Rim, is in the vein of Twain; surefooted sentence-making concealing what is otherwise a disoriented Oldsmobile 88 rambling through eccentric farm land.

But wait!” you can almost hear McGuane cry. “I'm not even driving this Olds!” And this would be true insofar as it's one of his characters driving it, Berl Pickett, a country doctor. 

Can you defer artistic responsibility upon your first-person protagonist? I'm saying that you can by saying it here first.

The ride is jarring; Berl has a form of topographical narrative disorder. We like where he is taking us, but never sure of the conditions, or if this is the best route.

The author hasn't used first person since 1978's Panama — not everyone's favorite. In fact, critics gave him hell for Panama, a little unfairly, I reckon because I loved the sad, funny story about the price of fame starring a burnt-out case with a brain fried so dearly on cocaine that he can't remember his dog's name. Panama was loosely autobiographical, while the new one isn't. In fact, B. Pickett, is about as far from T. McGuane as H. Humbert is from V. Nabokov. 

For much of the novel, Berl's practice is the door and window into this ailing community. But do we need the hangnails? Lot of people coming and going and Berl seems to record them all. I don't recall The Wire having this many characters. Over the long haul, the complaints seem to bury the plot.

Though McGuane never divulges Berl's age at present, we know he's socially immature (old men are often this way), and we can assume he's old enough to know the proper advanced age to write a memoir regardless of circumstances (I considered it at 28 but I was pretentious). Berl's not so old that he requires a testosterone deodorant as a precursor to amorous pursuits because that would be horribly tasteless, yet in McGuane's hands probably really funny.

Berl's story is a doozy, but the memoir could use some oil. What never is in doubt is McGuane's masterful control of language and his laconic aphorisms.

On an uncivilized associate he meets for dinner: He must have been proud of his Panama hat because he wore it all through the meal.” By the way, I wore mine to a bbq recently and then forgot to take it off indoors while we were boogying and the next morning found it an irrevocable, misshapen heap, which made me think that I should have better manners when it comes to wearing silly hats indoors if I want to keep them together.

At 306 pages, Driving on the Rim is beefy for a comic novel, but impressively there is only one misfire: a bit of whimsy involving an uncertain breakdance to a favorite band in front of a lover's house singing “Too Much Pork for Just One Fork.”

There's not a whole lot of driving, but there is drive. Perhaps the title refers to McGuane's navigational control? Maybe his narrative could use some testosterone stick? 

Look now Bird thinks it's funny.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Henry Explains Everything

Been a crazy kooky time in the pastoral west burbs of Portland. Whilst eliminating useless files last night found a blog from months ago, I forgot to post:

Closed the book on The Ambassadors last night at the Holiday Inn Express (E Flagstaff) this despite a printer that sounded like a prairie dog was trapped in it and a customer that looked like a supporting character on an 80s TV show such as Benson. (He probably wondered the same thing about myself).

Feel that I improved my comprehension by a 1,000 per cent, even though I followed about 7 per cent of it. Still it's very compelling. A perspective like this I have not seen! What a weirdo! I could barely even follow a lot of the conversation. The words that came out of a character's mouth in reply to a fairly straightforward question simply wasn't the kind of thing you would say in reply if you wanted the questioner to make heads of tails of what you were saying.


Apparently two chapters were for years out of sequence confirming my suspicions that no one knows what the heck is going on here. Then again there is non-linear unfolding through time and space that serves the novel's purpose. Blah-blah. Still I am curious if people talked like this and acted like this in 1903. If so I wouldn't have lasted a minute.    

Friday, August 02, 2013

Excuse me son of gunga din or whatever you are choosing to call yourself this week

For last night's entertainment we watched Brian DePalma's Body Double as a family unit. The neighbor boy came over (I can't remember why) and had to avert his eyes when the protagonist watched the lady he was following change her underpants inside the shopping mall. Bloody good film! Then it got dark and the airshow put on a fireworks display.

"The parents were glad to have him home. But when he started getting blamed for eating all the nuts out of the Chex-mix he knew it was time for him to go."

I have plumped up or blimped out since arriving here. The scale says I am fifteen pounds overweight from what I was in Flagstaff. It is a battle of wills. Mom senses my anxiety and is baking harder and more cleverly than ever these pastries from my youth that she knows I cannot deny. I throw on a few more pounds faster than you can say cinnamon swirl, baby.

What else?

Mom tells me to keep my wardrobe closet closed to keep the moths out. I tell her okay and then I remember that there are mothballs in there to keep the moths out and decide that she just wants to keep the closet closed because she likes it closed. Stuff like that.

Listening to music and dancing a lot, dancing mainly to ZZ Top. There we go. Tres Hombres nachos from the Gales Creek Tavern.

I hurt my knee! Not sure how! Will done a neoprene knee sleeve at the Sebadoh show tonight and hike it up at the appropriate time. Otherwise, playing tunes and taking notes such as "I sometimes can't believe a band like The Clean exists."

Try and guess who said what (answers at the bottom):

1) Noses do get longer
2) I'm in love and you're in trouble!

4.44am. I like short novels. Reading a long book about a man who wrote short ones, Nathanael West. It's called a biography and it was scrupulously attended to by Jay Martin.

Tonight watched Our Nixon, a doco about Nixon's unheard tapes. I appreciated listening to these yahoos' mundanity. They were quite the cards apparently. Prompted an embarrassing recollection of the order of presidents. I guessed Eisenhower before Truman. Wrong. Dad guessed Eisenhower after Nixon. His excuse was he had had a few scotches, while I had only had a coke with my yakisoba noodles. Mom rolled her eyes. Nobody knows nothing. "Carter then Kennedy?" dad queried, pleasantly.

I showed my brother this photo from the Gaston One Horse Tavern and he lost it. "What?" He couldn't believe that there was a sign that said No chow in urinal please.

1) Orson Welles
2) Paul Westerberg