Monday, March 29, 2004

Recent Fiction Consumption

Read Chuck Palahniuk's Diary. I had a torn experience with the book. Chuck is a great stylist, and his ideas are probably some of the most unique I've encountered. Buuuuuuut... It just wasn't a page turner. I don't know if it's because there wasn't really any tension to drag me forward, or if the characters were not compelling enough, thus making it hard to care, or what. I enjoyed the reading of the words, and elements of the story made me think "wow," but it was a chore to read it. I'm reading a potboiler by a renowned hack right now, and it pulls me from page to page; I wanna know what's going to happen even though there are no likable characters in this book either - they're just interesting. Fans of Palahniuk claim Diary is not one of his best works, so I'll not give up on him yet, since his writing itself is vivid. I liked Fight Club, but since I'd seen the movie first, all the best stuff was no surprise. I can't even begin to guess if I'd have liked it had I read it cold. So the next Palahniuk I'm gonna read cold. I'll get back to you on it.

Read The Body by Hanif Kureishi. Meh. It smelled like a bid to write the screenplay. Hanif wrote the screenplay to My Beautiful Launderette, which I can't recall whether I've seen or not. Nevertheless, I think he wants to make another movie, and this feels like a sneaky way to attain a script contract. The premise is intriguing: A guy pays to have his brain transplanted from his 70 year old body into a young, pretty body. And the premise is totally wasted, if not downright avoided for the most part. I can't conceive of a shallower treatment of the topic. It's as if the writer believes the seat of all meaning is in the flesh itself rather than the mind (leaving aside entirely any spiritual considerations - this is a modern novel, after all, we can't possibly discuss the soul). Or, he only thought to answer the question, what would it be like to get a new body? But even THAT isn't really explored interestingly. For example, another character tells him that he should go out and have wanton sex with impunity, because since it's a new body, it isn't as if he's cheating on his wife. Evidently, the writer thinks (or is just assuming the position for the sake of the fictional piece) that sex and fidelity reside entirely in the genitals. I think even a horndog 16 year old boy would be able to punch a hole (har har) in that flawed viewpoint.

That aside, the primary sexual encounter and relationship depicted in the book is with a 60s militant gender feminist who hates men. There's no discernable reason why she suddenly seduces this hunklet (seemingly) half her age in a way that even Mrs. Robinson would consider a bit lacking in subtlety, and then gets all bummed out when he flees. Of all the problems with the story, this was the most unbelievable, and the most mysterious. It didn't seem to have a purpose or meaning.

The rest of the book is vapid self-examination with no conclusion or results. Quasi-sci-fi about body-swapping is not really the vehicle for directionless nihilism or half-baked existentialism. If you're gonna retread The Stranger, don't channel "Quantum Leap" to do so.

Finally, I did an "interesting bits" read of The Zapruder Film: Reframing JFK's Assassination by David R. Wrone (just skimmed for good stuff, looked at the pictures, and ended by referencing the index for stuff I'd missed). When Peter Jennings did his report on this recently, it convinced me that it was Oswald alone, but now I'm all ready to believe (again) it may have been a plot. The Amazon reviews are dry praises mixed with moments of screeching from those who apparently know something the rest of us don't, but are an interesting mini-cosm of ideas surrounding the events. My guess is that it was political in origin, and it's related to the current neocon movement that's comprised of individuals who think it is their right to rule American the way they want to, legitimately or not, and Lord help anyone who gets in their way. The fact that Bobby was whacked, too, is why I think this may be the case. It's just too coincidental to not be related somehow. And clearly the Kennedy brothers were taking American in a completely different direction than the neocons want(ed), and the changes the Kennedy's envisioned would have made it nearly impossible for the neocons to get any traction - it would have been over for them. So, I think they had them killed. Alas, we won't really know until all mysteries are revealed.

Have you read anything new and interesting lately?

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