brothercyst: September 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

GOLD STREET

Shit, really?  I've been to that building like a million times... it's almost identical to my old one and right down the street from it, run by the same leasing company.  On the same day, I read about my old firm laying off a huge chunk of their workforce.  Everything feel ominous.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

WALL STREET / FREEDOM

Today I saw Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and I finished reading Jonathan Franzen's Freedom.

Wall Street was entertaining, occasionally messy and slapped-together, but also electric and eccentric.  Stone does certain very minor but nonetheless interesting formal things that take you by surprise, like augmenting simple passage-of-time transitions with jarring inserts of subways cars rushing by, up close, as if you're about to fall under them and die (as one character does, early on).  Michael Douglas, Josh Brolin, Shia LaBeouf, and Frank Langella all do pretty well for themselves -- especially Douglas in his "Oscar clip" scene on the Met steps.  Eli Wallach, too -- not the only Sergio Leone connection in the movie.  There's a weird third act reversal that doesn't entirely work, and some of the soundtrack choices are agreeably strange... yeah, so.  It was good.  I recognized scenes shot one day when I was walking home from work last year, on the real Wall Street -- just west of William Street.  The whole crew was blocking my building.  I snapped a phone picture and just found it still in my iPhoto:


******

Freedom is, as so many reviewers have said more eloquently than I can now as I'm about to fall asleep, a masterpiece, a work of genius, a great novel... whatever phrase you prefer to use... it's the sort of big and comprehensive social novel that Tom Wolfe is always trying to write, except a thousand times better and made infinitely more durable by the addition of what feel like the most psychologically realized characters you could ever hope for.  I can't think of any novel that's better captured the excruciating vicissitudes of sexual/romantic desire: wanting somebody very badly, then not wanting them as soon as you get them, then wanting them again even more as soon as they're gone, and so on forever, and always weighing what has to be sacrificed or what opportunities have been missed.  It's such a pleasure to read a novel that you feel like you're actually living in, however briefly.  Except for going to the movies, reading it was basically the only thing I did today.  Some reviewer or other said that it was a good example of David Foster Wallace's observation that the best fiction serves to make readers a little "less lonely."  Yes -- that.

Monday, September 27, 2010

PW

I posted about Enter the Void on HTMLGIANT.

*****

Starred review in Publisher's Weekly for Paula Bomer's awesome and disturbingly funny short story collection Baby, which I just read in galley form and loved.  I think the word "scathing" was invented for this collection.

Baby: And Other Stories
Paula Bomer, Word Riot (wordriot.org), $15.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-9779343-7-9
In 10 raw and angry stories, Bomer flays the idea of happy little families, giving readers an assortment of emasculated and discarded husbands; brooding, unfulfilled wives; and the poor children--destined for therapy--unlucky enough to bind them. Bomer's characters, Brooklynites for the most part, having been coddled by adoring mothers, raised in upper-middle-class homes, and propelled from Ivy League colleges, now shrink from "the cold reality of the indifference of the universe." For Lara in the title story, having a baby turned into bitter disappointment once she realizes that winning the "ultimate contest" really entails a life of drudgery. Bomer's characters spew many ungracious thoughts, but these are forthright, hilarious, and honest, as with Edie, the snarly mother of two grown sons, who so evidently favors her golden Thomas over the needy Michael, "who was uncoordinated, who needed glasses, who clung to her as a boy too big to be clinging to his mother," that she exults in his unhappiness as a newly married man and father. This lacerating take on marriage and motherhood is not one to share with the Mommy and Me group. (Dec.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

UNDOCUMENTED

My friend and former classmate Chris Peckover premiered his remarkable first film, Undocumented, at Fantastic Fest this weekend.  Here's a rave review.  I saw an almost-finished cut a few months ago and it stuck with me a long time afterward... a horrifically brutal satire of anti-immigrant racism. Not tongue-in-cheek like Machete but seriously punishing.  I admired it tremendously and can't wait to see the finished version.

Still reading Freedom, still loving it. 

CHRISTINE AT MIDNIGHT

Anti-masturbation candidate Christine O'Donnell says she had a midnight picnic!

Friday, September 24, 2010

FRIDAY

My friend Nick Palmer and his writing partner Jeremiah Friedman sold a script yesterday.  This is awesome news... Nick is the guy who directed the terrific short film Dockweiler, which I wrote about a couple times before.

I spent the last 24 hours split between two different projects, one a novella and one a treatment for something else... really tired and addled.  Just want to eat some ice cream and go to sleep, but I'm pretty wired at the same time.  Just have to... have to wake early tomorrow and go swimming so I feel okay... fuck.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

SILENT

Did you hear the most recent This American Life, about a cop who recorded other cops?  (This part starts around 16 minutes in.)  He recorded the cops downgrading serious crimes to improve their statistics... and giving orders for creating smaller crimes in order to meet their quotas.  It's an amazing piece... especially when you hear the recording of the moment when his police brothers showed up at his apartment to have him locked up in an asylum and thereby discredited.

Monday, September 20, 2010

EXISTENTIAL CRISES IN MOVIE THEATERS

I go to a lot of movies.  For the last five years, I've lived within a few blocks of a movie theater with numerous screens. I go to as many, if not more, movies alone than I do with other people.  Occasionally, maybe once a year, something very strange will happen to me as I'm watching a movie in a theater: I'll step out of my life for a second and regard it from the outside and become filled with dread and anxiety.  At this point the movie is automatically ruined; whatever's playing out onscreen doesn't stand a chance against the tide of comically intense self-loathing and fear that slowly pulls me out.

It usually happens during well-made but not-fully-engaging movies involving anxious or somehow pathetic people trapped in circumstances that just get worse and worse (one of the three examples I'll describe is an exception, due to circumstances I'll note).  I saw Before the Devil Knows You're Dead in fall 2007, when I was having trouble finishing a book, had just broken up with a girlfriend, and was generally in poor spirits.  The movie is about several people who have wasted their lives, whose reputations among their friends and family are in the toilet.  There's also a robbery and a murder, but... just watching Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke as these 40ish guys who had no money and no hope and nothing but squandered lives triggered something terrible in me, and I had an awful, sick, anxious feeling that never left me until the movie was over... I just kept imagining living in their squalid apartments, at their ages, lonely and slowly expiring... fuck.

Earlier this year, I had another freakout in Avatar.  I had seen it once, not expecting to like it, and been impressed by the 3-D and the lush environments and whatnot.  I thought it would be a good idea to go back in an altered state.  But about 20 minutes into the movie I just curled up and twitched, thinking about how I'd just turned 27, and surely this was going to be a miserable year, and I no longer had a real job, and how would I survive because you can't make a living as a writer, etc. etc. etc., and now the 3D and lush environments were like some decadent torture, and I can never watch that movie again.

Then, tonight, I saw The Town -- that Ben Affleck bank robbery movie with the great trailer.  It's a pretty good movie but the plot -- in which middle-aged working-class Boston tough guy Affleck flirts with, seduces, and falls in love with an upwardly-mobile, good-girl bank manager played by Rebecca Hall -- bothered me a little, and I started thinking about how it was ridiculous that she would go for him, since she would far more plausibly be attracted to the sorts of credible partners she might meet at her bank job than to a track-suit-wearing street guy like Affleck's character... which made me think about how human merit, male eligibility, and self-worth are all tied up with the concept of having a job... which made me think about how I used to have a "real job" but now I'm a "writer"... anyway I started becoming incredibly anxious and sank into a swamp of depression and couldn't engage with the movie much after that, because I wanted to rewind my life and become an FBI agent like Jon Hamm's character, not a jobless "freelancer" like Affleck's.

So now what movie should I see next?  I just saw Machete and The Kids Are All Right also... both were good... maybe Easy A?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

MORE GREAT MOMENTS FROM "THE DEVILS OF LOUDUN"

I finished reading Aldous Huxley's addictive nonfiction book The Devils of Loudun today.  I noted some of the best passages and quotations while I was reading.  I include some here that don't spoil the central narrative.
"M. Adam came, bringing with him the classical emblem of his profession, the huge brass syringe of Molièresque farce and seventeenth-century medical reality. A quart of holy water was ready for him. The syringe was filled, and M. Adam approached the bed on which the Mother Superior was lying. Perceiving that his last hour was at hand, Asmodeus threw a fit. In vain. The Prioress's limbs were pinioned, strong hands held down the writhing body and, with the skill born of long practice, M. Adam administered the miraculous enema. Two minutes later, Asmodeus had taken his departure."
"How are we to distinguish between the leadings of the not-I who is the Holy Spirit and of that other not-I who is sometimes an imbecile, sometimes a lunatic and sometimes a malevolent criminal? Bayle cites the case of a pious young Anabaptist, who felt inspired one day to cut off his brother's head. The predestined victim had read his Bible, knew that this sort of thing had happened before, recognized the divine origin of the inspiration and, in the presence of a large assemblage of the faithful, permitted himself, like a second Isaac, to be decapitated. Such theological suspensions of morality, as Kierkegaard elegantly calls them, are all very well in the Book of Genesis, but not in real life. In real life we have to guard against the gruesome pranks of the maniac within."
"There are fashions in saints, just as there are fashions in medical treatment and women's hats."
"Cardinal Richelieu comported himself as though he were a demigod. But the wretched man had to play his part in a body which disease had rendered so repulsive that there were times when people could hardly bear to be in the same room with him. He suffered from tubercular osteitis of his right arm and a fissure of the fundament, and was thus forced to live in the fetid atmosphere of his own suppuration. Musk and civet disguised but could not abolish this carrion odor of decay. Richelieu could never escape from the humiliating knowledge that he was an object, to all around him, of physical abhorrence."
"During the Cardinal's last hours, when the relics had failed to work and the doctors had given him up, an old peasant woman, who had a reputation as a healer, was called to the great man's bedside. Muttering spells, she administered her panacea--four ounces of horse dung macerated in a pint of white wine. It was with the taste of excrement in his mouth that the arbiter of Europe's destinies gave up the ghost."
"Alas, there is no horror that cannot suggest itself to human minds. "We know what we are," says Ophelia, "but we know not what we may be." Practically all of us are capable of practically anything."
"There was no wind, and the silence was like an enormous crystal, and everywhere was a living mystery of colors merging, of forms distinct and separate, of the innumerable and the one, of passing time and the presence of eternity."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

FROGGY

This is profoundly fascinating and unnerving.  I feel sort of embarrassed that I've never even heard of the guy.  God, this is how writers end up sometimes... alone, reclusive, and strange in a Brooklyn apartment... kidnapping and shaving the neighbors, then spray-painting them... ultimately setting themselves and all their worldly possessions on fire.  I can't think about this too much right now or I'll get depressed.

AFTERWARD, city officials and cleaning crews sifted through the contents of the apartment, which had been flattened into a charred, soggy, hip-high heap. There was a huge collection of esoteric science-fiction books and journals, personal correspondence and drawers full of rejection letters and notices of unpaid taxes. There were countless devices and literature suggesting an encyclopedic array of sexual deviancy. 

Scattered about were numerous manuscripts, mostly short stories that read gritty, dark and fantastical, with names like “The Case for Humanity,” “The Once-a-Year-Night of the Memory Man” and “Listen ... Listen ...” Stacked neatly atop a bureau, as if a work in progress, were several hundred burnt-edged pages of a manuscript titled “The Coming of Bealtaine.” The word, which refers to an Irish and Scottish summer celebration, is derived from a Gaelic word meaning bright fire.

Friday, September 10, 2010

FRIDAY

Today I swam and ate, and read more Devils of Loudun, which I love.

My bed is messy.  It's piled with books I intend to read, or that I am currently reading.

I'm waiting for something.  Waiting is a depressing feeling to me.  I never liked Christmas, and I never appreciated the "build-up."

Sara Habein, a writer for The Rumpus, wrote a glorified love letter to Midnight Picnic.  It's pleasing -- I appreciate it.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

GREAT MOMENTS FROM CHAPTER ONE OF "THE DEVILS OF LOUDUN"

The Devils of Loudun is a lesser-known but excellent nonfiction book by Aldous Huxley.
"Descartes was ten years his senior; but long before the philosopher had started to vivisect those writhing automata, to which the vulgar attach the names of dog and cat, Bouchard was conducting a series of psycho-chemico-physiological experiments on his mother's chambermaid."
"But, unlike most of his contemporaries, he would accept nothing on authority. Lemnius and Rodicerus a Castro might say what they liked about the strange and alarming properties of menstrual blood; Jean-Jacques was determined to see for himself whether it really did all the things it was reputed to do. Seconded by the now-willing chambermaid, he made a succession of trials,only to find that, from time immemorial, the doctors, the philosophers, and the theologians had been talking through their mortarboards and birettas. Menstrual blood did not kill grass, did not tarnish mirrors, did not blast the buds of the vine, did not dissolve asphalt and did not produce ineradicable spots of rust on the blade of a knife."
"To be mistrusted by the stupid because he was so clever,to be envied by the inept because he had made good, to be loathed by the dull for his wit, by the boors for his breeding and by the unattractive for his success with women--what a tribute to his universal superiority!"
"The untutored egotist merely wants what he wants. Give him a religious education, and it becomes obvious to him, it becomes axiomatic, that what he wants is what God wants..."

Monday, September 06, 2010

NOT MORNING?

Aghjk, whoa, I just woke up... from a long nap.  Had a dream that seemed to have something to do with everything that happened last night and earlier this morning, but starring all different people.  Have to think methodically to determine what's real and what isn't.  I bought a new (old) shirt from Out of the Closet.  I love my new shirt.  I've been wearing it for two days.  I swam four miles this weekend.  I wrote in a notebook.  I had a string of about eight hours that were terrible in a comic sense, like I was starring in a sequence from a Judd Apatow movie designed to show "look how hapless and forlorn" our awkward straight man protagonist is.  Sometimes when I have a day or night that bad I just have to stop, write the details all down on my phone, and email it to myself for future reference, which is what I did this weekend.  Anyway then I logged onto Facebook and noticed an old ex-girlfriend just got engaged and burst out laughing because that seemed so Apatovian.  I don't even particularly like Apatow movies.  I liked Funny People and Knocked Up, I guess.  Hated the 40-Year-Old Virgin.  I kept muttering, "He's a serial killer... he's a serial killer, don't go in his house.  He'll put you under the floorboards."  Carell was so creepy.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

FIRST THING

One thing I remember about my reading habits as a child is that I would read a book until so late at night that I couldn't keep my eyes open, and then fall asleep with it in front of me, and when I'd wake up in the morning the first thing I'd do would be find my place and just keep reading as if I hadn't been asleep at all.  When I'm really engaged in a book now, I'll do the same thing--instead of checking my email or the internet or eating breakfast or getting up and taking vitamins, I'll just keep reading.  What did I do that with in recent memory?  Brand New Cherry Flavor, Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Under the Dome, The Magicians, Feed, The Pregnant Widow, and this morning at 6 am, Horns, which I haven't yet finished. It's excellent, much better than I expected (especially because I didn't love Heart-Shaped Box, which I read last week, groping around for escapist fare; I liked it just enough to read his other book).

Ian Rogers, author of Temporary Monsters, wrote a post about Midnight Picnic here, which is very cool. Thanks!

What else.  I'm going to see a movie tonight that I'm really excited about.  Before that, I'm staying indoors all day to read/work/write.  Except my fridge is basically empty, I might have to go to the grocery.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

UNPRODUCTIVE

I haven't written much fiction in a while.  Just revisions on stuff... it doesn't feel good.  Puts me in a testy mood where I feel like I have no patience for anyone and I can't pay attention to anything.  (Though I'm reading and so far enjoying Horns at the moment.)  Just made the mistake of looking at Midnight Picnic's atrocious amazon ranking (over 1,000,000 at the time of this writing), which I rarely do.  Called an old friend yesterday.

Old Friend in NY:  I feel like shit.  I'm lonely.  I'm about to be really broke.  My unemployment ran out.

Me: I can't write.  I went on a bad date.  I miss [my ex].  Why is everyone so depressed right now?

OF: They aren't.  I see their facebook pages.  Everyone is happy.

Me: I just called somebody today to say hi and she broke down crying about her life before I even had a chance to complain about mine.

OF: Also, my dog is sick.

Feels like I haven't accomplished anything in a long time.  Off my "game."  It did feel good to go swimming yesterday and read Horns.  Yesterday I had a good but humbling night, had dinner with a super-talented screenwriter who graduated a few years before me and has been dizzyingly successful, found out his new project is an adaptation of something written by someone else I know, then went to a bar where the 27-year-old girl--my age--who just won the Emmy for Mad Men happened to be in attendance.  Jesus.  Meanwhile I'm fucking around with two more novel manuscripts.  But it is very sunny outside... there's always that.  I just dried off from a shower by wandering around my neighborhood in flip-flops and a pair of old basketball shorts.  That was nice.

...And in happier news, there might be a Kick-Ass 2.  The first one remains, in all seriousness, my favorite movie of 2010 so far, followed by The Ghost Writer and Animal Kingdom.