Watching, Reading, Learning

Saw and read lots of things. Same old story. Here, let’s think. Watched Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, which I thoroughly enjoyed; was at times an uncomfortable enjoyment, but that’s I think what Cronenberg was going for, mood-wise. Excellent performances all around, with what you might call a tightly-crafted script. This is a movie that manages to navigate between heady theory and base physicality without ever letting you know quite where it is at any given moment; it’s a thoughtful movie that throws you around, basically.

Lots of quality but non-outstanding books on my recently-finished list as of late. The new Bret Easton Ellis novel, Lunar Park, was better and worse than some of his other writing. Better writing than the earliest stuff, but not superior to Glamorama or American Psycho. Lunar Park was extremely promising at times—mostly when bizarrely surreal elements began creeping in—but in the end the whole thing was basically self-deflating. Pffft. If you haven’t already read an Ellis novel, I don’t know that you’d want to start with this one.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, fairly excellent. It’s an ‘unauthorized autobiography,’ which should give you some idea of the tone. Yes, the movie of the same name is based on it. Good, crazy fun. The book, for those not in the know, is Chuck Barris attempting to recount his frenzied dual rise to prominence as a game show producer and CIA assassin. It’s generally a quick read, as long as you don’t get bogged down by the whole question of what’s real and so forth.

I picked up Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Repetition partly on the merits of its cover, and wasn’t disappointed. Though confused. There’s some weird stuff that goes on with the tenses and what-have-you—this is ascribed to Robbe-Grillet’s unique literary theories by someone inside the front cover—but none of it is in any way unreadably strange. Brain calisthenics, is all. The story, if you’re interested in knowing, is a sort of noir spy thriller sort of thing, but without much clarity as far as any of the spy details are concerned.

Alongside Repetition, I read another slightly off-kilter spy novel: Tremor of Intent, by Anthony Burgess. Which certainly didn’t help with the whole confusion thing—I wasn’t actively trying to seek out spy novels—but did perhaps help to set the mood of the reading. Tremor of Intent is simultaneously serious and goofy, satiric and honorable, and/or highly detailed and generic. All these things are at least partly true. Generally speaking, if the vague mention of “theory” and “weird stuff” of Repetition sound like something you might not go for, you might still be able to enjoy Tremor of Intent. Imagine an older, vastly more cynical, slightly more cunning James Bond and place him on a wild last retirement mission, and you have a vague idea of this book (though you’ll probably have more misconceptions than you will correct assumptions… but oh well.).

All in all, a pretty good collection of entertainment media.