September 29, 2009

Art vs. Entertainment

I've spent the last few years crafting a hard-nose, cynical stance on entertainment for entertainment's sake. Part of it is meant as an indictment of pop-culture and the brainless shits I encounter in my meanderings. The other part I attribute to years of church indoctrination that seems to hang around my subconscious--even when I do my damnedest to rebuke it. It's not a perfect stance, but it generates the appropriate amount of misery to suit my temperament--which obviously is not shared by everyone around me.

Over sushi, a most-astute friend mentioned her enjoyment of horror films--how she simply loves the exhilaration associated with feeling scared shitless. This came after I pontificated about how I loathed art being abused solely for entertainment. Her response, though simplistic in its delivery, is actually kind of complex. Defining entertainment and art requires more time than I can muster. But what really matters is that her statement actually negates my hard-ass opinions. Aesthetic experience? Probably not. But she's experiencing something similar, perhaps--and from a schlocky horror film.

I don't think I can make such a clean break between art and entertainment; they are too intertwined. I can merely ascribe adjectives like shitty, pathetic, mundane to particular pieces (a device I take from another friend). But to completely brush entertainment off as superficial devalues an experience too similar to the aesthetic response I might have to something more commonly considered art.

Something I had to ruefully acknowledge last night after watching-and enjoying-the latest Wolverine movie.

September 22, 2009

Should Book Titles Warrant Capital Punishment?

In line at the local drug store, I made the perilous mistake of scanning the book shelves next to the tight-lipped cashier and her green fingernails. Poor girl needed to use the bathroom, I think.

Best sellers, apparently. And the titles, oh the titles...sweet mother of Mary, the titles. Enough to make a grown man want to chew his own elbow. All under the auspicious banner of "mass-market fiction", which I quickly looked up online to find even more gems. Let us consider...

1) From Dead to Worse
2) Club Dead
3) Dead as a Doornail
4) Dead Until Dark

I should note, all these come from the same author, all on the bestsellers. Kaching! But I digress...

5) Altogether Dead
6) Definitely Dead

Uh...still same author. I need to get more creative.

7) Heat Seeker (no euphemism there)

Uh oh...

8) Dead to The World (you guessed it...same author as 1-6)

I'll think I'll stop here. I'm feeling a little...

September 12, 2009

Pavel Grigorievich Chesnokov - Basso Profondo

Unravels sinew from the bones of the dead. Makes me weep. I've been trying to find Russian Orthodox choir music (Chesnokov or other) on vinyl for a long time. No luck. Will have to make do with this.

Gabriel Appeared (crappy recording)

Do Not Forget Me In My Old Age (excerpt)

September 10, 2009

Cormac McCarthy - A Lesson in Dialogue

Out of my league and unable to articulate the immensity that is Cormac McCarthy, I'll simply post two excerpts: one a snippet of dialogue from the overwhelming Suttree, the other a segment from an impressive essay re: McCarthy's focus on the paradoxical choices in his character's day-to-day lives.

Two men stand in front of a watermelon patch, late at night, from which a third has recently fled.

Two pairs of brogans went along the rows.
You ain't goin to believe this.
Knowin' you for a born liar I most probably wont.
Somebody has been fuckin' my watermelons.
I said somebody has been...
No. No. Hell no. Damn if you aint got a warped mind.
I'm tellin' you...
I don't want to hear it.
Looky here.

They went along the outer row of the melonpatch. He stopped to nudge a melon with his toe. Yellowjackets snarled in the seepage. Some were ruined a good time past and lay soft with rot, wrinkled with imminent collapse.

It does look like it, dont it?
I'm tellin ye I seen him. I didnt know what the hell was goin on when he dropped his drawers. Then when I seen what he was up to I still didnt believe it. But yonder he lay.
What do you aim to do?
Hell, I dont know. It's about too late to do anything. He's damn near screwed the whole patch. I don't see what he couldn't of stuck to just one. Or a few.
Well, I guess he takes himself for a lover. Sort of like a sailer in a whorehouse.

From the essay: Cormac McCarthy's Paradox of Choice by Scott Esposito for The Quarterly Conversation.

From the very beginning, McCarthy has been an author fascinated by the give-and-take between modern-day humans and the multiple systems they are exposed to in day-to-day life. These systems react potently with McCarthy’s other great novelistic concern: the alienated individual and his ultimate recognition (with McCarthy it is invariable a he) that no one can stand outside of human society, and that our codes and bureaucracies decide for us far more often than we actually decide for ourselves. McCarthy’s novels are built around the rare moments of genuine decision-making when the swell and swirl of the world pulls back to relinquish agency to the individual.

In this way, the work of Cormac McCarthy strikes deep into the heart of American literature, as his books are always rooted in that most American of themes: the search for identity. In McCarthy it is often seen as an obsession with borders: of personal identity, of physical place, and of spiritual position within an existential realm of conflicting value systems.

In exploring these borders, McCarthy has carved out what is perhaps a unique place in all of American letters; he has overseen the decline of a traditional way of life in the American South while also personalizing and reframing the rise and fall of the romanticized American West. His protagonists, so similar and yet so different, have revealed the overlap between what are generally understood as two discrete historical phenomena. And in his final novel to date, McCarthy has even showed an ability to project these typical concerns into purely speculative territory, to improbably yet powerfully fuse his earthy immediacy with the lightness of fantasy. Throughout all of this, McCarthy is grounded by his interest in moments of choice and their attendant moral consequences.