Here on the Sandy Dunes

Stuff I have read and watched since January.

The Master

Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012

the-master-image

I didn’t see a lot of 2012 movies and most of them have degraded in my memory.  So “The Master” has retroactively taken up my best movie of 2012 thingie.  It’s a frustrating movie but enjoyably so.  Slow, intentionally inscrutable, sparse in story or even connective threading between set pieces it relies on its exquisite photography and the charisma of its actors to do lots of acting. Not overacting, mind, just a lot of acting, maybe “Big Acting” is a better phrase.  It is the style of acting in all PT Anderson films, where the characters start broad and then go deep while staying broad somehow, so “Big” seems fitting.  The movie continuously made me question my own readings of stuff because those readings felt right but too simple, too easy. Duality and the Id versus the Ego, and how those two sides wish they were more like the other didn’t seem like they were good enough.  Is it weird to appreciate a movie for making me feeling intellectually inadequate? The answer, of course, is yes.

Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino, 2012

jamie-foxx-as-django-in-django-unchained

This on the other hand is so exactly what it’s about that I got everything in one go. I read somewhere that somebody said it was “entertaining but not very good” ( I think it was the mightygodking blog) and that pretty much synced up well with my impression of it.  Id have to say this is his second least good movie with “Death Proof” being the bottom and they suffer from the same problem of over-indulgence.  “Death Proof” he over-indulged on dialogue to the point of shrillness and the death of that movie’s pacing.  This one is just badly paced.  He could of cut 45 minutes out of this fucker with no loss of plot and whatever texture those scenes provided (texture being a phrase I picked up from Robert Evans and have grown to love) are acceptable losses.  Man, this thing had a plot contrivance so glaring that it just picks at your brain and I always try to write around spoilers but this time…

SPOILERS

Now I figured the reason that they had to use a ruse to rescue Broomhilda was because King Schultz didn’t actually HAVE 12, 000 dollars.  So when they get caught and Schultz actually just has 12,000 dollars on his person in his wallet…then why the ruse? Why bring Django? Why not just approach him to buy alone to buy Broomhilda for 12,000 for the reason that he wants a German speaking slave?  Calvin Candie couldn’t refuse such an offer.  It seemed like the only reason they had to do any of this is because Schultz didn’t want to fork over 12,000 if he didn’t absolutely have to…so it seems like the whole second half of the movie happens because he is a stingy bastard.  This was too big a logic gap for me to ignore.  If the movie had tighter pacing it probably would’ve been able to skate right past it, but I had too much time to think about it.

Marvel Comics-The Untold Story

Sean Howe, 2012

marvelcomics

The prose in this is really economical and has a lot of pop. For every one bit of data I already knew as a comics fan I learned five new things on top of that.    The last 20 pages about the company could have been easily excised since all of the people who would have anything interesting to say still work for the company and we’re not going to here any of the behind the scenes juice about the stuff going on right now for a long time.  Plus. his heart was clearly in the 70’s and 80’s  parts of the book and I have a feeling he had to excise that stuff the most to hit his page count. I’d be very interested in reading a whole book by him that expanded those two sections.

Red Harvest

Dashiell Hammett, 1929

red harvest

This book is known for being the inspiration behind Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo” and Leone’s “A Fistful of Dollars” though those movies are a lot more clear cut in terms of morality and how many sides are at play.  They both have heroes who are dirty and scoundrely but ultimately altruistic playing two equally bad gangs against each other so that they take each other out.  This is much murkier.  I lost track of how many people the main character (known only as The Continental Op, because he’s an operative of the Continental Detecive Agency) was playing against and what there relationships were to each other.  But the character is engaging because of his motivation.  If the corrupt cops and gangsters had left him alone while he did the one job he came to do he would’ve left the town quickly and as it was. But they fucked with him so he decides to burn it down.  It didn’t hit me till way after I finished it but this would’ve been an awesome Walter Matthau movie from the 70s.  Something that would have slotted in nicely between “Charley Varrick” and “Hopscotch” two other movies where his schlubby charm is cover for the fact that he’s smarter than everyone out to get him.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2013

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Only Love Breaks Your Heart

Farewell, My Lovely

Raymond Chandler, 1940

My favorite part of this book is when I realized in the last 30 pages that the entire middle of the book had nothing to do with the resolution of the plot. You could have taken out the whole sequence with the Psychic, the corrupt cops, and the crooked sanitarium and with very little effort had reached the same endpoint. But its the sort of taking the plot for a walk that I like. It’s just Marlowe dealing with conflict, taking on pain, and keeping his smarts while almost losing his grasp. It’s powerful external conflict creating pulsating inner conflict (coming down from all the dope he’s been shot with) which is better than plot momentum when it’s handled as well as Chandler does it.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

The Rich and Lawless

The Big Sleep

Raymond Chandler, 1933

“The Big Sleep” is notorious for it labyrinthine plot.  Which is true it is hard to keep track of everything that’s going on and some of it goes absolutely nowhere.  Even Chandler admits that he doesn’t know how the chauffeur dies.  On the other hand he does play completely fair. He breaks down the case midway through the book and wraps it up at the end.  What was not apparent to me until I thought about it was that this book is two cases completely separate but with connections.  Chandler, with his position of leaving some ends unwrapped, could have stopped the book satisfactorily about 80 pages from where he does.  This is a book that is indeed hard and terse. But there is humanity there. There is care for ethics, right, and the word of the law. I was surprised how much Phillip Marlowe cared about the law. He does work with and respect the police, he’s a loose cannon but he’s doesn’t make his ethics the final word on things. More and more these days I find myself interested on the consideration of legality in my fiction (my fiction being crime novels and comic books) and this hit a sweet spot.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2011

Papa Bear

Blood’s a Rover

James Ellroy, 2009

…oh fuck.

This is such a big topic.  Very personal to me.  I’ve been absorbed in this world for the better part of year.  American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and this one.  Ellroy has very much shaped me as a writer with these.  Short sentences, machine-gun staccato that builds and swirls and goes in and out and becomes this rough romantic style overall.

I love this world that he has built.  The other side of the New Frontier and the dark conspiracy that the Love Generation was too stupid to know what was happening.  A world of the hyper-masculine and mega-competent.  Everybody is at the top of their game but all susceptible to being one upped.  Everyone knows everything but never what the next guy is thinking.  Pulling a fast one is all on luck and getting out alive ends up being reward enough.  Life is lived at the highest of most stunning highs and descends to shit-maggot lows–but with always a way to get back if one has the wherewithal.  Redemption is always possible here but out of  10 narrators in three books…only 2 make it to the end of the finish line.

Hate.  Hate becomes the inexorable influence on everything.  It’s steeped all around in people, the people who hate, who concentrate their hate, learn to, not live with it, but channel it.  The hated who, as presented, deserve their derision.  Haters who almost learn about their hated and fall short by way of death–my god.

If Tabloid was about creating the conspiratorial world, and Six Thousand was about laying down the hate, then Rover is about…Love?  There were romantic interests in the other books but they never amounted to much of anything at all.  These books are really dick-swinging contests du jour.  The women in this one have narrative force, personality and a say.  They drive the destinies of the men all throughout.  That said they aren’t really different from the men for the most part.  They share that mega-competence, that ability to compartmentalize that is so fucking important here.  Of course it never works does it?  They all break down these compartments these men build. They come tumbling down, flooded, destroyed.

So what?  Rover is Hate being destroyed by Love?  It works, you wouldn’t think it would be Ellroy’s cuppa and some of it comes off kinda wonky but it does work.  That’s the charm of Ellroy’s work here is that alot of it should come off as silly or over-the-top. The idea that he reverses the racism of the last book by putting his characters in contact with competent or sympathetic black people seems like it should be trite. But Ellroy’s commitment to his terse prose and…it never feels like he’s trying to con you into buying into this.  Everything is acceptable because it’s presented as matter of fact. Everything just is and everything that isn’t known to the characters, isn’t known to us, is a lack of facts available not the writer playing false or misdirection.

I’ve been working on this post little bits at a time now for months now. It’s been months since I’ve finished the last book and it never felt like I was saying enough here and I’ve done what I can for right now.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2011

The Teacher Monk Asshole

“Zooey” by J.D. Salinger, 1957

So this is totally the same Franny from “Franny” that wikipedia entry from the “Franny” post was weird about it.

Because this picks up from the event of that story as Franny processes her spiritual change.  With “The Way of the Pilgrim” is the center of this duo of stories.  In fact they are a retelling or modern updating of the idea of that story.  Franny acts in the role of the peasant who sets out to pray without ceasing through the Jesus chant.  Zooey than is in the role of the monk who teaches her how to utilize it properly by trying to focus Franny on how she is actually using it versus how she should be using it.  “Franny” ends with her looking up and mouthing the chant inaudibly and “Zooey” ends with her looking up and not moving her lips at all, prayer focused and internalized.

I’ve been reading Salinger and watching Wes Anderson lately and my god that sounds incredibly pretentious, you fucking college boy.  What they share in common is that they are stories of damaged intelligent youth which because I’m intelligent and I have feeeelings and crap.  I wonder if I’m supposed to take that from Salinger’s work.  Is intelligence and self-awareness a burden?  Is it the worst to be the smartest person in the room?  Or the most aware?  Is intelligence without spirituality a burden?  Is that why I’m so fucking unhappy?

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2011

The Psychosomatic Spirit

*I wrote this before I read “Zooey” at all.

“Franny” by J.D. Salinger, 1955

Here’s this.  I’m not going to read the book but there is some extra bits not covered in “Franny”.

So why not do Franny and Zooey as the pair they are presented as in book form?  Cover both stories together?   “Franny” and “Zooey” were published originally separately and years apart and are just as much meant to be read apart as together and they both have things to say on their own as well as together.  So, cover the monologues and then do the dialogues, 1 before 2, y’know.

So what do I think “Franny” is doing?  It is as much about Franny’s soul/spirit/what-have-you in conversation with her physical being as it is the conversation between herself and Lane.  The outward reaction to an inner change that is about to begin.  The conversation between herself and Lane is banal an idea that seems to slip in and out of her notice.  Her pondering on “The Way of the Pilgrim”, while interesting and the most exacting or on-the-nose acknowledgement of the spiritual change she is undergoing, is banal itself because it is so lost on Lane.  The discourse becomes meaningless and worthless.  Which may be the other point.  That most real discourse is pointless when compared to the inner politics of ones self.  Because this transformation just beginning is happening unconsciously (the best way for this to happen?  Maybe the truest if you compare it to a self-imposed  change base on perceived inner conflict.)  There has to be a reaction to such a change, a manifestation of form or something.  It’s not mental, its physical.  Her body is shutting itself down automatically to be rebooted in a form that is ready for the mantra of God (“rebooted” for lack of a better 1955 centric term.)

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2011

The Golden Age That Was Not: Why I quit Kavalier and Clay (in Rant Form)

It is actually hard for me to quit books.  I can drop off them for a long time but I always pick them up again later.  I finished two books earlier this year that took me a good two years each to read.  Even short books like Casino Royale and The Third Man I’d dropped in the middle and had to pick them up again later just to finish them (though I fucking ended up loving them both.)  I wish I was reader who could read fast and at multiples instead of just the latter.  But wah wah that’s not much of an actual problem is it college boy?

Now you know I dig comics.  I know some shit.  I also cop to that I also don’t know shit either.  But I have an idea and a bit of enough information on them. And on history.   Enough that I know why I just couldn’t stomach The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay anymore.

It was all just so goddamn precious.  Kavalier is Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, Jack Kirby and that guy who did those awesome Captain Marvel Jr covers all rolled into fucking one whose a magician and an escape artist.  BUT its okay because his family is trapped in Nazi Europe and we can swallow how fucking awesomely awesome he is because he has this one not awesome thing going.

Sammy is discovering he’s gay.  That’s fine.  No problem.  I never thought about how, to be gay, you have to like the taste of semen and rectum in your mouth but damn you would have to wouldn’t you?  Is twink offensive?  The radio voice guy he’s tongue fucking is what I could imagine in my limited knowledge to be kind of the intro to gayness handsome twink kind of a guy.

Rosa Saks is the coolest avant garde super kind indie chick of the 40s in the world .  Kavlier and Clay saw Citizen Kane and it inspired them.  They got some radio and merchandise money in a time where creators didn’t get dick ever.

The whole thing isn’t distinguished enough to be an alt history and its too goddamn fantasy to be real and every character is the best person you could know and even there flaws are charming and you can never be turned off to them.  Shitgoddamit.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2010