Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Ghost Writer and Zuckerman Unbound

The cover of this book is beautiful to me, recalling Soviet graphic design. It looks like a radical book urging revolution, passed person to person. It is an old cover, designed in a way that books aren't anymore, now all of Roth's books having a fairly uniform cover design. I found this copy at the Strand for $4.50 and that equals something close to $1.12 per novel, Zuckerman Bound containing the early Nathan Zuckerman books: The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, The Anatomy Lesson, and The Prague Orgy.

Zuckerman was originally introduced in My Life as a Man, in which he served as the fictional alter-ego of the narrator of that book, Peter Tarnapol, a writer who served as the fictional alter-ego of Philip Roth. He is slightly different in that novel then he becomes with his reintroduction in The Ghost Writer, becoming at that point the constant alter-ego of Roth, allowing him to hit meta-fictional themes and examine the relationship between fiction and life, between representation and the thing represented.

The Ghost Writer has Zuckerman, a young writer of 23, traveling up to the Berkshires to meet his idol, E.I. Lonoff. It is a brief novel documenting his overnight stay at his house and introduces themes that Roth will work and rework again and again throughout his career and throughout the Nathan Zuckerman books. Lonoff lives in seclusion, a respected elder and literary heavyweight, a person that Zuckerman in his novice stage seems to hope to one day become (and which eventually he does, in later novels Zuckerman having also retreated to the Berkshires for seclusion). Lonoff's fictions, slices of Jewish life, bear no resemblance to his current life, surrounded by Gentiles up in the mountains of New England and this is something that Zuckerman remarks upon. Zuckerman, in contrast, bases his fiction on his life (much like Roth with Zuckerman), airing his dirty laundry in public, much to the dismay of his family. Zuckerman's father does not understand Nathan's artistic practices, does not understand why he can't show the good side of Jewish life and is upset about how non-Jews will read these fictions about perhaps unlikable Jews. Zuckerman though is resolute in what he considers his art, that the pain other people may endure because of things you say are necessary. For such a short novel, there is so much packed in here to parse out. The mythology of Nathan Zuckerman, his cosmos, is all here. There is also a wonderful scene in which Zuckerman imagines that Lonoff's boarder, Amy Bellette, a young woman Lonoff is having an affair with, is Anne Frank. He imagines falling in love with Bellette/Frank and that once his parents and other respectable Jews hear that he is married to Anne Frank they will no longer think of him as a self-hating Jew and will respect his fiction.

Zuckerman is witness during this brief stay to some episodes of domestic tension between Lonoff and his wife, Hope, because of the presence of Amy. The novel ends with Lonoff running outside down the street after his wife, who has stormed out of the house, declaring that she was leaving. Before leaving the house to chase after his wife, Lonoff, aware of Zuckerman's method of writing, of using life (perhaps in its ugliness) as fodder for his fiction, tells Zuckerman that there is paper on his desk, that surely he has stuff to write down. Zuckerman responds, "Paper for what?" Lonoff: "Your feverish notes. . . You had an earful this morning." After a bit more conversation as he is getting bundled up to go out into the cold after his wife, there is this exchange, which is a coda to Roth and to Zuckerman and to what writing means to them:

"I'll be curious to see how we all come out someday. It could be an interesting story. You're not so nice and polite in your fiction," he said. "You're a different person."

"Am I?"

"I should hope so." Then, as though having concluded my rites of confirmation, he gravely shook my hand.

Zuckerman Unbound picks up some years later, Zuckerman now a famous writer, notorious even, after the successful publication of Carnovsky, an obvious allusion to Roth's own notoriety after Portnoy's Complaint. He lives in New York and gets hate mail from crackpots and accosted on the street, all of it making him a bit paranoid. One of the characters who accosts him on the street is Alvin Pepler, a former quiz show contestant, who still decades after the fact is nursing a grudge against how he was wronged on that quiz show, how he knows everything, and will start to recite random facts to Zuckerman, who is both intrigued and disturbed by this man and a bit convinced that this is the man that has been calling him and threatening to kidnap his mother in Miami, his mother who is going through traumatic times of her own, everyone around her, as well as the press, assuming that she is the mother depicted in Carnovsky. Eventually Pepler declares that Carnovsky is his book, is his story, that he is the perpetual masturbator of Newark, and that Zuckerman has stolen his story. These concerns of meta-fiction and the nature of authorship could be a bit tiring in someone else's hands, but with Roth it rolls along with his humor, with his intelligent voice, perhaps the most readable voice writing now.

The book, concerned with literary celebrity, with readers unable to read or misreading your work, with the absurdity of American culture, comes back down to earth with the death of Zuckerman's father, and for a brief while Zuckerman is grounded in something other than his crazy concerns about kidnappers and hate mail and mentally unstable ex-quiz show contestants.

This scene, from his father's funeral, upon rereading it now doesn't seem as amazing, but at the time, wrapped up in this narrative, it punched me right in the gut and made me start to cry, something that I can't think of the last time a book has made me do, and despite it not seeming as amazing now, perhaps it will to be at some future date, and for that future date, here it is:

Strange. It was supposed to be just the opposite. But never had he contemplated his father's life with less sentiment. It was as though they were burying the father of some other sons. As for the character being depicted by the rabbi, well, nobody had ever gotten Dr. Zuckerman so wrong. Maybe the rabbi was only trying to distance him from the father in Carnovsky, but from the portrait he painted you would have thought Dr. Zuckerman was Schweitzer. All that was missing was the organ and the lepers. But why not? Whom did it harm? It was a funeral, not a novel, let alone the Last Judgment.

What made it such a strain? Aside from the unrelenting heat and their lost, defenseless, seemingly legless mother? Aside from the pitiful sight of those old family friends, looking down into the slot where they too must be deposited, thirty, sixty, ninety days hence - the kibitzing giants out of his earliest memories, so frail now, some of them, that despite the healthy suntans, you could have pushed them in with his father and they couldn't have crawled out. . . ? Aside from all this, there were his emotions. The strain of feeling no grief. The surprise. The shame. The exultation. The shame of that. But all that grieving over his father's body had taken place when Nathan was twelve and fifteen and twenty-one: the grief over all his father had been dead to while living. From that grief the death was a release.

He flies back to New York through Newark, having a driver meet him there and drive him around places from his childhood that have been brought forth in his memories by attending his father's funeral. Early in the novel, Pepler refers to Zuckerman as the Proust of Newark, but this is before he turns on Zuckerman, eventually telling him that he doesn't know what Newark is, saying, "Newark! What do you know about Newark, Mama's Boy! I read that fucking book! To you it's Sunday chop suey downtown at the Chink's! ... To you it's Uncle Max in his undershirt, watering the radishes at night! ... Newark is a nigger with a knife! Newark is a whore with the syph! Newark is junkies shitting in your hallway and everything burned to the ground! Newark is dago vigilantes hunting jigs with tire irons! Newark is bankruptcy! Newark is ashes! Newark is rubble and filth! Own a car in Newark and then you'll find out what Newark's all about! Then you can write ten books about Newark! They slit your throat for your radial tires!"

Being driven around Newark now by a hired driver in a limo, he sees that Pepler was right, that the Newark he had captured in fiction, the place of his childhood, is gone, that all of the Jewish families had moved to the suburbs, that the city was now mainly black, that the row of shops was gone, that the apartment his family had lived in his young days was now with a boarded up door and broken windows. And again there is this theme, now with a tinge of melancholy, about life and fiction, about how places can be written about that don't exist anymore, about how fathers can be dead and yet still be written about, that seemingly things can be reincarnated, brought back to life, by fiction, but with Zuckerman's drive through a burned out Newark, that is questioned; reality seems to win that arm wrestling match.

the changes in perception, the self variety, brought on by a haircut, by other things; or, rio dream

I gave myself a haircut yesterday and perhaps that had something to do with it, something about look good, feel good. Because my hair gets a bit unruly in the heat and because there is the heat, because the season has changed and the trees look different and I want to also, I cut off most of my curls yesterday, buzzed the sides, and as a result felt like some other person than I had been for the past few months, felt new, felt clean.

I bought a tent and a sleeping bag in preparation for going to Short Mountain on Monday (via the Chinatown bus to Nashville!) and on that expedition to Target, walking around some area of Brooklyn I wasn't familiar with, I kept catching glances of myself in store windows, the image of this short haircut reflected courtesy of the sunny day that yesterday was. After that, I got called to see this guy I have been seeing a bunch, fucked him, felt fantastic, and then went out to dinner with him, at which we discussed him taking me on vacation with him to Rio - and holy fucking shit, I am so excited and really hope that this actually occurs, and which I think may actually. Um, I was saying something about a haircut, having given myself one, and how that perhaps, this new image of myself I had, allowed me to shake off something, to feel free, liberated, sexy, confident - something, some change that enabled a lovely, juvenile, giddy teen-crush, sixties girl group type of mood, that the world was mine, that I had a bouffant and was wearing hot pants and some leather jacket wearing Greasers were catcalling me and I rolled my eyes because I was too cool and they didn't impress me. I don't know where I am going with this - I may as well as admit to it. And while admissions are being made, while some pretenses to honesty are being made, I will make another one and say that also I am a bit stoned and that thoughts and intentions, while amazing seeming, never are able to sustain themselves, that they bleed into each other, easily distracted things, and the original point, had there ever actually been one, was (and is still) lost.

So there was that encounter, that date that put some money into my pocket and some really expensive and sinfully delicious food from 44 into my belly. A bit of cocaine was also put into my nose care of this encounter and that also was contributing to the feeling, to feeling like someone, a Supreme, a Shangri-La, a Shirelle, and why that is the analogy that came to mind, that comes to mind, I don't know, something about the feeling that could make Little Eva declare that "that boy is mine" and to "keep your hands off of my baby," that that feeling of don't fuck with me-ness only slightly veiled with some harmonious singing and a Wall of Sound is what was felt last evening, a temperate night in late April punctuated by a slight drizzle. And from there, 44, I went to a house party in the East Village of this boy, Mark, whom I had met outside of Julius' the other night, who had biked me around on his pegs, a boy who had a bike with pegs on it. At the house party, I flirted with some other boys, did some more coke, and was pulled by Mark into the bathroom where we made out until someone had to pee. Later on, he pulled me into his room, and we made out there, did some other things, some dick sucking, and he was cute and way too drunk and fell off the bed a couple of times, and when the party somehow ended, when everyone decided to leave at once and bang on his door as we were about to come, preventing orgasm with the banging, with the desire to get into his room and get their bags so they could leave, I got dressed and left also.

I exchanged numbers at that party with another boy, before the crazy making out with Mark, and tonight contacted him, this other boy, and he came over and we drank beers and chatted and didn't have sex, though it was understood that that was what I wanted and what I think he also wanted. Last night when I talked to him, he had just broken up with his boyfriend. I guess they got back together last night though and because of that the sex I wanted to occur did not, however he and his boyfriend do want to have a threesome with me most likely and I guess that will happen soon. And I was reading this kind of vomit-inducing article in the New York Times about young gay people that marry (and the pictures that accompany the article are obviously meant to be art - a satirical (but is it?) posing of these young people in posh domestic settings), and in that article there is some quote that really struck me, perhaps too much of a generalization stated as truth, but something which struck me nonetheless, seeming true in the case of my own life perhaps.

The quote: "Everywhere I looked, gay men in their 20s — or, if they hadn’t come out until later, their 30s, 40s and 50s — seemed to be eschewing commitment in favor of the excitement promised by unabashedly sexualized urban gay communities. There was a reason, of course, why so many gay men my age and older seemed intent on living a protracted adolescence: We had been cheated of our actual adolescence. While most of our heterosexual peers had experienced, in their teens, socialization around courtship, dating and sexuality, many of us had grown up closeted and fearful."

And did I mention that I am 26, soon to be 27? And yet I can't get enough. Boys, crushes, his look, that certain type of look, sexhungry kind, directed my way, the thrill derived from that, the feeling of satisfaction, of having backup singers in matching outfits, maybe even some horns blaring away, certainly a nice drumbeat.

Friday, April 25, 2008

His name was never mentioned and I never bothered to ask. A man from Craigslist came over to give me head, and the internet is amazing that people can post such things, such as looking to give head in Bushwick, and that other people, me on this evening, can reply to these postings and soon after have some total stranger in my bed, name unknown, sucking my dick. It is nice when the needs of people correlate. All troubles, interpersonal, stem from when these do not match up. And so it was a pleasant encounter, a nice way to end this day, the fifth anniversary of my having moved to New York.

It doesn't seem like it has been five years. I think this when I realize I don't have much to show for these five years, have not gotten on with the project of life, and instead have spent night after night, year after year, hopping from gallery to open bar to dancing there to occasionally that person's bed. There are no books written to have shown for these five years, no great works done, no major accomplishments, no meaningful job. And yet when I walk down various streets and can see the bar that used to be there or the deli that used to be there before that bank branch, then I know it has been a while, to have these places change so much and have layers of memories on top of all these streets I walk down.

I haven't found love and still find myself lonely or unhappy at times. I also find myself incredibly happy. And things are what they are and I am who I am and it is just about perhaps submitting to these things, recognizing them as such.

I came here looking for something, a certain life I imagined. New York was a dream from when I was a kid, a place I had projected this idealized world on to (see Rent's "La Vie Boheme"), and so it never was going to be that thing, that I had imagined an entirely different city and gave it the name of this already existing one. There are still aspects of the dream I remember, geographies of the imagined city still vivid, and the map is there. There is a map to the thing and I can still get there.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Another beautiful day. The temperature in the upper seventies, the sky blue, and the grass green and soft in Sheep's Meadow. Last night, I lost my wallet while attempting to take a shit at the Web, it dropping out of my pants and me not noticing until several blocks away when I was looking for it to go into Townhouse. Today, I went to the bank and got out a bunch of cash to hold me over until I get a new debit card sent to me, and after the bank, stressed out about that and annoyed about other things, I went and laid in the park, read some of Philip Roth's Zuckerman Unbound and took breaks to just lie collapsed at the sun's mercy, taking in the comforting warmth, the pleasant feeling brought on by the sun's rays against my skin. In one of these periods, drunk on sunshine and a bit hazy, some guy splashed some water on me. I looked up and he told me he was putting out a fire, that I looked hot. I sat up and he sat down on my blanket and we chatted for a bit before I joined him and his friend on their blanket, Mark and Victoria. They were cute and also a bit weird, a little too something - too moneyed, too cool, too elitist, too full of themselves - I am not sure exactly, but they were still fun to hang out with and pulled me out of the circle of thoughts I had been trapped in. They rolled an absurdly fat joint and the three of us got way stoned. We read to each other from our journals, Victoria and I, and I listened to them talk and then could I handle it no more, was way too stoned to be with people that I barely knew and I began to feel a bit awkward. I escaped, claiming I had been out in the sun too long, and wobbled out of the park, being as stoned as I have been in a really long time, the type of stoned I was in Amsterdam. I rode the train home with the evening rush commuters, feeling slightly crazy, walked home through a crowded park of kids, and then basically passed out for a couple of hours in my bed. And now, again, I head out the door, this time bound for Julius', for more gays, and more flirtatious interactions, and more substances inducing altered mental states, and more of this living.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Elementary Particles - Michel Houellebecq

The sky is gray and the temperature has dropped a bit from where it had been hovering for the last week, and this weather is beautiful, today’s and that of the past couple of weeks. I am glad for this day of rest, for a day that is not so outrageously beautiful that I have to be out in it, sitting in the park with my fellow dwellers in this city, all so excited about this new season upon us and about the chance to linger outdoors after months spent minimizing our time outside. It is a chance for some alone time, which has been further aided by Niki’s departure this morning for China. The house to myself again for a couple of weeks and it feels so nice.

I started reading Philip Roth’s The Ghost Writer yesterday and it was such a nice book to fall into, this writer’s voice that I love, his style of writing, his thoughts, always a pleasant experience for me, but yesterday even more so, coming to this book after having recently finished Michel Houellebecq’s The Elementary Particles, a terrible book in so many ways. Houellebecq seems to have a certain currency in contemporary literature and it seems one arrived at so cheaply. His writing isn’t great. His storylines are labored things all in the service of his constantly shouted points, points that are conservative, elitist, xenophobic, and off-the-mark. And it is this edginess, this shock quality to it, which provides Houellebecq the recognition he currently has. A lot of criticism of his work has obviously been provoked by his nonsense and rather than dismissing it out of hand as conservative provocation masquerading as literature, it has engaged with it, detailing his arguments, allowing Houellebecq to be successful in creating the terms of the dialogue, a dialogue that even to argue against is to give the thing too much validity.

The argument in this book is that the sixties in France and its liberalism are to blame for what Houellebecq sees as the sad state of Western civilization now. The book reads like a joke, fatalistic to the extreme, depressed about the decline of the West, and without any irony whatsoever. It is really hard to read this book without constantly rolling one’s eyes at some of the doom and gloom generalizations of Houellebecq, which come far too often for something that is supposed to be a work of fiction (also known as art) and not a treatise on the failures of contemporary society. Take, for example, the opening paragraph:
This book is principally the story of a man who lived out the greater part of his life in Western Europe, in the latter half of the twentieth century. Though alone for much of his life, he was nonetheless occasionally in touch with other men. He lived through an age that was miserable and troubled. The country into which he was born was sliding slowly, ineluctably, into the ranks of the less developed countries; often haunted by misery, the men of his generation lived out their lonely, bitter lives. Feelings such as love, tenderness and human fellowship had, for the most part, disappeared. The relationships between his contemporaries were at best indifferent and more often cruel.

And so to read an artist again yesterday, and such a great one, was such a comfort. I started the book in Sheep’s Meadow, lying shirtless on a blanket with Gabriel and Amanda, people all around us on blankets, filling the park, a life and happiness and energy.

This past week I spent a few days being terribly sick, swollen tonsils that made even swallowing water a painful action, one which required great effort. After recovering, I got back to enjoying this lovely spring weather, going out to parks and later to bars. I saw a ballet choreographed by Eliot Feld at the Joyce on Thursday. Friday, I saw the first half of Donizetti’s La Filled u Regiment at the Metropolitan Opera before dipping out at intermission to go lie on the piers and look at shirtless gay boys. Yesterday, I saw a preview of Joachim Trier’s Reprise at MoMA, which was lacking in magic, was more just a conventional movie storyline edited well, but lacking in oomph or something to touch me.

This week ahead I am going to drink lots of coffee, am going to wake up early, am going to do physical activity every day (either yoga or the gym), and am going to write every day. I am going to get into the habit of doing all these things I want to do each day before the distractions of evening and night time come calling. And then next week, I am hopefully going to be riding on a short bus to Short Mountain in Tennessee, though I am still waiting to hear for certain whether I can fit on this bus or if it is already full.

I am excited about classic rock, about weed, about the smell of suntan lotion, about greens, about shorts, about my body, about reading, and about writing. I feel really good as of late. Obviously, I am not going to enjoy Houellebecq, being a child of Whitman and so in love with this life, so happy with that rooster crowing in someone’s backyard, that old balloon caught in that still barren tree, and the days that lie ahead. The glass if half-full obviously and I just can’t see things his way, can’t even see how he can.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I saw Odetta sing a song tonight in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Had traveled up there, 110th and Amsterdam, to go to some event about nonviolence and a Philip Glass opera. Glass played some selections from the opera. I was too stoned for the event and it made me feel weird in perhaps not the most pleasurable way, though it was pleasurable to look up at the massively tall structure of the cathedral and to have beautiful thoughts inspired by this architecture, about man, us little things, and the massive thing that this world is, that God is, that life is, and that looking up to a ceiling, a really tall one that so much work went into, that this brings that rarely grasped truth to the front of our minds, that there are so much larger things than these small thoughts in our heads and things far beyond our narrow field of vision, our myopia.

After the music ended and while the talking was still occurring, Gabriel and I left, walked through Central Park around the reservoir, the city, its skyline, looking so beautiful standing tall over the side of the big body of water, the theme of space and grandiosity again revisited, the sky looking large at moments, not looking large, it always being large and all, but being in a spot where I could be aware of that largeness, glimpse it.

I don't know how to say what it is I want. I used to be able to say it and maybe there are reasons I can't say it, maybe good reasons, but I want magic and more time and the time that I do have to be spent better. I want to not care about things and to care about other things and to be more sure, more comfortable, with those lines, or maybe just better at holding to them.

Walking around that reservoir, the wind was blowing, making the water lap against itself, arrhythmic sounds of liquid touching liquid, something safe being felt with the noise, perhaps developed in the womb, maybe something even more early, the pleasure felt in the sound of water against a shore.

I slept with this boy last night, Matt, and it was because I was horny, because he is nice, cute, because we had already slept together (kind of (it being interrupted by him being attacked by bed bugs)), and also because I had run into Diego last night at Sugarland and for reasons specific and non-specific, the encounter, a brief hello, made me feel unhappy. I want a romance or something with magic and there are moments, more and more often now, where I realize that that is not going to happen with him. Despite not wanting to feel slighted, I was a bit annoyed that he didn't tell me he was back in town or that he was going out to a bar in Brooklyn. I want something closer or more distant, something I understand. So I am not sure there is any more reason to keep this thing going, that it might be preventing me from being open to other things, potentially magical things.

I have been having a lovely string of days lately, this warm weather, spring finally here, blossoms on trees, their flowering allowing my own to occur, my own ebullience and optimism and recharged feelings. I saw Missy Elliot and Busta Rhymes perform earlier in the week and that was an interesting experience, both of them a bit aged now, probably a bit past their prime, but both still really amazing stage presences. Busta was particularly amazing to see, his energy still really intense and his fast delivery where he somehow doesn't need to pause for breath quite impressive. A couple of days ago, I saw Gypsy with Patti Lupone playing Mama Rose, and that was really great, was a really lovely theater experience, the type I haven't had in a while, getting giddy throughout the play, feeling so excited, the songs good, the performers great, and the story amazing, dealing with celebrity and stage moms and America and life and art in a really intelligent way. Lupone was amazing, as was the actress who played Gypsy Rose. Both were so fantastic, giving me goosebumps when they sang sometimes. I watched the Sixth Season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which made me laugh a lot and which also provoked thinking about so many issues, and about which I intend to say more in a more intelligent, more detailed fashion in the coming days, Larry David being a genius to me, and this show still, even in this late season, still such an amazing work of art, doing really clever things within the half hour confines of a sitcom.

And so things have been good as of late. What is there not to love? The weather is fantastic, I can listen to probably any song I would want to at any time, technology being what it is, I am seeing great things, I am occasionally having sex, though maybe not the most satisfying type, and maybe am having it, or trying to, in the actual hopes of having something else, feeling something else, feeling, I am excited about reading again - and yet. More should be being done. I am going to hop in bed soon and read and wake up early, am going to get into the habit of waking up early, doing things that need to be done, working for it. There is desire and I am trying to heat it, bring it to a boil.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ernest Hemingway - A Moveable Feast
Hemingway's spare, to-the-point sentences occasionally read like bad writing and it sometimes takes some remembering (on my part) that this was a unique style, was something new in fiction, that his usage of journalist-like declarative sentences in fiction was innovative. This memoir published posthumously details his early writing career, his twenties in Paris with other ex-pats, providing catty profiles of Gertrude Stein, Ford Maddox Ford, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is a fun, quick read, but I am not sure that there is much more to it than that. It is interesting to hear about a writer's practice, at what time in the day they write, about how they impose a schedule upon themselves, and actually write each day - Hemingway doing so in the morning and stopping before he ran out of steam each day, so that he would never empty the well, so that the next day he would have a place to pick up at again. It is the profiles of the other big writers of that era that make this book so interesting - Stein, the rude bitch; Ford, also the rude bitch; and cute F. Scott, the totally neurotic mess who can't handle alcohol and whose life and writing were even then being ruined by Zelda. Hemingway's expedition on a car ride with Fitzgerald is my favorite part of this book, imagining the two of them driving through the countryside in a topless car (because Zelda had the roof ripped off) having to stop every so often because of the rain and Hemingway having to listen to Fitzgerald who was convinced he was dying. Oh man, I am giggling right now recalling that scene.

Wong Kar Wai - My Blueberry Nights
Maybe all of his movies are actually this bad, this cheesy, and maybe I had (as well as other English speakers) just been unaware of it due to the subtitles of his earlier movies, seduced by the beautiful images, the foreign images and foreign languages and we being none the wiser that those images and words may have been false. The early section of this movie with Norah Jones and Jude Law in a coffee shop in New York is quite terrible, the scene itself too claustrophobic, too what someone imagines a cafe to look like in New York, and the dialogue unbelievably bad and false sounding, it helping none that Norah Jones never varies her expressions and seems to be totally unable to act. It was a very disappointing start to this movie I had been eagerly anticipating. But because of that terrible opening, things only got better for me. As soon as Jones left New York and started her road trip the movie lost its claustrophobic feeling, other characters, more interesting ones, were introduced, as was the beautiful American landscape. The Nevada scenes are the best and I found myself wishing that this could have been the movie, that these characters in the casino and this sense of excitement could have been the movie, rather than Law and Jones. Despite generally feeling blah about the movie, I was however taken with the themes of the movie, that of love and loss, of loving someone who is not there, who does not want to be there, of what love means and why we have attachments to specific people, and of letting those attachments go, of letting doors close.

Julie Taymor - Across the Universe
Holy shit bad, terrible, fucking awful. For the first half hour I was into this movie, being into hearing all of these Beatles songs, but the plot was too messy, too unfocused for me to care about any of the various strands all being told at the same time. It was a cliche of every bad movie about the sixties ever. Taymor goes a little crazy with her puppets midway through and the movie turns into all these music videos basically, each song changing the tone of the movie's visual style and often incorporating some really terrible choreography. I was really stoned when I watched it and that should have and probably did make me much more forgiving and open to this movie, but even stoned, this movie is fucking terrible. Oh man, it is kind of amazing how bad it is, especially since had it been a little more focused rather than just throwing shit at the screen, it probably could have been really amazing.


Spring seems to be here. The sun is out, the weather is warm, and I wandered around town in a hoodie today. I had sex with a man in St. Mark's Hotel this afternoon, the scummy location cinematic, what someone might have imagined for the scene and what it rarely is, but is was fun and easy, and I left feeling great for a few reasons. I went to a few bookstores before ending up at the Strand, talked to some old co-workers and purchased a couple of books, books which I may start to read in these final hours of sunlight, this beautiful sunlight whispering to me about summer days that lie ahead.

Friday, April 4, 2008

naive melody

Yesterday, my day began listening to the radio and on the radio, they, mysterious they, played my favorite Talking Heads song, played one of my favorites of any songs, played "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)". It is such a beautiful song. There is that lovely instrumentation that builds for a while, slowly and relaxed in its knowledge that David Byrne is about to declare, this beautiful knowledge of happiness, somehow finding it, having been lost, having shifted physical locations and places a lot, and after all this shifting about feeling in the place you are now that it is the right space, the place, home, finding it.

I was with Megan C. once at a straight dive bar in the East Village, Blue and Gold, probably about four years ago, when I heard this song for the first time. I lost all interest in the conversation, in the bar, when this song came on and had to know more about it. It really spoke to me at that point, feeling a bit lost in a big city I had just moved to and where I knew very few people but which for whatever reasons I felt was home, or would be, that I wanted it to be, and I ran to the jukebox to see what album it was on. Shortly thereafter, I purchased the album, Stop Making Sense, and played this one song over and over again on repeat.

So it was such a joy yesterday to hear this song being played on the radio, such a joy because I had been transitioning between mental states recently and in the past few days have come to feel more sure about certain things, more at ease, more at home, seeming more sure of the place.

I got really drunk yesterday and that wasn't the place. I went to the Ryan McGinley opening, "I Know Where the Summer Goes," at Team Gallery. Also not the place, though for some people certainly the place, for quite a lot of some people. The gallery was packed, overflowing out on to the sidewalk, pretty young things all done up really nicely, more than a few catching my eye, those same more than a few also making me feel slightly too self-conscious, a bit stoned I was. The art was good in some ways but the problematic aspects of it were too much for me to discount, to recognize the work as good. There are really beautiful shots in the show, chief among them "Laura (Thunderstorm)", which with his snapshot-style odd framing provokes some feelings, the a-ha that's beautiful, that moment, that way of looking at that moment, that would not be there with a more traditional subject setup within the frame, something resembling more traditional portraiture rather than the snapshot documentary qualities of his work.

And yet that same quality, though McGinley does it very successfully and artfully, is also so tiring. It might have been tiring even after Goldin, after Clark, and after Tillmans, but after Lastnightsparty, Cobrasnake, and countless other nightlife photo blogs, not to mention Flickr, interestingly framed snapshots of hip people can become a little bland - oh, another person who has beautiful friends that like to take pictures of themselves being rowdy and reckless with their youth. Great. So being grouped with that type of photography, McGinley has been increasingly trying to ascend that grouping by making more and more artful photographs, saturating them with color, blurring them, making them look more and more intentional. And the effect is done to success. His photographs are getting nicer and nicer.

But the show and its setting, this gallery packed with really beautiful people, brought forth the problem of this show's subjects, this pack of skinny white kids. Seeing all these photographs bunched together of eroticized skinny (and I mean skinny) white kids was really fucking tiring, that it was this very specific idea of beauty that got voice in this show. Brown bodies and people with even a little bit of body fat did not exist in this vision of American youth. The show reminded me a lot of the work of Bruce Weber. Stylistically and technique-wise the two photographers could not be much more different, Weber famed for his black and white portraits of white jocks playing in the American landscape for Abercrombie & Fitch. But yet here in McGinley's photographs, a similar tune is being strummed, this idea of the beauty of youth (a particular variety, yes) and situating that within spaces, physical landscapes, somehow very American, that the two are tied, this muted nationalist merging of lithe, white bodies and this majestic physical landscape that is the American countryside. Weber's work and this show of McGinley's have that in common, and even though McGinley's American Apparel-type models hew closer to my own sexual desires these days than Weber's beefcakes, it is still very distressing. It is distressing that this photographer, young and gay, having grown up in New York, has this show of models he chose for this project and all of whom are not only all white, distressing enough, but who are all model skinny. When one particular type of body is shown, when other types are completely excluded altogether, it gives that one type authority, a desirability, as if it is worth being shown and worth being eroticized at the exculsion of other types. So I left that show a bit mad that despite people being smart for the most part, I am still part of this scene, this city, this world, that has fucked-up ideas about the body and about beauty and that we are still not there, that we haven't found the place.

I left there, wandered with some friends across town, here and there and there, drinking across the East Village, the Lower East Side, and the West Village, making some shape, a smile perhaps, across the bottom of that island, Manhattan. I ended up at Julius' for the Mattachine party, listened to some lovely seventies tunes, chatted with some people, and then went home with Diego whom I had run into there.

Things between us are nice again, sweet. There is a greater awareness, a sensitivity, after the tension of last week, and it was pleasant to go home with him. Lying in his bed, having sex, music was playing on his computer throughout, and at some point, the day coming full circle, that it was not just a fluke hearing it in the morning, that I was supposed to, that this must be the place, it came on his playlist, me never having talked to him before about this song, "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)". I kissed him with a heightened desire for him, so happy that this song was playing, so happy that this person would be playing this song.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

tom petty is the soundtrack to this, to so much

The past few days have been spent in a stupor, a cold-induced and cold medicine-induced stupor. Today, I climbed out of it, woke up at a decent hour, went over to some boy's house in my neighborhood had anonymous sex, hot sex, the pig variety in which I sucked this person's dick, ate their ass, serviced their feet, and then was fucked on his living room floor. It was a nice start to the day. The bike ride over to his house and back was also nice, nice to be in motion on my wheels, thinking about springtime, the sun shining, and me imagining the coming months on this bicycle and the joy that would soon be here with warmer weather, with sunnier weather, with exposed skin and ice cream trucks. I did some yoga. I cut off a lot of my hair, probably having something to do with me being aware of spring's arrival, wanting to somehow change with the season, to renew myself also. The haircut feels good, like it always does, somehow liberating to have chopped off so much hair. It is nice to let it grow for many reasons, chief among them though would be the joy obtained from cutting it off - and in that, a metaphor for so many things - that there is so much joy in building something up to tear it down, letting something grow to trim it back. I don't know exactly what that is a metaphor for, don't want to get to specific, but I am sure that you, astute thing you, have some ideas of your own, some associations unique to you, and let's perhaps leave it at that.

Last night, I went to a show curated by Dave Eggers, saw this person that used to be my idol in the flesh, and thought a lot about him specifically, then thought about what he meant to me at a certain period of my life and what he means, or should mean, to me now and I resolved to get more serious about writing (and how many times can I resolve this (though I did write in my journal by hand in bed last night for the first time in ages)). I then saw Cry-Baby, the musical, and the dance numbers were fantastic but I otherwise have ambivalent feelings about the production and what, if anything, it said, or whether it would be capable of saying such things through such a mouth, through a musical, realized that Waters' movies have such a deft touch that is lost when translated to something else, when in someone else's hands. I am going to go to the Ryan McGinley opening right now and need to get dressed, need to go, but am feeling good, feeling really happy to be out of my sick slump and alive and able to interact with other human beings, and able to engage with myself also, to think about things I haven't in a while and to feel perhaps even inspired.