Posts Tagged ‘Pale Fire’
August 5, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- You might, if you’re lucky, retire someday, and it’s never too early to start thinking about what you’ll do with all that free time. You may think you’ve got it all figured out—I’ll just build a wacky Disneyland spin-off in my backyard, you say to yourself. But that’s been done: “After retiring from a thirty-year career in auto manufacturing in the late eighties, [Dmytro] Szylak began work on his folk-art installation, tenuously mounted to the roof of the garage behind his Hamtramck duplex on Klinger Street and that of the adjoining property … Hamtramck Disneyland looms like a Cubist carnival. The superstructure is mostly wood, strung with lights and painted in the bright Ukrainian national colors of yellow and blue, as well as red, purple, and green. This forms the base for an avalanche of found objects—Szylak was seemingly obsessed with propellers and fans, American idols like Elvis, and particularly the type of blow-mold horses employed in bouncy toys for toddlers. An entire herd of them runs wild across the installation, and two of them rear up inside the arch constructed over the front gate—one of the only indicators on the street side of what lies behind the house.”
- Reviewing Colson Whitehead’s new novel, Brit Bennett looks at the difficulties inherent in telling stories about slavery: “The problem with the slave narrative is its predictability: A person is born in bondage to a cruel master; he or she observes a first whipping, struggles to obtain literacy, attempts to flee, fails, and later successfully escapes to the North. If the purpose of autobiography is to uniquely render a unique life, then slave narratives often feel formulaic, the narrators indistinct … Unlike white autobiographers, black authors could not expect that readers would approach their works on good faith—they anticipated a skeptical, if not hostile, audience. To make their stories seem authentic, ex-slave narrators came to rely on certain established patterns. ‘This was perhaps the greatest challenge to the imagination of the Afro-American autobiographer,’ Andrews writes. ‘The reception of his narrative as truth depended on the degree to which his artfulness could hide his art.’ ”
- There’s one slave narrative I’m not sure anyone predicted: Ghostwriter, the PBS children’s show from the nineties, where a bunch of Brooklyn kids solve mysteries by following a colorful, zippy phantasm-blob thing that draws their attention to the letters and words around them. Per Nick Ripatrazone, “After the series ended, the writer Kermit Frazier revealed that Ghostwriter was a runaway slave ‘killed by slave catchers and their dogs as he was teaching other runaway slaves how to read in the woods.’ Though viewers at the time wouldn’t have known this backstory, these tragic origins are also somehow fitting: During both his life and his existence as a spirit, Ghostwriter finds truth and freedom in words … Ghostwriter often focused on the humbling idea that literature—an endeavor sometimes seen as elitist or inaccessible—is for everyone and can bring people closer together.”
- Jill Soloway, of Transparent fame, is adapting Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick for TV—as Jason McBride writes, “she’ll be turning one of the most compelling cult novels of the last twenty years into a television show with the potential to be as groundbreaking in its examination of gender politics as her first … [Soloway] identified intensely with Kraus’s decision to use her own name, biography, and, as Soloway put it, her ‘horribleness.’ It helped her, she says, to reframe the shame she herself once felt about her TV writing: ‘I don’t know how to write about anything other than myself. I can’t write about dragons, I don’t care about crime, I don’t want to write a hospital show. I only want to write about somewhat unlikable Jewish women having really inappropriate ideas about life and sex.’ ”
- In which Edmund White comes to a sound conclusion about Nabokov: “I have recently reread Pale Fire (1962) which is, I realize only now, the great gay comic novel, an equally funny and sometimes tender portrait of a homosexual madman, Charles Kinbote … What is perhaps the funniest scene involves a putative assassin, Gradus, and a lad named Gordon. Since this is a moment completely imagined by Kinbote (and, by any standard, not observed), the king’s imagination runs wild. He ‘dresses’ the comely Gordon in one clichéd gay outfit after another. At first the tanned fifteen-year-old (‘dyed a nectarine hue by the sun’) is in a ‘leopard-spotted loincloth.’ Then he is ‘wreathed about the loins with ivy.’ A second later he is fellating “a pipe of spring water” and wiping his hands ‘on his black bathing trunks.’ ”
February 24, 2016 | by Adam Sobsey
Game Theory’s Lolita Nation, thirty years later.
This month, Omnivore Recordings rereleased Lolita Nation, the 1987 double album by the San Francisco pop band Game Theory, who were dissolved in 1990 by their leader, Scott Miller. (Obligatory note: he’s not the Scott Miller from the V-Roys). It’s the latest and most prized offering in Omnivore’s reissue of Game Theory’s complete catalog, long out of print—original pressings of Lolita Nation sold for more than a hundred dollars on eBay.
Lolita Nation checks off all the boxes of the sprawling, ambitious double album: its twenty-seven tracks, mostly of Miller’s knotty but grabby songs, are interspersed with outbursts of experimental noise, rash new musical ideas, a backward-masked Beatles crib, and references to the Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, Joyce, and Kubrick. There’s a song in 5/4 time, loosey-goose instrumental interludes, and self-referential snippets of other Game Theory songs—a trademark Joycean habit of Miller’s—all of it marshaled into an apparent concept album about the anxious transition from youth to adulthood. But Lolita Nation defies thematic pigeonholing, just as its songs resist easy listening, and it still sounds fresh and compelling almost three decades after its release. Mitch Easter, who produced it along with five more of Miller’s albums, told me, “Scott was always modern in a way that took me a minute to say, Are you sure?” Read More »
January 9, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Michel Houellebecq has announced that he’s stopped promoting his new novel in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack.
- A history of Nabokov in adaptation: “Filmmakers have mined all of Nabokov’s movie-friendly novels … But the adaptation I’m still waiting for is Pale Fire, which pretty much everyone agrees is unfilmable.”
- Who among us hasn’t thought long and hard about “what might have tickled the funny bones of folks suffering under Stalinism”? The Suicide, a 1928 play by Nikolai Erdman, was apparently so funny that Soviet authorities forbade it from being staged until 1982, ten years after its author had died. Now the play has been adapted for contemporary Western audiences, but “this bleakly comic portrait of desperate lives in Soviet Russia feels wheezy and labored, ultimately about as much fun as a winter holiday in Siberia. (Grim footnote: Mr. Erdman was exiled there after being arrested on political grounds in 1933.)”
- On John Waters, who has a new show at Marianne Boesky Gallery: “He is the only funny conceptual artist I can think of. He is—like the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo—a rude satirist who sends up the absurdities of American culture, in particular our obsession with fame and eternal youth.”
- “Bitcoin may well be the world’s worst-performing currency. In 2014 it lost more than half of its value against the dollar, beating even Ukraine’s hryvnia and the Russian rouble. But measured by the number of new books it has inspired, bitcoin is top of the pile. Nearly 200 titles about the crypto-currency came out last year, according to Amazon. Another dozen will hit the shelves in the coming months.”
February 21, 2012 | by Paul Wachter
Although V. S. Naipaul is my favorite living writer, I resisted reading Patrick French’s critically acclaimed biography of Sir Vidia, published in 2008, until last month. The reviews alone presented a deeply unflattering picture: Naipaul as misogynist, racist, skinflint, serial adulterer, and Hindu nationalist. (And to think the biography was authorized!)
But I had read nearly all of Naipaul’s work and some of it, including his best novel, A Bend in the River (from whose opening line, “The world is what it is,” French takes his title), many times. So when I happened across the biography at my local library, I picked it up thinking it was as close to a new work of Naipaul’s as I was likely to see.
It’s a masterful effort, a nimble admixture of critical appreciation and salacious gossip. But there were no real surprises in the text; the reviews had limned the most revealing and unsettling episodes of Naipaul’s life.
There was, however, a surprise buried in French’s acknowledgments. Among the hundred-odd names, sandwiched between Derek Walcott (Naipaul’s fellow Trinidadian and rival of sorts) and Andrew Wylie (Naipaul’s agent), was one Kanye West.
Now it’s true that the rapper-producer’s father is a former Black Panther, and Naipaul wrote an essay “Michael X and the Black Power Killings in Trinidad.” And West’s late mother was an English professor. Was it possible that Naipaul and West shared a connection beyond their inflated egos?
I e-mailed French. Read More »