Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday miscellany

At Harvard Magazine, Jonathan Shaw has an interesting piece on the university library in the digital age.

The Literary Saloon on the unedifying behavior of Orlando Figes (this includes a good collection of links to pretty much all the coverage of the story as it broke - I do feel his behavior falls into the gray area between character flaws and mental illness, but not in a way that should let him off the hook...).

I saw an absolutely dreadful play last night (that link is to Ben Brantley's review of last year's earlier incarnation of the show) - as G. and I sat there stony-faced amidst a theater full of perplexingly appreciative fans, all I could think was that (a) the performer bore an unnerving resemblance to that very striking photograph of the young Erica Jong and (b) I could hardly imagine a play that more horrifyingly and profoundly offended against all of the canons of taste I hold dear. The high level of competency in performance and production only made it worse, really - I have been rereading Cintra Wilson recently, she is the prime commentator (perhaps with Andrew O'Hagan) on fame and narcissism and I wanted to read the truly scathing review she surely would write of this performance...

(But we had a delicious dinner afterwards at Esca - I had an amazingly succulent brodetto that was mussels, clams and scallops stewed in a white wine broth with fresh peas and sorrel, then a piece of seared yellowtail, and a rhubarb tart for dessert, all accompanied by a very good dry Riesling. It was a decadent and palate-pleasing meal that caused G. to comment that he thought it might be wise if he would switch from reviewing plays to reviewing restaurants!)

On the topic of Cintra Wilson, I will also note that a reread of Colors Insulting to Nature has reminded me that it is truly one of the funniest novels I have ever read. It has a sort of propulsive energy that makes the prose difficult to excerpt without sacrificing something of the appealing roughness, for which reason I offer a four-paragraph sequence from early in the book that shows something of its charms. The second paragraph seems to me perfectly crafted - look at the parenthesis (i.e. think how much less funny and ingenious it would be if the parenthesis started before the words "The worst was") and the pacing; there is no lingering, things move unrelentingly forward without any of that mugging for an audience response that is what is objectionable about much conventionally 'good' comic timing (see aforementioned dreadful play).

Anyway, here is the sequence, with apologies if it represents an infringement of copyright (basically I think everybody should buy this book and read it, alongside The Last Samurai!):
Johnny Budrone had been a promising rodeo bull rider in his youth until a particularly nasty throw crushed one of his vertebrae and tossed the muscles around it into a splintery melange he called "crabmeat." Peppy first saw him performing at the Lucky Seven club with his air gun act; with one in each hand, sporting a pair of yellow-tinted aviator-frame glasses, he would shoot a flurry of pellets into large, formless heaps of white balloons, loudly sculpting them into a kind of pneumatic topiary: rabbit heads, hearts, clubs, spades. The rest of the time he drank alone, a lot, to offset his constant back pain. Being another regular at Bil's Red Turkey, the solitary woman at the other end of the bar, who sometimes had jet-black hair, sometimes auburn, became a compelling enigma. One night Johnny was drunk enough to approach Peppy, who was wearing her Natural Honey Blonde wig, and drawl, "So what's your hair down there like, anyhow"--gesturing at her crotch with his Marlboro--"Neapolitan?"

It was not the best pickup line Peppy had ever heard, nor was it the worst. The worst was: "You wanna come in the john with me and put Bactine on my stump?" (Dan "Claw" Haverman, June 1974.) Johnny's line, at least, suggested a sexually viable man with an active, if tasteless, sense of humor.

Apart from the exploded veins, bowlegs, psoriasis, and gangrenous-looking assortment of blurring tattoos, Johnny was a handsome man, and Peppy felt a warm twinkling in herself that had almost nothing to do with the four or seven Fuzzy Navels she had consumed. The subsequent affair with Johnny Budrone was actually the closest she'd ever come to the kind of ovary-squeezing, sublimely unbearable, ice-cream headache-y love she had imagined as a hormonally exhilarated teen.

"That Johnny knew how to treat a lady," Peppy would sigh, later.

1 comment:

  1. Haha! Wonderful! I'm going to read "Colors Insulting to Nature" right away. Wish I could think of what that excerpt reminds me of.