In Which Bret Easton Ellis Finally Comes to Understand Women

Books, Writers

Bret Easton Ellis took to Twitter last night to share some more of his profound insights.

Here, he sets the stage for us and delivers a powerful thesis (all in under 140 characters!):

And of course, some supporting details (including a bit of biology):

Mr. Ellis even replies to one of his followers! (I like the touch of self loathing):

A rousing conclusion statement:

And a fitting epilogue:

Bravo!

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Walt Whitman’s Bathers

Books, Literature, Poetry, Writers

A strange and sensual riff from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself – 

Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.

She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.

Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.

Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth
bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.

The beards of the young men glisten’d with wet, it ran from their
long hair,
Little streams pass’d all over their bodies.

An unseen hand also pass’d over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.

The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the
sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending
arch,
They do not think whom they souse with spray.

Charles Bukowski

Books, Literature, theft

I must have been in the 1oth or 11th grade when I borrowed three Charles Bukowski novels from M***ael J***ings. These were:

Women, easily my favorite and Bukowski’s best. I didn’t return this one.

The short story collection, Tales of Ordinary Madness. I kept this one too, but it is no longer in my possession. Loaned out, never to be returned.

And another collection, The Most Beautiful Woman in Town. I think I gave this back; anyway, I don’t have it anymore.

I was reading Henry Miller and Hemingway at the time, and macho Bukowski fit right in. Something about being a teenager, trying to gain access to the “adult world”–or something like the adult world. How to act, what to say. I read just about all the short stories that Bukowski wrote. Factotum and Post Office were two of my favorites. Everyday when I see our mailman I think of Post Office.

 Our mailman is old, and skinny as a sick girl, and he has a nose like a bird’s beak to boot. He runs his entire route; he has a strange little knock-kneed hustle. He always tells me to “Stay safe” when I see him. He’s withered. Post Office makes working for the post office sound like an annihilating, damning, Sisyphean task. I wonder: “Does the mailman not feel safe?”

Charles Bukowski

Bukowski painted some pictures.

Factotum was recently made into a movie starring Matt Dillon as Bukowski’s alter-ego, Henry Chinaski. Mickey Rourke played the “real” Bukowski in a horrible-looking movie called Barfly. I haven’t seen either film.

So Bukowski’s sort of been “branded” commodified as “type”–like Hemingway and Miller (and HST, and Anaïs Nin, and Wm Burroughs,  and Nietzsche, and so on) He becomes a stolen writer, a lazy gesture, a footnote in the movie Swingers. Then again, maybe a few people saw that movie and picked up Hollywood, a really funny late-period Bukowski novel about making the film that will come to be Barfly. In Hollywood, Bukowski endures the trouble of having other people manipulate his writing and sweats sweats sweats that he might have sold out.

Danny Rolling: From Hell–Part II

Books

 While I took an afternoon nap, serial killer Danny Rolling was killed by the State of Florida. Sixteen years ago in Gainesville, FL, Rolling went on a killing spree, murdering and mutilating five college students.

I graduated from the University of Florida in 2001. A decade after the murders, you would meet someone–a grad student, a law student, a native–who had a story about that weekend. They made it sound scary as hell.

Anyone who’s lived in Gainesville or even spent some time there will be familiar with the 34th Street mural wall. One panel of the wall is dedicated to the victims of the slaying: Sonja Larson, Christina Powell, Christa Hoyt, Tracy Paules, and Manuel Taboada. The panel seems to be repainted annually; sometimes due to vandalism.

Go here for a detailed chronological account of the murders

These murders were horrific, terrible crimes; random and indeterminate, but premeditated nonetheless. Rolling mutilated the corpses, beheading one of them; he also took body parts from the victims. There is no doubt in my mind that this man was a monster, a killer out of the woods like Grendel. And he got exactly what he wanted: fame and infamy and attention. He channeled hell and brought it to earth; I’m sure that hell still exists for some of his victim’s families to this day. Pragmatically, it is right and proper that Rolling be executed.

I still find myself opposed to the death penalty. I don’t pity Rolling and I don’t aim to add to his fame–but he has bought his fame by personifying abject horror, and this is Halloween horror-time. And as just and right as it seems that Rolling die, I still believe that it is wrong for our state government to kill him. I am not arguing that the death penalty is not a deterrent, or that the appeals process death row inmates go through is just as costly as life imprisonment; my argument is simple: murdering people is wrong. It is wrong and therefore against the law, so we (the “we” of community and society who consent to just government) do not kill. If we kill each other we cannot thrive. Rolling’s crime illustrates the human and social disruption of murder. These killings, these gruesome hyperboles of annihilation, show exactly why it is so important that government discontinue use of the death penalty.

Many, many times I have thought: “That person should be killed. That person should be shot.” I have had these murderous thoughts about awful psychopaths and child molesters and about people I am in strong disagreement with and people who have cut me off in traffic. I have had them in brief passing and I have concentrated on them with intensity, giving them much of my time. However, I know that these feelings are rooted in revenge fantasy and rotten wish-fulfillment. I think that when we buy into the death penalty as a punishment, we validate murder. We endorse a moral paradox: killing is wrong, so we will kill you. This type of social paradox becomes a vicious circle. The revenge cycle is metonymized so perfectly in everything from gang warfare to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Confronted with the sheer evidence of such futility and emptiness in violence, I think it only sensical and right that we choose to end capital punishment. Otherwise we only help to maintain the hell that Rolling has channelled, a hell we choose to keep.

Moby Dick

Books, Literature

Another one courtesy of the Andrew Jackson High School Library. Not really a straight up theft; it was a remainder that the librarian gave to me.

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read, right up there with Infinite Jest, King Lear, and The Fortress of Solitude. Everyone should read this book before they die.

Blue (Moby Dick), Jackson Pollock. 1943.

James Weldon Johnson — Part II

Books, Literature

In 1912, James Weldon Johnson anonymously published The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. It was later republished under Johnson’s name in 1927, at the acme of the Harlem Renaissance.

The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man strikes me as a thoroughly postmodern move. This fictional novel is presented as the true life story of a talented man who chooses to “pass” as white so that he might have greater–or at least equal–access to opportunity in America. Autobiography is a fictional novel “passing” as another genre, autobiography. This mirroring wasn’t intended as just a fancy rhetorical device–it was a subversive, incendiary gesture on JWJ’s part, meant to question the mores of white America. In fact, after it’s initial publication, several reviews were written suggesting that the book was a hoax, the premise of these reviews being that a black man could never pass as a white man–let alone marry a white woman and become a landowner of some importance.

Ultimately, the voice in Autobiography problematizes all easy readings. The ex-colored man is a bona fide narcissist with an almost preternatural ability to succeed at everything he attempts–except of course when he is thwarted by racist social norms. The reader seems most encouraged to sympathize with the narrator at these times, when the ex-colored man’s natural and cultivated abilities are confronted or ousted by the dominant system. At other times, the narrator condescends working class blacks he terms “inferior”; he also frequently wishes to sanitize “primitive” forms of black art, such as spirituals and ragtime music, by recasting them in a classical, canonical mode. The ex-colored man clearly feels frustration that the acumen of his genius is constantly delimited by his color, but this frustration sometimes seems aimed at his fellow blacks.

All of this makes for a challenging but brisk and enjoyable read. Paired with JWJ’s real autobiography, Along This Way, a savvy reader can come up with all kinds of ironic, postmodern readings. Or straightforward readings. Or whatever. Read it yourself.

James Weldon Johnson — Part I

Books, Literature

Everything in Jacksonville, Florida should be named after native son James Weldon Johnson.

 

Well, maybe not everything–that could get confusing. But as it stands, the only thing we Jacksonvillians have bearing that great man’s name is a middle school, and an obscure plaque somewhere downtown–which is great. People love plaques.

James Weldon Johnson Middle School feeds Stanton College Preparatory School, an excellent school that JWJ served as principal of from 1894 to 1902. In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I’m a proud graduate of the Stanton School (go Blue Devils!). Under JWJ’s plan, Stanton became the first black high school in Florida. In his autobiography, Along This Way, JWJ discloses the genius of his plans for educational reform: he simply asked the eighth grade class to come back again, partitioned off some rooms, and based the new high school program on the curriculum of his alma mater Atlanta University (now known as Clark). The real genius of this is that he didn’t bother to ask the all-white board of education, who undoubtedly would’ve found some way to say “no.” He just did it, and then let the board come see what he had done. Brilliant.

Why isn’t there a single prominent statue of JWJ in Jacksonville? Or a library named after him? Or even a street? It seems to me that the average Jacksonvillian simply isn’t aware of JWJ, or has only a passing knowledge of who he was, not realizing that he was born and raised here.

So:

1. I will continue writing about James Weldon Johnson on this blog.

2. I challenge every Jacksonvillian to read a book by James Weldon Johnson.

 3. Maybe if we read his books, we’ll come to feel his genius, celebrate the fact that he is from our hometown, and honor him appropriately.

Kinski Uncut

Books, Literature, theft

 

I took this from the book swap at my NOVA school in Shinjuku. I swapped in a video tape of a Nick at Nite Cosby Show marathon. This was immediately disappeared to great controversy. 

I later found out Kinski Uncut actually belonged to one of the Japanese students at Shinjuku-nishiguchi, who had given it to a teacher there. I didn’t know who Klaus Kinski was but I loved the pink cover. Also, at the time I consumed just about anything written in English. Since then I’ve seen him in a number of films, including his famous turn as the titular character in Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God.

Kinski Uncut (the punning title recalls the South Park movie) is actually a really cool, twisted autobio about a true weirdo. Kinski describes the destruction of his family, his POW internment in post-WWII Germany, acting out Goethe on tavern tables, trying to kill Werner Herzog, not getting the respect he deserves…and fucking lots and lots of different women. Kinski doesn’t seem to be able to not have sex with women, and if his claims in this book are true, he puts Wilt Chamberlain to shame.

I suspect that Ricotta Park, a notorious biblioklept, may be in current possession of this book.

A Raisin in the Sun

Books, Literature

diddy and son

You might have read this Lorraine Hansberry gem in high school. Walter Lee’s raging patriarchal propriety, displaced by a racist and hypocritical society, seems to answer the question (or call?) put forth in the Langston Hughes poem that prefaces the book; he explodes.

The videotaped stage production with Danny “Predator II” Glover is far more satisfying than the still-good but overrated 1961 version with Sidney Poitier. Sidney Poitier’s Stir Crazy is fantastic.