Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lessons From Things

Some things are not other things. Red, for instance, is not white. Red, however, is definitely pink. Bicycles are not wheels, money is not evil, sin is a joke, but for me its divine, which is a lyric from a song about Crime And Punishment, which is a book, which is a means of travelling, which is bicycles. Although some things are not other things, everything is everything. Which is a song by Lauren Hill. Who happens to be black. And black is every colour, including red, white, pink.

Love this blog.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Shay As In Stadium And Bon As In Bon Jovi

Loving the wind and weather of it, the stubborn death-by-a-thousand-cuts of it, the (why not?) cock-sure nickel-plated refusal of the damn beast. No, I am not loving it. Spring will not leave. Winter and the wolf at the door? Never mind, we have a harlequin spring shuddering on the front steps, hot air and cold air blowing from the same bent-toothed smile every week, I swear. Stop it, spring. What ever happened to global warming, that faithful friend in hard times, that carbon-fueled creature-comfort of all warm-blooded mammals, God excepting those out of Africa for which global warming will be very hard future times? Global warming, that bubbling pot at the end of the super-heated rainbow, is not glittering very brightly in this corner of paradise—that is, the new definition of paradise, where the walls of jasper are replaced with piles of shoddy slush, the casting down of crowns is replaced with atypical road rage, and the sweet hosannas of the angels making perfumed numbers and visible song has been washed out with early advertisements for garden sales and, do not forget, late sales for over-looked Easter chocolate. And it is cold. And it is not cold. And the lawn in front of the steps is ice. And the lawn is an undrained pool of stagnant water and last-year's pine-needles, and, by God, will it never end? It will never end. Things feel like they are never going to—

Wonder Boys + Michael Chabon Reportedly written in seven months, this novel is a minor masterpiece, confident, sure, speaking with deliberate voice and sure-footed pacing. Seven months—but that is a bit misleading, surely. After his brilliant debut, his UC Irvine master's thesis The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh, Chabon's second novel was to be titled The Fountain. After five years, however, Chabon was still writing The Fountain. Advised to move on, he was having trouble dropping the novel, even after it zeppelinned to 1500 pages. Yet his failure to complete his novel becomes the success of his second published novel, Wonder Boys , where the protagonist's similar failure to complete his own seven-year's-in-the-making opus becomes the symbol of the protagonist's failure at life in general. Wonder Boys is the coming of age story of a fifty-plus year old Grady Tripp, a story of how a man's inner doppelganger can pull him down, indeed, perversely delights in pulling him down. Chabon quotes Conrad before the novel begins—"Let them think what they liked, but I didn't mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank—but that's not the same thing"—he could also have used Saint Paul's self analysis: "That which I would not do, I do; that which I would do, I do not do." This is a story of conflicting pairs, even doubles set against doubles. Grady Tripp finds himself, at various points in the novel, opposed or acting against every other person which appears within its pages. And he loses every confrontation, decisively, despairingly. Like a fool, he is tilting at windmills, but the windmills are all of his own construction. Grady Tripp is his own victim, but, victimising himself, he is taking down everyone along with him. He is narcissistic and oblivious, always until too late, of the importance of other people. But Tripp's saving graces are threefold: 1) he's an interesting guy, as self-deprecating as he is narcissistic, and never narcissistic in his self-deprecation—for his novelist's eye allows no mercy towards himself, and thus allows his audience to feel quite merciful toward him; 2) he always receives the ample consequences of his actions—there is no escaping the jury of his peers, nor, apparently, a dog, a snake, or a tuba, all of which come back to haunt him; 3) and, lastly, Grady Tripp resolves to be a better man, to act upon his self-clarity, to not disappoint others, to be worthy of respect. And in all this, where is Grady Tripp different from the average reader of Chabon's novel?