< new books and late-summer

08/12/18 (17:26)

I bought a copy of Ghost World (Clowes; they made a movie of it with a young GND Scarlett Johansson in the early 00s, if that explains anything; I’ve already read the library’s copy, and wanted my own), plus an Ishiguro book that was cheap (Pale View of Hills). I think Ishiguro is level-headed and understatedly weird. I was also sent a proof of the new Murakami book, which is coming out in October, and which has so far not impressed me, although all of his books are easy to read for the mysteries that they are. This one seems to want to acknowledge its mysteries as it creates them, successively setting up supposedly deeper and retro-dependent mysteries; I’m not yet convinced of the pay-off. Seems concerned with ‘art.’ Is he trying something po-mo? The book is banned in Hong Kong without proper packaging due to ‘lurid content’ that I evidently haven’t reached, but signs and symbols point to either incest or whatever The Great Gatsby would have become had Gatsby and Carraway made a go at it. For now it’s going to sit on the backburner, nibbled & snacked on, being 700 pp. for (as of yet) no discernable reason.

I have been re-watching the first season of The West Wing, and I am appreciating now, in a way I didn’t years ago when my mother had my siblings and me watch the whole series at least three times over, how each character is a box with a few big, lasting traits, with smaller, more mutable traits fitting between the aforementioned boulders like pebbles, and then like sand. Boxes of rocks. It is optimism with urgency under the shadow of the early Bush Jr. administration; its primary writer was forced out for bad behavior and overconsumption of weed. Somewhere deep in my bones I remember all the season arcs—I see characters brought on to develop and connect so that their death or moral downfall will be made all the more upsetting or even nauseating a few seasons down the road. Plus that Leo eventually actually dies, viz. his actor gets heart-attacked, which they also write into the show, and I can’t imagine how that scene felt to film, the one where they find him in his office (his body understandably not pictured), my not being able to separate the on-screen chumminess between mains from the off-screen variety, which I know nothing about, this effect or development one of the most seductive things about serialized TV. The dynamics have to be stable but also surface-level dynamic or tenuous from hour-block to hour-block, which is in rough analogy to not how we are as people but how we think personalities ought to work: pyramids with crumbly tips eroded by the winds of self-reflection. Also when did intro sequences begin to take themselves so seriously?—the pompous fade-ins & snare drums of The West Wing were something to root for vs the more recent dark moody flashy CG stuff that prefaces most of what’s happening these days (which, on most streaming platforms, can be skipped with no hassle anyway, so why not be stranger with it: the sure way to have your stuff uncriticized is I guess to make it so dark as to be near invisible?).

Is the image of someone watching serialized TV on a streaming service so boring or socially faux pas (but not like, in a cool hip or even transgressive way, even theoretically) such that it can never enter into modern lit or TV? All portrayals of extreme apathy paired with media consumption I have read or seen recently involve either advanced corporeal hermiticism (living on a mountain, in some quasi-literary backwater like LA (looking at you, Moshfegh), going out only at night and eating plain tofu, etc.), or pretty esoteric media. I don’t want ‘populist’ apathy, but boredom seems always to have to be made interesting. Why can’t the boredom be boring with other things interesting besides? I feel like a lot of people engage in interesting mundanity (endless personal projects, self-help regimens, parties in basements with bare light-bulbs and absinthe) which they then take a break from the stress of the providing or intake of, engaging in what are more restorative and somehow less interesting boring or ritualistic behaviors. Things too boring to even criticize. Netflix. Online monopoly. I can’t even criticize it, I can only criticize the lack of criticism!—the difference between what is okay to be bogged down by trying to do, and what is necessary but, like the lamest of skin infections, not reasonable or worthwhile to speak about in public.

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