Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

These are random thoughts

January 26, 2007

Just read Dave Eggers’ most enjoyable A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and thought the following:

He got there first. Like me, like my writing, what it was supposed to be, but with a more interesting story and more aggression, a manic streak at least twice as manic and flights of fancy gooier in their fanaticism and looser grammar, oh how I’d kill for that looser grammar and– How the hell did he have sex with 34 women? I haven’t had sex with 34 women. If I’d been born in my proper damn generation I could have had a bestselling memoir and lots of tragedy and sex.

Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky… it’s sort of about old people. There should be more things about old people. They’re neat.

On the set of Las Vegas two days ago:

Girl: “So, you have myspace, right?”
Me: “Uh.. yeah.”
“Headshots?”
“What?”
“Do you have your headshots up.”
“Oh. No. I’m not an actor.”
“Well what are you?”
“What am I?”
“What?”
“I’m a writer.”
“You’re too young to be a writer.”
“Well…”
“And too handsome.”
“Oh. Thanks.”
“You should be in front of the camera.”
“All writers have leprosy.”
“What? Can you write a part for me? Like a short?”

World Trade Center

August 15, 2006

A bunch of videogame articles over the past few years have compared the medium’s struggle to find artistic acceptance with the similar struggle the film industry went through. Apparently those articles jumped to conclusions by using past tense.

The new Andrea Berloff/Oliver Stone picture World Trade Center has seemingly half the country crying “too soon!” I can understand their objection. Watching the first United 93 trailer last year made me uncomfortable, and I too wondered about the motivations of the filmmakers. Then I saw the movie. It was a gruelling experience, but one well worth having, and one I chose to have. The film was tastefully done, informative and accurate. It brought back emotions in me that I’d repressed, emotions (namely rage) that I as a person and we as a nation should not be allowed to forget about. Writer/director Paul Greengrass did us all a favor making that film.

If you feel it’s too soon for this type of art, don’t see the movie, but don’t expect to be coddled either. As a society, we’ve healed enough to begin reflecting. If you as a person have not, understand your feelings are not universal.

Mostly what I want to know is this: where was the country’s rage when Jonathan Safran Foer wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close over a year ago? Where was the rage when poets across the nation used 9/11 as fodder for their slam sessions? Why are Oliver Stone’s pictures of synthetic wreckage five years later inciting so much more anger and anxiety than the networks endlessly airing footage of the towers falling?

The answer to this, judging from the editorials and online rants and letters-to-the-editor I’ve read, is that Hollywood is out for profit. Let me clarify a few points for those who write such things…

Hollywood is a location. One with high rent and more than its fair share of transvestite prostitutes. It is not a person or an organization and it cannot have an agenda.

We live in a capitalist society. This means that art (which is kind of a false concept anyway, but that’s a post unto itself) has become product. Jon Foer writes books, and he gets paid for it. Paul Greengrass makes movies, and he gets paid for that. The two main differences are that more people are interested in Greengrass’s medium of choice, and that Foer has fewer clever marketing types working to get his art sold. Maybe that’s only one difference.

Also, consider this: before he made United 93, Paul Greengrass directed The Bourne Supremacy, cementing him as a successful action filmmaker. Financially, making a controversial, unconventional $15 million film was a terrible career move.

Tell you what. If Take Two Interactive starts work on a WTC videogame, I’ll get upset along with the rest of you. Until then, stop picking on the cinema. It’s the only art form we have left that anyone seems to notice.

I love nerds

July 26, 2006

The computer industry is fascinating to me, in great part because it was founded by hobbyists, and shaped by the personalities of a handful of moderately disturbed nerdy kids. Maybe all industries form that way; I don’t know. But this one is well documented.

A few days ago, I checked out Robert X. Cringely’s highly enjoyable book on the subject, Accidental Empires, from the library. I remembered how much I love nerds when I got to page 18, and noticed that whoever had read the book last had picked their nose and wiped what came out in the crease. (In the interest of precision, as much snot was on page 19 as 18). I say “whoever read the book last,” only because it looks reasonably fresh, but who can tell? The library’s copy is from 1992, so it’s possible that those are 14 year old nerd boogers, preserved by the temperature-controlled climate of the book stacks.

I’d like to share with you Cringely’s (what a great name) description of nerds:

“Nerds are expressive and precise in the extreme but only when they feel like it. They look the way they do as a deliberate statement about personal priorities, not because they’re lazy. Their mode of communication is so precise that they can seem almost unable to communicate. Call a nerd Mike when he calls himself Michael and he likely won’t answer, since you couldn’t possibly be talking to him.”

Am I wrong in thinking the world might be a good and happy place if only we would all aspire to such behavior?

Tom Wolfe

July 18, 2006

I’ve been reading more blogs since I started writing this one a few weeks ago. And while I’ve found some good ones, and a handful of really great ones, I’m surprised at just how many people out there have nothing to say, but go ahead and say it anyway. Predictably, some of the best blogs have a singular focus (a franchise, if you will). But some of the best do not. There are personal journals out there, written by people who have many interests and no particular expertise, that can be as interesting as anything. The subject matter doesn’t necessarily make the difference, provided the writer is eloquent and insightful enough.

(footnote: wordpress’s spell check marks “blog” as not being a word. Odd, huh?)

It got me thinking about a conversation I had with the Yodelling Llama recently, where he mentioned he doesn’t like authors who do a bunch of research and then write about it, like Tom Wolfe. Presumably, he prefers writers who follow that old creative writing seminar cliche “write what you know,” like, say, Nick Hornby. Clearly both styles can work. Blogs present an interesting development, because most of them are written by people for whom this is not a full-time job, who are doing this because they feel like writing, and who don’t feel the need to provide any particular kind of subject matter to their audience. What this means, in short, is that a greater number of people out there are “writing what they know.”

I wouldn’t throw the dirt on Tom Wolfe just yet. Most professional writers still do research (usually an awful lot of it). But if blogs had existed during the dawn of the space program, and if Gus Grissom or John Glenn had kept one, would I still have wanted to read The Right Stuff? I specifically didn’t pick up I Am Charlotte Simmons in part because I can read that shit anywhere. As a greater and more varied number of people take up this hobby, will we see the death of the outsider writer?