Thursday, March 25, 2004

(Stray thoughts. I haven't decided whether to include the bracketed sentence expanding on the sentence before it, or leave it out.)

Everyone sits in a fluorescent-lit room, working. Occasionally sounds can be heard but for the most part there is silence. Next to each worker, sitting on the ground, a computer makes a gentle, white-noise sound. There are close to 100 people in the room, but in most corners it feels like only 1 because there are partitions around them all. Even a tiny window between cubicles would connect them socially, unify them a little in their vocational tasks, but there is no window and they are all staring at an illuminated square of glass, staring in the same direction (west), and their human interaction consists of typing and the electronic representation of letters, and most of them do not even join others for a common lunch hour. They go home in the evening--knowing nothing more about the person they sat less than six feet away from for the better part of the day than when they arrived in the morning--and watch television until bedtime.

There are moments when I feel as detached from everything around me as I did in South Carolina, sitting on the steps of the Capitol Building at night, realizing that I didn’t know a soul in the city around me, that I no longer had a reason for being in Columbia, South Carolina as opposed to any other American city, and trying to quell a rising sense of despair or alienation or entrapment or maybe even insanity. These are strong thoughts that normally we don’t speak about. They are kept inside with the marred remembrances of youth. We speak of the happy days, but we privately bury those moments in life when something went fearfully wrong, like a scene from Mystic River, our hearts rising in our throats and our minds forever seared by the new awareness of a primal evil that seems foreign to this world until we meet it face-to-face in an instant like that. [As the car drives slowly down the block we stare back at the familiar world we can never again return to, because it will be forever changed after a week spent in hell.]

I wonder if we will sit in these cages through successive generations, or if we will make some sense of our waking hours before we pass on, if we will be able to look back on the years of our life and see that things got better, that we gained some measure of companionship with 4 or 5 people and could count on them no matter what happened.

I wonder if some day the computers will stop altogether, in unison, and our great faith in technology will be plunged into electronic darkness instantly. I wonder will we enter another dark age, maybe of our own doing, will we rue the time saved and the efficiency attained by ordering zeroes and ones in the right combination out to a billion places, and walk away from the electronic possibilities. Our world moves at a pace now that doesn’t invite reflection, and as long as we still get updates and new hardware and larger television screens we don’t want to reflect, we wouldn’t remember how to analyze, we only want the next dose of soma that Huxley wrote about so effectively, so viscerally.

Someone characterized me today, commented on my independent nature with: “Writers are introverts.” It caught me off guard, because the person who said it never struck me as the philosophical type, but thinking about the statement I don’t know whether to agree or argue. To whatever extent that it is true for many writers, maybe it’s only because they are searching for a common denominator, and haven’t found it. Maybe small talk standing by the coffee maker for 45 seconds doesn’t cut it. Maybe those writers who are introverts feel a nagging desire to be extroverts. Maybe we’re all Lost in Translation and the greatest fear of our lives is that we’ll find someone that we connect with on the most basic level, but know that it is fleeting and that the context of our lives doesn’t match up and that nothing can ever come from it.

[I'm half-tempted to conclude that everything above is sophomorish, Sylvia-Plath wanna-be garbage, as if pseudo-intellectual depression can have value if it extends for at least a page. I don't know; it's hard to assess your own writing. Either way, wonders what a couple servings of sherry will do for you. ]

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Do we really need a Dawn of the Dead remake?

I reject the idea that any source and any material can be raised to the level of worthwhile. Some would say Dawn of the Dead is a classic. I find myself wondering how people can be entertained--at a popcorn-eating level--by watching a movie like this.

I'm not opposed to the use of violence in movies; never doing so would be escapist. Art should reflect or contrast with reality in a way that aids our understanding of life. But to perpetuate gore as genre--to me there's something wrong there.
Unfortunately, I sometimes act as if the whole world is nothing more than the David Ziegler show.

Friday, March 12, 2004

A brief description of the novel Underworld, after a friend asked me what I thought of it:

Don DeLillo's Underworld was the first book I read after finishing my undergraduate course work. I was delighted to be free to read whatever I wanted, and dismayed I knew so little about contemporary fiction (which is still a bit of a hole). So I heard all this buzz about Underworld that had just come out, and read it, and then bought it.

Bear in mind, I've loved fiction more consistently than any other interest since about birth, so I'm pretty easily satisfied. And I get caught up as much with the way an author writes as the actual plot. (Which explains my great love for the novel Lolita.)

But with Underworld, even if you don't finish its immensity, it doesn't matter, since the chronology moves backward through time like the movie Memento. It's enough to encounter DeLillo for awhile and get the sense that there's enough perceptiveness available that it leaks off the page and into your own brain, making you smarter.

Just pull a copy off a library shelf some slow afternoon and read the opening chapter, about a kid who skips school to catch the famous Dodgers / Yankees World Series game, and walks home with the bullet from Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard Round the World." The actual baseball has never been found, which DeLillo uses to advantage--it ties together his sprawling post-modern structure as the ball passes through various owner's hands. Picture DeLillo nowhere near academia, refusing interviews, pecking away on a manual typewriter to complete his 827 pages. All that's missing is the stylish hat, New York address, and older birth date. The opening sentences below should get you started...


He speaks in your voice, American, and there's a shine in his eye that's halfway hopeful.

It's a school day, sure, but he's nowhere near the classroom. He wants to be here instead, standing in the shadow of this old rust-hulk of a structure, and it's hard to blame him -- this metropolis of steel and concrete and flaky paint and cropped grass and enormous Chesterfield packs aslant on the scoreboards, a couple of cigarettes jutting from each. Longing on a large scale is what makes history. This is just a kid with a local yearning but he is part of an assembling crowd, anonymous thousands off the buses and trains, people in narrow columns tramping over the swing bridge above the river, and even if they are not a migration or a revolution, some vast shaking of the soul, they bring with them the body heat of a great city and their own small reveries and desperations, the unseen something that haunts the day...

Thursday, March 11, 2004

At some point on the road of technological progress, no one is going to have any idea what we’re really doing. We might as well tape little scraps of data to our bodies and roll around on the floor.

Free Counter