The Airborne Toxic Event.

So I’ve told you that my favorite author is Amy Hempel, right? Let me share with you what is possibly my second favorite author (though it’s a tight knit cluster towards the top of great literature, the post modernist), Don Delillo.

I’ll make this simple and easy

Name: Don Delillo.

Born: November 20, 1936 in New York.

Died: Thankfully not yet. He’s 72.

Best known novel: Either White Noise or Underworld.

Last published novel: Falling Man, about a survivor of 9/11. The title, of course, is based on this classic image:

Which is entitled “The Falling Man” and was taken by Richard Drew at 9:41 AM on September 11, 2001.

Next novel: Omega Point is the title, which is… so very intriguing. It’ll be his 15th novel. It’s scheduled for release in February, 2010, which is too far away.

Plot description: “A young filmmaker visits the desert home of a secret war adviser in the hopes of making a documentary. The situation is complicated by the arrival of the older man’s daughter, and the narrative takes a dark turn.”

from here.

Things that primarily inspire him:Abstract expressionism, foreign films, and jazz.” Also, the things we do to history. And the things that history does to us in return.

Themes he likes/keeps returning to in his work: rampant consumerism, novelty intellectualism, underground conspiracies, the disintegration and re-integration of the family, and the promise of rebirth through violence (from wikipedia, but wikipedia is right). Also, mass media pollution, the collision and interchangeability of words and images, and the draining of meaning and context from an event as our lives are filled up with more and more simulacra.

Writers who cite him as a major influence: Bret Easton Ellis, Jonathan Franzen, and David Foster Wallace.

His place in the world: Harold Bloom has named him as one of the four major novelists of his time, the other three being Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, and Phillip Roth.

His humble beginnings: The world of advertising. He wrote image ads for Sears Roebuck amongst others but eventually quit to start his writing career, including his first novel.

About the start of his writing career, he said: “I did some short stories at that time, but very infrequently. I quit my job just to quit. I didn’t quit my job to write fiction. I just didn’t want to work anymore.”

Forays into film: Only one screenplay so far, for a film entitled Game 6, about the 1986 World Series. The script was written in the 90s, but the film (I don’t know when it was actually produced) came out in 2006, and stars Michael Keaton (who would later go on to do a shitty looking thriller entitled White Noise that has nothing to do with the Delillo book), Griffin Dunne, and Robert Downey, jr. and has a score by Yo La Tengo. The story is classic Delillo.

Theatre: He’s written four plays, two of which, The Day Room and Valparaiso, I’m happy to say I own and have read. The other two, Love-Lies-Bleeding and The Word For Snow, I have not yet.

Just a few of his awards: The National Book Award (for White Noise) and the Jerusalem Prize, which is given to writers who deal with the themes of human freedom, society, politics, and government. And he also won the 2009 Common Wealth Award for Literature.

from here.

The first line of Underworld: “He speaks in your voice, American, and there’s a shine in his eye that’s halfway hopeful.” The opening prologue of the book was also released as it’s own novella, with the separate title, Pafko At The Wall.

Some real talk from White Noise: “All plots move deathwards.”

Musical name checks: Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes, Rhett Miller, Luna, and a band called Too Much Joy. Also, the band called The Airborne Toxic Event got their band name from White Noise.

The first line of Great Jones Street: “Fame requires every kind of excess.”

Don Delillo, as depicted by Brian Wood. From here.

One of my favorite quotes from his books #1: “I don’t want your candor. I want your soul in a silver thimble.”

Fictionalized version of him: blogs for The Onion covering last year’s election.

His three favorite things: “Silence, exile, and cunning. And so on.” Also, paraphrasing James Joyce.

The criticism: There’s been a lot. While there can be no argument that Delillo is a smarter author than a large majority out there, many would say that his books tend towards being over stylized and perhaps a bit intellectually shallow. I think that argument is fair in certain cases.

More criticism: George Will described Delillo’s Libra, which is a study of Lee Harvey Oswald, as “sandbox existentialism,” and then added that the book is an act of “literary vandalism and bad citizenship.”

Delillo’s response to Will: “I don’t take it seriously, but being called a ‘bad citizen’ is a compliment to a novelist, at least to my mind. That’s exactly what we ought to do. We ought to be bad citizens. We ought to, in the sense that we’re writing against what power represents, and often what government represents, and what the corporation dictates, and what consumer consciousness has come to mean. In that sense, if we’re bad citizen, we’re doing our job.”

One of my favorite quotes from his books #2: “History is the sum total of the things they aren’t telling us.” So true.

One of my favorite passages from his books: “I went out on the terrace. Automobiles were moving across Central Park, ticking red taillights trailing each other  north and west and toward the darkness and the river, headlights coming this way, soft orange, the whistling doormen. The park’s lamplights were dull cold steady silver. I was wasting my life.” From Americana, his first novel.

What he’s said about his first novel: “It’s no accident that my first novel was called Americana. This was a private declaration of independence, a statement of my intention to use the whole picture, the whole culture. America was and is the immigrant’s dream, and as the son of two immigrants I was attracted by the sense of possibility that had drawn my grandparents and parents.”

The above quote was from an interview that was referenced on a great site about the author: Don Delillo’s America. It’s a really good resource about the author.

Where’s a good place to start with Delillo: White Noise. Start there and enjoy it. Read about the book here and here and here.

One last thing, how is “Delillo pronounced?” Like this: Duh Lih Lo.

One last great quote from Don Delillo: “Years ago I use to think it was possible for  novelist to alter the inner life of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory. They make raids on humn consciousness. What writers used to do before we were all incorporated.”

Fifty percent of memory is devoted not to what has already happened, but what will happen next.

“What we see before us is just one tiny part of the world. We get into the habit of thinking, this is the world, but that’s not true at all. The real world is a much darker and deeper place than this, and much of it is occupied by jellyfish and things.”

-Haruki Murakami

So last night I was laying in bed watching youtube clips on my phone, and pretty much cycling through the usual weirdness in assortment: Steven Moffat, Dylan Moran, Sigur Ros, this awesome episode of Brian Blessed hosting Have I Got News For You, and pretty much all kinds of weird shit like that. Then, because I’ve been rereading a book called The Raw Shark Texts again, which has a strong interactive presence outside of the novel, I decided to look it up online, knowing there was some clips present previously.

And I did find some clips, some interesting ones. For example, here’s the often mesmerizing Tilda Swinton reading a brief excerpt from the novel:

I don’t really want to go into the novel too much right because, believe me that’s a long story for another time, but it’s a book I love hopelessly. Perhaps during Shark Week, I can revisit it, which would be fitting, because the book deals a lot with the idea of conceptual fish, especiallythe Ludovician shark.

The Ludovician is a predatory animal that hunts in the flowing rivers of human knowledge and perception, eating memories and personalities. It’s a fascinatingly bizarre and wonderful invention, but has it’s basis in old native American myths about dream fish that could consume your fears and memories and identity in your sleep.

from here.

To me, its an interesting concept, as are so many of the things mentioned in this novel, which is not perfect, but is fun and different. Here’s the author, Steven Hall, talking just a little bit about the book:

“I wanted to try and write a book that would be something different to every single reader. And I was wondering is it possible to write a book that would be like a romance to people who like romance, a puzzle to people who like puzzles, science fiction to people who like science fiction. Is it possible to make a book that would clash all these ideas together and reflect what the reader expected to see in the book.” Hence the title, which is an obvious play on the rorschach/inkblot tests.

Anyway, my mother has gotten into listening to audio books a lot lately and so I got her a few for Mother’s day, including the audio book for The Raw Shark Texts, read by Jack Davenport, who’s been in things  like Pirates Of The Caribbean and Swingtown, but is best known (to me, at least) for appearing in Steven Moffat’s Coupling in the UK. The audio version is abridge, sadly, but it makes sense since there’s a strong visual element to the novel (and would have to be considering a lot of the nature of the Ludovician alone), but there’s some interesting bits with sound effects and multiple speakers at once.

from here.

Anyway, I’ll leave that there for now. The audiobook version of the novel is interesting, but the novel itself… “Come on in, the water’s fine…”

And then I’ll leave you with Sigur Ros performing “Staralfur” from their DVD Heima:

I shall leave this grid

I have decided, starting tomorrow evening, to go off the grid for two weeks.

Counterforce

Yes, that feels like an eternity.

Obviously, I’ll need to use a computer and network connection for my employ, but I’m declaring myself divorced from personal interneting, my computer, my iPod and my cell phone for the next two weeks.

So, If you find yourself in a life or death situation, don’t text me, text someone else, since my phone will be off.

I know what you’re all thinking: “no way in fucking hell you make it two weeks without cheating!”

Sure, sure. But this time, unlike my first marriage, I really mean it!

Counter-Force

I’ll see you all on the other side.

Discovering the object of the game IS the object of the game.

Speaking of games, last night when I got home, The Game was on.

So I plopped down on the couch and watched about a half an hour of the excellent 1997 David Fincher movie starring Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, and Deborah Kara Unger (who probably played every mysterious and slightly off blonde in 90s cinema).

What an excellent movie, and very underrated as a nice little thriller.

I have it on DVD somewhere and hope to watch it properly again soon.

There’s a great joke in there about Ethel Kennedy too.

Random film fun facts: It was originally to star Jodie Foster (as the Sean Penn character), who was dropped by the studio. She then sued the pants off them. But it made it especially nice that she was then able to do The Panic Room (after Nicole Kidman dropped out due to injury) with Fincher. Spike Jonze cameos at the end as an EMT. And the script had a polish done by Andrew Kevin Walker, who probably does some script doctor work on every film Fincher does.

In other, unrelated viewing news, looking for the pilot of Virtuality on Hulu this morning, I instead found the much talked about pilot to The Philanthropist, the new show from Tom Fontana, starring James Purefoy (best known not just as Marc Anthony in Rome, but the guy who who did a full frontal nude scene and had them digitally enhance his penis, and was also the guy fired as V from V From Vendetta), Jesse L. Martin (I mention that just for you, Benjie Light), Neve Campbell (apparently back from exploring the Where Are They Now? voidspace), Lindy Booth (that’s for both of us, Light), and Omar from The Wire.

I dig the premise: Essentially a jackass of a rich man, think Tony Stark-lite, going around the world trying to soothe his demons and solve the world’s problems with money. Brilliant! Unfortunately, the show is incredibly mediocre and Purefoy is the television equivalent of watching paint dry in an empty room in a brothel.

This show belongs on USA or TNT or wherever dreck like Burn Notice dazzles the mediocre and undiscerning.

And man, they write Omar’s character as possibly the worst bodyguard in history. Plus, when Purefoy gets lost in Africa and surrounded by some bad dudes, who great would it have been to have heard, “Hey Africa… OMAR COMIN!’”

Omar fun fact: Michael K. Williams actually got his start dancing in Janet Jackson videos. That’s just awesome.

Lindy Booth was gorgeous as always though.

Okay, back to whatever you were doing. Happy Saturday night.

You keep changing the rules while I keep playing the game.

23 things about Michael Jackson (but really about me) all anchored to this music video:

Scream,” featuring Janet Jackson, from 1995′s HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I, which was half a career retrospective, half a new album, and “Scream” was the lead off single.

1. This video is fucking awesome. Even by 90s standards, even by any standards at all, it just is. Take a moment. Be reminded. Reflect. Respect.

2. As just a wee little kid, my mind was fucking blown when I saw this 14 years ago.

3. I got into a random conversation with a group of strangers today about MJ while waiting around in a line for something. We touched upon why a lot of people will miss this artist, who hasn’t been “relevant” in years: It’s like when you were growing up and your parents would track your growing height in notches against a wall.

This is you, 3 years old, one notch would say. This is you, 6  years old, another would say. This is you, 10 years old. This is you, 15 years old and awkwardly tall.

I can make the same metaphor with notches on a bed post and tales of your life as a sexual conquistador if that helps.

Michael’s career was your marking post. Dangerous evokes memories of a certain part of my life. Bad another. Even Invincible brings back certain memories. And with HIStory it was me entering high school, free from the stagnant shackles of junior high, and possibly going on to become a person, with questionable results, but who knows.

But that’s where a lot of people come from. If you didn’t like the man or his music, that’s cool, that’s even understandable, but respect that that’s where a lot of people are coming from.

Lisa, it’s your birthday. Happy birthday, Lisa!

4. I even remember the first time I saw this, while waiting for it’s big mega massive world premiere on MTV. I can vividly remember the house of the two dorks I was at when I saw this. It’s directed by Mark Romanek, and cost $7 million, then unheard of amazingly. I can even remember my friend’s mom who walked in during the middle of the song and just stayed to watch, mesmerized by the whole thing. When the song ended, she said, “Wow, Michael’s pissed, isn’t he?”

5. I wish Michael had stopped the evolution of who and what he was, at least appearances-wise, around here. I mean, look at him here, he’s practically a living, breathing anime character.

6. Watching this back then, I realized – if I somehow hadnt’ realized it before – that Janet Jack was fucking hot.

7. I had a similar reaction when I saw her video for “If.” And, of course, when I saw the video for “Any Time, Any Place.” Real talk, people.

8. In the past, MJ usually came up with the premises for his videos and then let the directors flesh them out, but this was the first time he let a director give him the premise, with Romanek did.

9. The premise is amazing, to me, at least. Michael and Janet, on an expansive, luxurious looking spacecraft, speeding away through the constant nighttime of space. They should be happy, but they’re not. They’re furious about something! Are they getting away from the press, or from persecution? Or are they prisoners? Are they rebels? Are they escaping or being sent away?

10. Are they traveling through the uncanny valley?

11. I totally want to do that futuristic raquetball/smashing vases thing. That would be so cool.

12. I have to say, I really don’t have a problem with people not liking or attacking Michael now. Checking just a small sampling of the reporting of his death, I’ve noticed that the praisers and mourners are (understandably) being met with equal measure by the detractors and demonizers. On both sides, you’ve got normal people and zealots and idiots. I guess there’s too much to not be upset about still. Michael was almost living, breathing contradiction in some cases, victim of circumstances at some points, I feel, but also pushed the limits of his own weird constant child thing a little too far.

13. Speaking of walking a fine line:

I love that picture. Michael Jackson and Woody Allen at Studio 54 in 1977? Ha ha. Perfect.

14. The rights to the Beatles’ catalog goes back to Paul McCartney, according to Michael’s will, supposedly. That’s nice. Macca just got a whole lot richer, which is lovely (thankfully it’s after the divorce to Heather Mills), but it’s nice closer to that riff/beef.

15. Someone said to me, “I’m so sorry that you’re upset about Michael Jackson’s death.” It was both serious with concern for me and “my loss,” but also undeniably condescending, though not intentionally on their part. I don’t think I’d say that I was all that broken up. Mostly still in a, pardon the pun, state of shock. At one point I was so weirded out that maybe I wanted to scream out, pardon the pun again, but again, it was just so werid. I didn’t know the man, thankfully, and the music isn’t going anywhere, and no matter how much I held out hopes, I knew he was never going to put out a comeback album (that’s where my hopes lay, not in a new tour, but in more music). To me, it just feels like… An assessment of our world now. It’s right here, it’s right now, and there’s a tiny little hole in planet Earth.

But if you are truly broken up about MJ’s passing, I’m sorry to hear that. Go have a good cry and a scream, okay? No pressure, but seriously, a good scream will be very catharctic for you.

16. God, I would love to have my own supersexy getaway spacecraft for when times are hard. Stop pressuring me, you. It makes me want to scream. In space!

17. HIStory is a really great collection, both as retrospective and as a standalone album. The original material on it is pretty much all hits, I’m happy to say. Of especially poignant note other than this track is “Stranger In Moscow,” which is perfect in a lot of ways.

There are no more real pop stars after yesterday.

18. It was reported that around the time of making this video, that Michael Jackson had bought the ones of Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man. It’s not true, but he didn’t fight that rumor very hard.

19. This is the first time that Michael and Janet had worked together on a song since she did backing vocals for “P.Y.T.” and it was MJ’s first time working with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, though Janet would go on to work with them several more times. With so much of the hip hop and r&b radio and landscape sounding like The-Dream (not so bad) and Timbaland (kind of getting tired), I’d love to to hear some more Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, for real.

20. If you were concerned, don’t be. This is most likely the last I’ll say on this subject, here or probably anywhere. This song, this artist, and HIStory all need to slowly start taking their place in history.

21. I’m a simple man: I’ll say it again. Space. Spaceship. And Janet Jackson. And those weird morphy art machines. So cool. Those things are all I need to be happy.

22. One last thing about the video specifically: He moonwalks! At one point, while passing the actual moon. It’s so self referential, I love it. Also, part of me still wishes I could moonwalk. I always see people who can kind of do it, you know? Kind of, but not totally. Not for real. I guess you’d have to be the King of Pop to do it for real.

23. This song is a living breathing entity practically, especially compiled with the video images, but not dependent on them. Turn it up, watch it, listen. It’ll crawl inside your brain and stay with you for a while. You’ll be humming it while waiting for the elevator or the guy in the line in front of you at the liquor store or whatever you tumblr folk do. Michael Jackson will be dead, but you’ll still be alive and so will this song, inside of you.

Thriller!

This just in: Michael Jackson is in the news in an important way again. That’s the good news. The bad news: He’s not breathing, rushed to the hospital, probably had a heart attack, and may be dead.

I’m not going to get into whether or not Michael did some bad things to kids or not. That shit is horrible. He’s had health problems for years, he’s been in crazy debt, he’s been weird, he’s been working on a comeback, but I don’t want to go into any of that right now.

I just don’t want Michael Jackson to be dead.

But he has looked like a ghost for years.

And if you don’t like Michael, I don’t care. He made Thriller! That shit is for real. Maybe not here on this site, but prepare for an onslaught on the internet of MJ shit. This is like Iran, but something that the hipsters and morons can actually understand.

Also, Farrah Fawcett? That’s not really my scene. But even still: The King Of Pop > one of Charlie’s Angels. Still, death is sad, and Farrah was hot and seemed kind of trashy, and I like that. But Michael? :(

Ah, shit. I didn’t even finish this post and the LA Times is saying that he’s dead. Dead at 50. Fuck. I’m going to go take a good look at the man in the mirror.