You know, thank god for the fucking New York times, without which I could not be moved nigh unto tears by the tragic plight of some spend-thrifty, alcoholic, self-entitled douchebag and his dickface, purebred-buying wife blowing through a ten million dollar inheritance with the alacrity of a 20-year-old homo in a tight tee-shirt blowing through a fifty-bag of cocaine. As a general principle, I try not to feel sympathy for rich fucks, but still, I am not totally immune from pity when I read about a family who achieved some level of material affluence through at least semi-legitimate means only to be ground up by the ceaseless, churning maw of late American capitalism, which eats its own young like a starving mama hamster. I feel bad the guy who built up his business, made a little fortune, bought hisself a nice house and his wife some nice diamonds, only to see himself reduced to penury through no fault of his own. I don't feel that badly, but you know, a little bit. But these people, holy shit, what a bunch of fucking assholes. And fuck you, New York Times, for making me aware of them.
Friday, November 26, 2010
So there is a lot of funny stuff going on in this cri de snore, which I found via Glenn Greenwald, who was tsking one Mark Ames for embarrassing himself with a lazy character assassination of John Tyner, the don't-touch-my-junk folk hero. Ames is tizzite with Katarina HoofenPoodle, publicatrix of La Nation, one of the, ahem, organs of the Democratic Party. His actual claim to liberal notoriety is that he "exposed" the Koch brothers for contributing to political causes for which they either share ideological affinities or from which they hope to reap some kind of strategic, business-related benefit, in the same way that Glenn Beck has exposed George Soros, the bloodsucking puppetmaster, or what have you. Greenwald in particular notes Ames calling libertarians "enemies of the state," and when I clicked through the link and read it in context, I could actually hear Jonah Goldberg laying a golden egg engraved with the words: I WUZ RITE! Liberal fascism indeed.
Ames is upset that his generational compeers are ill disposed to munching on the shit sandwich that Barack is serving. They got excited that the latest hortatory political nonentity was black, which seemed vaguely vanguard-y, and they were impressed by his occasional ability to summon up a slantingly preacherly cadence in his public address, although frankly I suspect this was mostly a lot of young white people mistaking Being Black for Being Rev. King. As Obama has proven himself to be a fairly standard empty-suit corporate hack, a consensus militarist, a literal-minded bore, a Clintonian word-parser with none of Clinton's verve or charm, his younger supporters have mostly gone back to the things that they would otherwise care about anyway: getting drunk, getting laid, getting an extension on that paper, getting someone else to pay for that. All of his complaints about "young people" have a nugget of truth to them, of course, but he writes as if he's the first to discover the culture of irony, which he, like almost every other commentator, miserably fails to understand. Their irony is only skin deep; they are in fact desperately earnest and easily heartbroken. The observation that hipster kids don't care about anything is the opposite of the problem; they care about everything, really and truly, the suckers.
The equation of "supporting the Democratic party" with the Constitutional prerogative of forming "a more perfect Union" is laughable for obvious reasons in these parts, but it's still worth noting that Ames doesn't have the foggiest idea what that language or the notion of "general welfare" really means. I am hardly an "originalist"--actually, I am, in exactly the sense that Ames means it, an "enemy of the state"; I do not believe in America--but I propose that you cannot simply divorce a phrase from its historical context and pretend that it means only what it means in the contemporary vernacular idiom. Contra Mr. Ames, a "more perfect union" was about states; it was explicitly about states. This is such an elemental historical misapprehension that it becomes impossible to take anything else the man says about anything seriously. So, in fact, we won't.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”I am right now imagining the strangled sounds choking out of Barry Obama's clenched throat when they brought him the news that the guy they thought was the enemy's second in command was in fact a mere goldbricker. "Now let me be clear . . ." Not only do we not know what we're doing in Afghanistan, we do not know to whom we're doing it. This suggests a level of imperial decrepitude that I was not yet prepared to hope for. It's gonna be a great Thanksgiving.
There was also a certain bent appeal in the notion of running a savage burn on one Las Vegas Hotel and then—instead of becoming a doomed fugitive on the highway to L.A.—just wheeling across town, trading in the red Chevy convertible for a white Cadillac and checking into another Vegas hotel, with press credentials to mingle with a thousand ranking cops from all over America, while they harangued each other about the Drug Problem.
-Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Old father, old artificer, stand me now and forever in good stead.
-James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Monday, November 22, 2010
I recently read somewhere--I am sure it was the Times, because it was such a very Timesy pronouncement: banality wrapped in incredulity wrapped, like a leaking fish, in the Times itself--that gay fiction was, you'll pardon the expression, coming out of the gay fiction ghetto, a bizarre and, I suspect, imaginary hinterland of the local Barnes and Noble in which the let-us-say less-than-"Jamesian" portions of Alan Hollinghurst press their woolen jodhpurs against the bare knee of The Best Gay Erotica of 1996. There were a number of examples. One of them must have been Aciman's Call Me by Your Name, a surprising commercial and unsurprising critical success given that it turns its gorgeous eye away from unrequited longing to a hot grad student butt-fucking a teenager right around the halfway point. By the way I mean that as a compliment. I am sure there were some other examples. Anyway, it was on the general principle of discovering whether or not this was true that I read Stephen McCauley's new novel, Insignificant Others. You're probably familiar with McCauley's first novel, The Object of My Affection, which was made into a disastrous movie of the same name, starring--and I use the term loosely--Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd. He's a writer who's always sat on the border of genre fiction. By populating his books with gratuitous women, in other words by not throwing a sausage party, he has managed a minor niche in "mainstream" fiction. And yes, you can blame him for Julia Roberts and every terrible gay sidekick movie. Ever.
Some people think this setup is a little demeaning to gay men, but I frankly believe it's far more insulting to straight women, who are not actually the needy, emotionally insecure, sexually stunted fag hags that this type of work makes them out to be. I've got plenty of gal friends, and I am sure they enjoy my banter and my--relative to some straight dude, anyway--emotional availability, but there is not a one of them who wouldn't quickly depart my well-decorated home and overwrought dinner party if the opportunity for a good deep dicking came along. MacCauley's women are always falling into highly erotic friendships with their gay friends. In my experience, this never happens. I can imagine a drunken Rupert Everett fucking Madonna, yes. But I cannot imagine Madonna falling in love Rupert Everett.
Insignificant Others is about a middle-aged gay couple, both of whom have an unacknowledged but not exactly secret affair on the side. The narrator, Richard, is one half of this couple. He is fiftyish, obsessed with exercise, having an affair with a married man, and absolutely intolerable for more than a few pages at a time. I am sure that he is meant to be comical: an ex-therapist, he is so thoroughly in touch with himself that he has no idea what's going on in his own head. Instead, he comes of as a bit of a moron. There are a number of minor characters, mostly work colleagues, most notably the business partner of Conrad, the other half of the gay couple, an impossibly distant and frigid woman named Doreen. See paragraph above. The mechanics of the plot are both simple and exhausting. I won't go into them, and you don't care. Would it surprise you to learn that everyone comes out a little wiser, perhaps even a little happier? The Country Wife it ain't.
I am happy to report that Insignificant Others, whether or not it is a gay novel, has certainly proven that gay writers are now confidently just as bad as straights. Yes, I've long since tired of AIDS as a metaphor for everything, and yes, I would rather have sex with an actual woman (no offense, ladies) than ever again wade into Edmund White et al.'s antediluvian time-travels into "gay life before AIDS," but good god, at least the ever-present specter of death, either already arrived or inevitable and looming, gave stories some tension, even if every other item were totally banal. Tony Kushner may now seem like the Disney's Julie Taymor's The Lion King of serious theater--overbuilt, creaky, and slightly embarrassing--but at least he was writing about something. I mean, embroiling a bunch of Reagan-era queers in the actual mechanics of heaven may be crass, but nevertheless, those were ordinary people whose lives attained significance outside of the Garcia Marquez meets Andrew Lloyd Weber stage mechanics. Insignificant Others is about a bunch of selfish, boring, bourgeois fucks undergoing a lot of carefully choreographed, boring, bourgeois bullshit. If it were seven hundred pages, it would be a Jonathan Franzen novel, short-listed for a book award, compared to Dostoevsky. This is only more evidence for my thesis, that the only remaining prejudice and the only remaining rubric for judgement in fiction is neither sexuality nor subject, but sheer page count. MacCauley's dumb novel is a "comedy of manners." Were it a hundred thousand words, it would be the most significant American novel since Melville.
My sense is that most Americans still don’t understand this reality. They still imagine that when push comes to shove, our politicians will come together to do what’s necessary. But that was another country.This whopper comes in the penultimate paragraph of an otherwise typically anodyne Nobel Paul lecture on the unceasing, Sisyphean torture of pushing the Democratic party up the hill only to have it roll the fuck over you on the way back down. Having failed (imagine!) for the last two years to accede to any of His Laureateness' prescriptions, by which obviously I mean having ignored for two years the soft bleating emenating from the stony enclave of Princeton, preferring to throw their weight around on behalf of those who actually make--or make up, take your pick--money, rather than those who simply whine about it, it is now absolutely imperative that the Donk dig in its heels and . . . You know, it seems fairly plain that a bunch of politicians who did not act in accordance with your priorities when they firmly held power are not going to do so now that their power has attenuated. And just to reiterate a point made about a million billion times, if your representatives in the People's House routinely act counter to your priorities, then perhaps it is not that they are being somehow manipulated into concessionary doubt, but rather that they have different priorities.
-Nobel Paul Krugman, winner of the Svalbard M80 Abacus and Slide-Rule Memorial Sweepstakes in Economics
But let's wander back to the main road. From whence cometh this "sense" about the benighted American people. If there is one thing that Americans of all parties and proclivities consistently repeat to the various takers of public temperature, it is precisely the opposite of Krugman's "sense." They do not expect politicians to "come together to do what's necessary." They expect graft, thievery, debauchery, corruption, bribery, and inaction. All but the last are right on. Inaction, the opposite of "getting things done", is a tightly knit veil. Of course, the government gets plenty done. The legislature churns out hundreds of thousands of pages a year, the regulatory agencies even more--it is just that none of this "directly addresses people's concerns," as the newspapers would put it, although a great deal of it is directly addressed at fucking the people. People perceive the government as a bipartite looter's scam, or scheme, and by and large they are correct. The notion that there is some mythical people holding onto a fairy-tale Congress in which someone comes together to do something somehow says a great deal more about Nobel Paul's familiarity with the leagues and leagues of country outside of the Ivy. The American people do not know much, but at least 130 odd million of them know enough not to fucking vote.