Non-Fiction versus fiction in an apocalypse culture, Adam Parfrey, the essay, and the novel.

In the Introduction to the second edition of his anthology, Apocalypse Culture, Adam Parfrey muses as follows;

“..reality has taken on such a dire and phantasmagoric cast that fictionalizing has become superfluous. The essay form has superseded the novel as the vehicle that best suggests the prevailing apocalyptic gestalt, and as the talisman that is most able to repel the onset of paralyzing dread.””
-Adam Parfrey, 1990.

The form of written language best able to convey a sense of, and indeed help make sense of, this age along these lines, would be the non-fiction essay. Some may disagree, it’s a perspective worth considering however. Truly paradigm shattering novels along dystopic lines are rare; 1984, A Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, the crop of current dystopian narratives seem to simply deepen the mood and spit it back at us while we, un-reflexively, watch and scratch our heads over The Hunger Games.

What the essay has that the novel or fictionalized narrative lacks is it’s ability to not be completely reduced to entertainment, and thus to a soporific, inducing dreams, but not waking us. Film fiction narratives, like The Matrix, being partial and useful exceptions that sort of prove the rule.

Where to find the language to express ideas? Indeed what is language in all of this? “All language is at once the ‘sensualization of the idea’ and the ‘idealization of the sensuous’. Language is, therefore, the most distinguishing characteristic of man..” notes C. Nisbet and D. Lemon in their 1892 Everybody’s Writing-Desk Book. Noting further that man can be defined, in quotations, as the speaking animal. A pity they didn’t note the origin of that quote, being the Classical Arabic definition of al-Insan, The Human, as ‘al-Hayawan al-Natiq‘ or the speaking, articulating, animal.

The theme of the Book of Eli, another fictionalized narrative, is interesting here; what obsessed Garry Oldman’s character was obtaining the word. At all costs. The overly biblical cast of the movie might distract a more skeptical viewer from the vital urgency of its core message, which is that the word, language, is all important in either controlling humanity, or saving humanity, Oldman’s character, though a villain, was in a way a flawed and tragic hero, stuck in a particular paradigm that gave him an edge, but only the sliver of an edge, in a world gone mad. It was an edge that he grasped without justice. And hence his undoing.

Words, language, are vital. And though Parfrey wrote those words something like 25 years ago, I think with the increasing popularity of Creative Nonfiction he was onto something.

..sometimes nothing, can be a real cool hand

“sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand…”
“what we have here, is a failure to communicate..”
I was sitting in Sitwell’s Coffeehouse the other day,
Lisa Storie, the owner, installed a TV set a little while ago and permanently tuned it to American Movie Classics. I was initially a bit resistant to its presence, but the thing grew on me after a while. Its effect is subtle. Say, you’re sitting down, talking with a friend, or people watching, or reading; there is a TV set above, silently playing some old arcane movie from decades ago. It is mounted up, above a corner water cooler at a peculiar angle. Always on the peripheral edge of your perception, until you choose to acknowledge it.

In any case, while I was typing up a manuscript I noticed that Cool Hand Luke(1967) was playing. I never saw it before but the film was one of my fathers’ favorites. He was constantly talking about it. You can read about the plot at IMDb, the page for Cool Hand Luke (1967) is pretty interesting. In a way it seemed to sort of serve as a model of masculinity to him. Luke, played by Paul Newman, is a war hero, and inveterate small time crook, a “pretty evil feller”, the type of guy post-war that people begin to look at as scum, can’t find a place in society, turns to crime, a n’er do good type of guy, but not in a vicious way.

HE constantly bucks the authority of the frankly murderous, in a genteel way, good ol boy Warden over Luke’s chain gang. Luke’s insubordination is an expression of a male spirit that refuses to be broken. Luke is a bad guy, like everyone in the gang he’s a bit of a bastard but the viewer is left wondering whose crimes are worse, those of the criminals’, or those of their brutal overseers.

Watching it I quickly realized why the movie was my Dad’s favorite, and why he wanted me to watch the film. Luke was a man who took his cards in life, screwed up the hand he was dealt but it was a meagre hand in any case, he tried, he failed, he accepted it and his lot in life – BUT he refused to be cowed by it. From his standing up to the big syndicate man among the inmates, facing him down in a bare fist boxing match in which he’s beaten almost to death, to taking a dare to eat 50 eggs something “ain’t no many can do” to his daring escapes, his tongue in cheek sending the boys back a photo of him with two hot girls, to his rejection of their idolizing him and his final standdown in an abandoned church, Luke refused to let his spirit be broken. He refused to complain or bitch about his lot, he accepted his mistakes, and refused to ever back down, always wearing a smirk on his face.

Beyond the historical reminder, after all people today have no idea just how brutal chain gangs were. Local legend and talk is full of, in the deep south, accounts of many an unmarked grave, sometimes a mass grave, where a a prisoner or prisoners were more or less extra-judicially executed. Colored prisoners doubtless but also many a white one too. Chain Gang labor really was legal slavery, constitutionally approved. Its’ forgotten that technically the Constitution’s 13th Amendment ended private slavery and slave ownership, penal slavery for convicts technically isn’t unconstitutional… but beyond this Cool Hand Luke is relevant to modern viewers because of its central message; you can be an inveterate fuck-up, a loser, a bastard, a no account man, but you must always, always, be a stand up man. You can make mistakes, but don’t let your spirit get broken.

3 Reasons Not to Watch ‘Pearls Before Swine (1999)’

I finally forced myself to watch Richard Wolstencroft’s ‘Pearls Before Swine’ (1999) – I found it to be an incoherent mess. In a way, it is sort of like a ‘Superfly’ for people with vaguely neo-fascist and white nationalist tendencies. It is the story of an anti-hero as he goes about his days and nights being the dude that he is, taking the idea of various scenes from the life of a criminal anti-hero, “Showing the man in his element,” while building up to a larger plot. Basically, the sympathetic biopic of a bad-guy.

The movie stars fascist shock-jock, Un-pop cultural provocateur, enfant terrible, Industrial Music doyen Boyd Rice (NON). Pearls Before Swine had its moments. Yet on the whole, the movie seems so appallingly bad that watching parts was more of a duty than a pleasure. Where it is not appallingly bad, it is actually a bit funny. I am not certain the director intended humor, however.

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Shot across the bow; Sexing or Skinning Mary-Kate Olsen And Olivier Sarkozy

Mary-Kate Olsen And Olivier Sarkozy, are often in the news these days. In an age of total decline of the industrialized Western nations, the rise of power blocks in the Global South and Far East, increased Public Sector Austerity, near bankruptcy of several governments, genocide in some global flashpoints, wars, rumors of war, the disintergration of Greater Syria possibly a flash point about to ignite the largest conflict in that region – with global implications – seen to date. We must weigh our priorities.

Thus it is that beyond such jejune and inspid trivialities as the collapse of much of what people hold to be their civilization, weighty and important matters must be considered.

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Ennui and a dull blade, Thoughts on High Fidelity (2000)

“What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music? “ Rob, in the movie High Fidelity (2000)

“John Dillinger was killed behind that theater in a hail of FBI gunfire. And do you know who tipped them off? His fucking girlfriend. All he wanted to do was go to the movies. “ – the character Rob, again.

Our trusts and distrusts, confidences and lack thereof, may reflect deeper anxieties, of which the surface distrusts are mere prolongations.

What kind of anxieties? Oh, I don’t know, like say about acceptance, loyalty, abandonment..

So there I was, chilling out with my friend A. F., over at his 2nd floor Cheviot flat, several weeks ago, checking out his library. He generously passed a few books my way, a bit of Schopenhauer, some Bukowski, and a few other tidbits. Of course he was keeping some treasures, some really cool volumes of Henry Rollins’ poetry, all sorts of philosophy books, and a couple of beautifully and artfully bound limited editions of Crowley.  My tolerance for the “great beast’ wanes increasingly the older I get. The books themselves were beauts, works of art, in any case.

Later he demonstrated his projector over in the living room, the thing’s a beast, acquired under rather favorable conditions from a friend, whose department evidently didn’t need it. One of those kinds of projectors whose bulbs alone will set you back several Benjamin’s. Firing it up, he decided to pop in the DVD du noir; High Fidelity.

John Cusack’s character, Rob, in High Fidelity is very sympathetic because he illustrates many ambiguities, perceptions, mis-perceptions, and anxieties experienced by many men in the 1990’s and 2000s.

That and it’s a great nostalgia trip.

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