Now, you two kiss

Adventures in literature, late October ’05

H. Melville, The Confidence-Man
I one-million-percent support the idea and prosecution of “secret writing” if post-Pierre Melville (so like, this book and some short stories) is actually secret writing. i’m willing to buy that Bartleby is a extensive dig at Thoreau and i get that Melville basically made and shared large volumes of hatorade for people, himself included. anyway, the whole secret writing thing tells us that Melville conceived several of his later prose works as elaborate gags in which outwardly he’s writing straightforward Melville novels about the strenuous life or something, but inwardly, for those who *know*, the novel(s) are a hilarious takedown of pretty much everything except Nathaniel Hawthorne. I don’t know; not that the book isn’t perceptibly an attempt at taking the entire world down several pegs, it’s just that it’s not so secret. if anyone tried to read this book for the surface narrative, they would stop about 10 pages in and not remember those 10 pages terribly fondly. they’d stop because this book is clearly at least 40% bile. but it’s really nice bile, is the thing. i bought this book almost six years ago, and it took me almost then entire time to get to the halfway point of it, reading it on and off. I don’t think I have such a complicated relationship to any other work of fiction. pr’ecis: the devil gets on a steamboat at st. louis and proceeds to assume various wacky personalities, all of which spend their time convincing people to give him their confidence, either in the form of money, faith, agreement, relenting on their own beliefs, or some combination of all three. the moral privateering of con games is an excuse for melville to unload on pretty much every single social/personal phenomena of developing american cultural character, which he does, along the way hilariously misquoting the Bible, blaspheming and generally being a bilious asshole. this is so incredibly evident as a good and worthwhile project, esp as a kind of uptempo companion piece to the interior novel of Pierre. Unfortunately, and actually literary critics might actually not agree, it’s a horrible turd to read, which I would venture is part of the point. If you enjoy novels of ideas where the author clearly disagrees with almost all of the ideas promulgated, you will thrill to even smell this. also, I have three copies of this, two of which are Norton critical editions, so if someone wants one, i got that snit.

Richard Stern, assorted stories: the jacket contains a bizarre baseball-connected endorsement from saul bellow (“his control is perfect, his fastball is devastating. nobody walks, nobody steals a base”) so i will honor that by saying that richard stern is clearly the derek lowe of post-WWII american intellectual novelists. he certainly looks the part (bald, smiley, big glasses) and has the pedigree (teaching jobs, u of c connections, generic name, orig. from NYC). also like derek lowe, he is only good approx five times a season but they are all relevant times. richard stern can clinch the world series for you provided you get richard stern to the last game of the world series. left to his own devices to write way too much about weird obscure slovaks and divorces and coughing at feminism, he will do all of those things. still, you give me a guy who sets short stories in hyde park and you have given me a guy that i will read. maybe in the end result a lesser light of U of C culture wehrmacht. but i read this, so, there you go.

Jesus Not Caesar

My prediction that that white sox would dogdirt the bed, which i have reiterated over and over again since roughly April, when the white sox scored like four runs in the ninth to beat the indians and derail the first month of the season for them, turned out to be exactly 100% wrong, basically once they made the playoffs, but the fact that they reached and subsequently won the World Series definitely rachets it up to like 100+% incorrect. I still don’t feel bad about makign the prediction, since by a good many semi-relevant metrics, the white sox are/were not as good at baseball this year as many other teams. then again, if you buy some of the metrics i buy, the mets should have won the NL East and brian fuentes is the MVP/cy young winner. the main thing is that i don’t feel bad about it, which is the important thing. i’m glad to see the white sox win, because white sox fans deserve it, since a surprising % share of them really do give a snit and play the right way. although i maintain that “no one gives a shit about the white sox” is empirically true and is proven by the exceptions.

i still have opinions about this baseball season and will drop them sometime this weekend. right now, though, i am going to sip cordials and read melville and stroke my chin hairs. because i have a job, with benefits, starting monday, at a real office with elevators and nice furniture, in a field i like, in a thing i like, with a prairie-school-themed cafe in the building, and i have my dignity.

There is no god but God

:: One nice thing about the White Sox doing well is that people are being honest with each other about certain disparities, at least in public discourse. Normally, you couldn’t get away with saying stuff like “no one, including people who live there, gives a shit about the south side” or “you’re all black and mexican, of course you’re poor and too busy killing each other to pay appropriate amounts of attention to your 2005 AL Champion Chicago White Sox.” still, certain myths are not being examined, the primary one being that there is actually a white sox nation and it’s not just the 80,000 people who took advantage of the dan ryan and mayoral protectorate status to keep bridgeport white, or white enough anyway. i have to grudgingly approve of the white sox of 2005, or at least the vaseline-lens version of the white sox, because this is after all a team powered by a black GM, hispanic manager and a startlingly untalented batting order of mixed-purpose white and black guys. being bad at your job but getting away with it is the new cleavage, at least to my tastes.

it doesn’t really matter whether or not the white sox can salt away two more wins; they’re already the prie-dieux in front of the tampa bay lightning/2001 patriots/detroit pistons triptych that completes your living room self-mortification altar set from ikea. just like joe crede can go from being “ex-prospect” to “quasi-competent” to “systematically underrated stud” with two lukewarm weeks, the white sox can go from “weird lie devised to torture indians fans” to “feel-good story about the triumph and perserverance of the will of blue-collar chicagoans.” i’m going to become an english teacher, by the way, just so everyone knows this. specifically one who teaches trembling children of privilege to disown their cultural inheritance for no real reason other than they might look good doing it.

Keep your laws off my body

abortions? abortions!! get some condoms, i don’t know. there’s more than one way to skin a cat, i’ll just say that much; giving birth to an unwanted child doesn’t mean you can’t give it away or slowly abort it by raising it in a loveless home or something. maybe i’m not a good guy or something (definitely) but I don;t understand why both sides of the pro-life issue aren’t trying to pull the Older Sibling move where you just pretend that whatever happens, you don’t care that much anyway about the outcome, you just don’t want to see your Younger Sibling be happy. i shouldn’t talk about this shit here. after all these years wrestlign gators, i still feel like crying…

personal bitch-get-your-mind right bulletin: i’ve managed to get the post-6 pm paranoia and fear for my shit remaining not mugged down to almost acceptable levels EXCEPT now the sun is going down earlier and earlier everyday. which means that i am not going to be able to do anything other than sit in a corner or nap after 4:30 in the afternoon if i keep living in hyde park. i might also get arrested for harpooning the bum who plays a goddamn plastic tub all day on 53rd street. i mean it, a harpoon. big one, like for whales.

Attn GRE: Stop costing $115. where the TV am i going to get $115.

movies i would see, if i was seeing a movie right now (keep your opinions to yourself):
1. The 50 Cent/Jim Sheridan movie
2. The Nicolas Cage weatherman movie (I like Michael Caine?)
3. the movie where it’s not so cold in this apartment
4. Tristram Shandy

Also, Philip Roth, ok, I admit it, I was wrong. He’s not just a guy who writes about how worried he is about a) his own wang b) how hard it is to be a semi-famous lapsed Jew novelist. He also writes The Great American Novel, which, despite the corny name, is, as moacir predicted, very very much in my sweatlodge.

a creature driven and derided by vanity

I started to give Philip Roth another chance with The Counterlife and he burned me, again. Did this guy write any books that aren’t more than 90% about his own penis. Maybe I should try to get past page 5. obviously anything will suffer if you read it after rereading Dubliners but I mean, come on. the sexual anxiety of the gray-collar classes is I guess in play for writing about. Maybe I’m being a fascist. Probably being a fascist. I’m really getting ready to embrace my new position as the de facto leader of the secular apolitical neofeudalist minority, and i hope you will too. The first step is for everybody to get everybody caught up on their Jane Austen and then we can move on to calisthenics.
PHILIP ROTH UPDATE: As of page 19, it’s better, mostly because of the received idea of “moral credentials” but still not clear why I am reading it. Although i suppose no one is holding a gun to my head, at least not right now, or at least it’s not clear that it has anything to do with Philip Roth

Discussion topics:
Steve Earle: The Roy Oswalt of Country Music
As it turns out, doing anything other laying in bed 10 h0urs a day reading is probably unchristian, if you know what I mean.
Sherman Alexie: can I get some input?
Also, it’s over, do you understand me, this ends here
Today’s foods:
Two bowls of Life
One bowl of Quaker Oat Squares
Assorted handfuls of both kinds of cereal
One two slice(s) of pizza