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Archive for the ‘#OccupyGaddis’ Category

I had hoped to read a lot of commentary and observations about JR this week as a nice finalization to the summer reading.  But a couple of things happened.  First, we went on vacation, so JR was the furthest thing from my mind.  Second, I had a really hard time finding commentary.

I somehow missed the whole Goodreads discussion—which I read just the other day and enjoyed.  And I also had a really hard time with the LARB tumblr account.  I don’t know if this speaks to tech non-savvy, but man, that’s a hard thing to search.  It took several tries before I noticed the teeny search window at the bottom, and when I finally got it to search what I wanted I found the results less than spectacular.  So I was able to piece together most of Lee’s comments, which I rather liked, but I wish I had been able to read them as we went along (Googling #OccupGaddis only brought that initial tumblr page, which was very frustrating). (more…)

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I had intended to post my final recap of William Gaddis’ JR today.  But my family had been on vacation and I was feeling lazy.  Then September 3 proved to be Labor Day, a perfect day to write thoughts about JR.  The irony was not lost on me.  But then I figured I’d fudge a bit, leave my Monday post until Tuesday and back date it (a good technique for checks too!).

Well, it turned out that my position was terminated at my job.  Which means I got laid off.  Right after Labor Day, and right when I was about to post some thoughts on JR.

That’s a pretty big helping of irony right there.

So here it is two days later, Sept 5 and I’m backdating this post (because I’m anal retentive and like to have a post per day).  I’m happy that I had written a bunch of posts for this week already as I don’t have much gumption for writing about books right now (even though I read several good ones over the vacation).

So enjoy my ironic life and I’ll say a few words about JR next Monday, if I still think it’s funny.

Perhaps I’ll apply for a new job as Mister Ten-forty.

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SOUNDTRACK: LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN-“Für Elise”

I didn’t know a lot of the music mentioned in this book, but like most people, I know and enjoy “Für Elise.”  It’s an interesting choice of music to end such a crazy chaotic story, although I suppose there are some less than peaceful moments ion the song too.  It’s a shame Bast never gets to play it.

I find the most engaging moments to be when the lone high note comes before the reintroduction of the initial melody.  The middle, minor key section that sounds kind of menacing is also neat–a big switch from the delicate opening.

Why not take 3 minutes and enjoy it now:

[READ: Week of August 20, 2012] JR Week 10

The end is here.  After endlessly interrupted conversations, the book has actually hit a period.

As the last week ended, Bast was being dropped off at the hospital by Coen.  And the bulk of the end of the book takes place in the hospital.  There are many similarities between this book and a big 60s/70s comedy romp, and here is another one–all the characters seems to pile into one location for a big finale.  (Technically the finale happens at Bast’s house, but you get the idea). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FRANK BLACK-“Headache” (1994).

Frank Black is Black Francis from the Pixies.  When the Pixies disbanded, Black set out on  a solo career.  He’s got some great songs under the Frank Black moniker and this is one of them.

This is an acoustic guitar rocker, that sounds perfectly nineties.  It builds over a series of verses, getting louder and faster with backing vocals added as the song goes along.  What’s interesting is that there’s no real chorus to the song.  The verses are more or less the choruses, although that doesn’t quite seem right either.  But after the verses, there are these quieter interlude pieces that are kind of bridges but not really.

But regardless of all of that, the song is catchy as anything (especially for a song that includes the word cranium–incorrectly used–“My heart’s crammed in my cranium”).

Wow, i thought that Black Francis has been quiet all these years, and yet I see that he has been releasing an album a year for a decade.  Talk about under the radar.

[READ: Week of August 20, 2012] JR Week 9

Holy cow, this week starts off with a lot of fun chaos in the Grynzspan apartment.  And there’s a return of lots of characters, too!  The long story arc seems to return to whence it started–the “Bast apartment,” although there are many changes afoot there.  And, for those keeping score at home, we finally get to return to the original Bast House–where kids have sex and shit in pianos.

But first the poor delivery man is back with his gross flowers.  [Simon's comments from last week have some great ideas about the plastic flowers, too, by the way].  But before that goes anywhere, Eigen shows up to the apartment–the first time he’s been here in a while.  And as he’s coming in the door, he is given a summons for Mr Grynzspan (whom the police assume he is).  Eigen tries to control the crowd and his temper, but he’s fighting with everyone.  In particular, he’s fighting with Rhoda, who has some great lines here.  When asked if she is Mr Bast: “Man look at these I mean do I look like Mister anybody?”  When Eigen says her name “was Rhoda right,” she says “What do you mean was,” and every time Eigen puts his hands near or on her, “I said I can dry there myself.”  Things settle down and Rhoda regales Tom with the story of the shipwreck they had last night, and she’s glad that Chairman Meow isn’t drownded (610).

Then Amy calls looking for jack.  She’s back from Geneva but needs a few days to straighten out things before seeing him.  Rhoda says that Emily is someone Jack doesn’t want to see   Eigen says she’s the only think holding him together.  They repeat the same statements about Gibbs’ book.  Rhoda says that Tom is this “big important novelist” but he can’t see that Gibbs hates his own book and feels pressure from Emily/Amy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH-“Dumb” (1988).

About five years ago I mentioned all of The Beautiful South records in one post.  But I didn’t really talk about them all that much.

This comes from one of my favorite Beautiful South records–I like all the songs equally, but I often have this song in my head.  And the reason I picked it right now is because Paul Heaton sings about a bunch of things each one ending with “either you are simply beautiful or I am simply dumb.”

And these are: “It doesn’t take a mathematician to add a simple sum”; “It doesn’t take a labrador to show a blind man sun”; and this one: “It doesn’t take Robert The Bruce to see the web you’ve spun.”

I had no idea who Robert the Bruce was and I never bothered to look it up.  And yet, as you will see below in the post, Robert the Bruce is mentioned in JR!  I was flabbergasted.  And this song immediately popped into my head.

And that’s not a bad thing.  It’s a pretty piano ballad with a seemingly negative chorus (dumb, dumb, dumb) despite its positive message.  There’s also a beautiful ending: “The sun, the sky, the moon, the stars/Jupiter, Neptune and Mars/All these things I clearly see/It don’t take a telescope for you to love me.”  The songs ends with Jacqui Abbot’s lovely echo of this stanza.

The Beautiful South were a great band, they broke up a few years ago.  Paul Heaton has a number of solo albums out but they’re not available in the states, so…

[READ: Week of August 6, 2012] JR Week 8

This week’s read finds us primarily in the apartment.  We see bast return home and fool around with Rhoda before he goes off on his trip to the funeral.  We see Gibbs come in and try (in vain) to get work done.  We actually get to see Gibbs’ magnum opus (or parts of it), and we see him fall off the high that he felt with Emily.

There’s a lot of funny stuff in this week’s read.  It seems like the darker the story gets, the more childish jokes Gaddis throws in there.  Seeing Gibbs unable to work on his manuscript because of all of the (real and fake) distractions is simultaneously hilarious and spot on.  And also, the plotlines are really revving up now.  JR Corp is starting to see some pushback on their deals, and a number of outsiders are starting to get angry.  There’s bound to be a collapse of some sort soon.  I’m also starting to think that with all of the ellipses in the book that it will end with a dot dot dot.

As we resume, Davidoff and Bast are still talking.  Davidoff tells Bast “Don’t worry about” something [Thanks to Simon for pointing out this expression--I recognized that Davidoff always says "brush fires," but not the don't worry about it].  He is concerned that Bast’s hearing aid isn’t turned up (ha), but that the Boss [JR] wants Bast’s signature on any expenditures over $2,000 (It was originally $200, but Davidoff said Bast would get writer’s cramp).  He explains the title change in the magazine from Her to She–passive to active readership–will cost $14,000.  There’s also $27,000 for a new logo.  And the logos are awesomely cheesy–hard to believe they paid $27,000 for them.  They revolve around the dollar sign, with the least offensive one making a J and R out of the top and bottom of the S–the others have a snake, or breasts or thumbing your nose or even someone behind bars.  They pick the least offensive one that says Just Rite in a dollar sign (“something patriotic about the dollar sign”).  They’re going to put them on half a million matchbooks. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GEORGES BIZET-Overture/Habanera (1874), Nocturne in D major (1867).

Bizet is best known (to me anyway) as the creator of Carmen.  And the Overture is utterly recognizable while “Habanera” is probably one of  the more recognizable vocal operas (you know it).  But Bast and co. seem to known Bizet from his piano work, which I didn’t know at all.

I chose “Nocturne in D major” at random.  It’s very pretty, but nowhere near as memorable as say “Habanera.”

I don’t play piano and I’m not a huge classical music fan (although I do know many composers).  Listening to this piece anyhow, I find it hard to understand how people could recognize Bizet in Bast’s work.  Obviously there are dozens of other pieces that may be more representative of a signature sound, but this just sounds like a beautiful (and not overly challenging like Chopin) piano piece to me.  It’s also true that this piano piece was written ten years before Carmen, and maybe they are thinking of the music of Carmen as recognizably Bizet (can you even play Carmen on the piano?).

I forgot how much I enjoy this opera though, (or at least the highlights).

[READ: Week of July 30, 2012] JR Week 7

I enjoyed this week’s read very much.  It had some real emotional scenes–and a scene that stayed with just the same two people for a long time.  It was also interesting to see Gaddis handle sex–in his own detached mechanical way.  And I liked starting to see the pieces (Davidoff, the Waldorf) start falling into place (as they may also be falling apart).

But before we get to that we must look at a doctored photo.  The photo from Mrs Joubert’s class’ interaction with the folks at Diamond Cable has come back and they have added black to the class.  Mr Hyde notices immediately  that his son (“tell by his haircut” (461)) has been darkened, “Blackface in every one of them.”  “Looks like he’s about ready to get down on one knee and sing Mammy” (461).  While Hyde is outraged, the rest of the room is complementing Whiteback and the company for promoting racial diversity.  It’s even suggested that this will help the Major’s image on the other side of town.   Of course underneath all of this is some festering racism: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TALKING HEADS-“Life During Wartime” (1979).

I ain’t got time for that now.

Talking heads were many things, a weird band, a noisy band, a new wave band with poppy hits, and underneath it all, a punk band that rocked.  If you know Talking Heads from their great later songs, it might be hard to imagine how raw this song is. Byrnes’ voice is intense, the melody is staggered and frantic and the whole enterprise just feels like it could fall apart at any moment.

It’s a great rocking song, and if you haven’t heard it for a while it’s worth checking out again.

Heard about Pittsburgh, PA?

[READ: Week of July 23, 2012] JR Week 6

This week’s read was the first time so far that I found a section tedious.  True, it could have been the time of night that I read it, but the whole section with Gibbs and Tom (which I call the “God damn” section) while providing some recap–and some very useful stuff at one point), was also rather redundant, both internally and in the story as a whole.  It was also quite a downer.  (Infinite Zombies has a post about this book being a comedy or a drama, so I won’t get into that here–I will get into it there though).  Although as with most Gaddis, it was a very accurate portrait of two men wallowing (and would probably be funny to hear out loud), I was happy when Tom finally left the scene.

When we left off last week, Gibbs was coming into Bast’s room holding a bottle.  Bast was just finishing up his videophone conversation with JR (Bast says he was just talking to himself).  Gibbs says he is meeting a man named Beamish here in a little bit. But he interrupts himself “Listen!”  Bast explains that the tub is running non-stop as well.  And Gibbs launches into a poem:

Through caverns measureless to, where the hell…   Bosom where the bright waters meet, like living in Pittsburgh Bast  –confluence of the Mongahela [sic--should be Monongahela] and the vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet to form the mighty Ohio (383).

I’m not entire surely where all of this comes from although As the vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet comes from a Thomas Moore song. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WEEN-Push th’ Little Daisies (1992).

So Ween broke up back in May (this is the year of seemingly one-hit-wonder bands breaking up after decades of playing).  I have a bunch of Ween’s earlier stuff, but stopped listening after their hits.  I’m told some of their later records are quite good.  This song from the album Pure Guava was my introduction to them, and it is weird and kind of irritating and strangely catchy and perfectly encapsulates Ween.

The melody is simple and poppy, but the vocals are, if not sped up, then crazily falsettoed.  And the repeated refrain of “push the little daisies and make em come up” is, if not annoying, certainly infectious (in many senses of the word).

The other fun thing about Ween is that in addition to pretty much none of their albums sounding alike, pretty much none of their songs sound alike.  So you can’t tell if you’ll like any other Ween songs based on this one.  A nice trick, that.

And if, like me, you haven’t see the video in twenty years, check it out

And there is a tangential tie in to JR with this post, by the way.

[READ: Week of July 16, 2012] JR Week 5

I realized that, unlike in previously long weekly posts, I haven’t been including tangentially related photos (I rather liked putting them in the Gravity’s Rainbow posts).  I blame it all on my time constraints.  There also aren’t quite as many picture-worthy things in this book.  GR had lots of locations and historical photo-op type things.  JR is more about money and sex, and the internet doesn’t have many pictures of either, right.   So instead, it’s all block text.

When we left off, JR was trying to persuade Bast to help him out some more.  And, holy, he needs Bast to meet Mister Piscator out by the Egyptian stuff in the museum (JR can’t do it himself obviously–I love that he is using a handkerchief on the phone and everyone asks if there’s connection troubles).  Bast barely says anything but JR is on a roll: he got him the briefcase and that alarm clock (which runs backwards) and the business cards (which Simon pointed out I’ve been missing the typo on) and “I’ll call up that Virginia and fix it up where you get her to take telephone calls at the cafet…” (302).  JR is also going on about the kind of massive tax breaks he (and Bast) will be able to declare.  I can’t decide if he’s right or not (or if it simply won’t be relevant for what he has–indeed, a lot of this financial stuff, it seems like JR is more knowledgeable than anyone else because he has actually read the material–something nobody does.  And Bast is a musician, what does he know about money, right?).  Although his ultimate plan (potentially ingenious, but practically preposterous) is that they buy one share of all the big stocks, get their prospectuses and read them all.  And if anyone is doing anything illegal they can file a class action suit like they did with Diamond Cable. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKTHE FLAMING LIPS AND STARDEATH AND THE WHITE DWARF WITH HENRY ROLLINS AND PEACHES-“Money” (2011).

I’ve already mentioned this full length album, but how can you not talk about JR without mentioning this song.  (I probably could have dine a post a week about all of the covers of it).

This is one of the most famous songs certainly by Pink Floyd on one of the most popular album s of all time.  So how do you cover it?  You can’t lose the bass line, it’s way too important to the song.

But aside from that the song is pretty different–the vocals are machine tuned almost out of recognizability.  And that’s when you realize that although this is a pretty faithful cover, it’s also a goofy cover.  Not silly, not really disrespectful but not entirely right either (notes are out of tune and flubbed).  It’s very mechanized, as if they are talking about the auto-tuned nature of making hit songs.

  Henry Rollins takes the roll of the random punters ranting at the end of the song, and that’s pretty fun.

The whole thing is kind of  a trifle.  It works better in context of the album because you can understand what the group is doing.  On its own it’s a bit of  shock.

[READ: Week of July 9, 2012] JR Week 4

This week continues where last week left off–in the middle of trying to get Dan to convince Ann to drop the lawsuit against the school (for firing Bast). Whiteback tries to speak for Vern, but Vern will have none of it–Whiteback, despite being president of the school and the bank, is proving to be more and more of a pushover as the story goes along.

Vern gives his take on the school:

The function of this school is custodial.  It’s here to keep these kids off the streets until the girls are big enough to get pregnant and the boys are old enough to go out and hold up a gas station, it’s strictly custodial and the rest is plumbing.  If these teachers of yours strike just sit still and keep the doors open, by the time these kids have been lying around the house for a week their parents will march the teachers back in at gunpoint (226).

Dan interrupts the proceedings to talk to Whiteback about his mortgage (Vern magnanimously tells Dan to go ahead and conduct personal business during work hours).  Dan’s mortgage is not working out so well because the studs in his house are too far apart–causing it to be less insurable and causing him to pay a lot more. When Whiteback commends Major Hyde’s house for being spectacularly built Dan says that he was surprised to see that Hyde was moving.  Hyde doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Dan tells him that there was a moving van in his driveway taking all of his things out.  There’s some chaos (and a stolen car) when JR comes in and tells them that Buzzie (who was sent down for possession) has taken off down the hall. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RUSH-“Something for Nothing” (1976).

This song comes from Rush’s 2112 album.  Since I’ve started reading JR, the refrain keeps popping into my head.  People talk of the influence of Ayn Rand on the band at this time and this song fits the bill.  When you think about the themes of most rock songs (carefree sex and partying) the lyrics to this song are totally conservative: “You don’t get something for nothing, you can’t have freedom for free.”  Rush has always been a hard working band, so this attitude makes sense.

And the song also resounds with the capitalists in this story–make your money (and other people’s money) work for you.  “Countless ways you pass the day.”

The song starts quietly but man it rocks hard with some really heavy guitars.  And the solo is intimidatingly noisy.

Oh and as for Rand, “What you own is your own kingdom.”

Of course, there is a little less capitalism as the song ends: “in your head is the answer, let it guide you along, let your heart be the anchor and the beat of your song.”  So, the message is not one of greed, but that to make your dreams come true you have to work for it.  Not bad advice, really.  Unless you were born into money of course.  In which case, never mind.

[READ: Week of July 2, 2012] JR Week 3

My JR posts are proving to be a day late (but not a… nope I won’t say it). It’s not the reading that’s hard it’s finding time to write these up.  So, apologies for those waiting with bated breath.

The week’s section opens with sex, specifically, Polaroids of sex.  Mr Angel, Stella’s husband, gets a call from Coen at the hospital (he got into an accident because of his broken glasses (ha–it was not reckless driving).  Then he starts talking with Terry about sprucing up the place–nice paneling, some plants–she thinks that’s a great idea (and actually buy a plant with her own money later).  They are interrupted by Mr Angel’s worker Leo who presents him with a stack of photos of the same Terry engaging in various graphic sexual positions (the boys in shipping had them).  With multiple men.  And although none of the men work in the office, the pictures are taken in this very office.  Mr Angel suggests that the photos could be doctored, to which Leo replies, “You’d have to have a picture of her eating a cucumber to paste onto this one, that’s some doctor” (151).   Childish but very funny.

Mr Angel goes off to Dayton to deal with some business and we see that quickest passage of time yet in the book.  Most of the book so far has been set in a day or two, but as we stay with the secretaries, several days pass in Mr Angel’ absence.  Terry and Myrna move their things into the same area so they can talk and listen to the radio while they work.  So there’s the gossip and the radio chatter vying for attention (the radio comes in Spanish as well as English) and the scene stays with them over a few days and through weekend.  Although this book doesn’t shy at all from potty humor, I enjoyed this little exchange before he leaves: Mr Angel say that she’s left the letter “s” off the word scrap on one of the documents.  She’s so embarrassed!

Terry also says she has something to tell Mr Angel about Leo…but that never gets said aloud, even when he returns and reminds her. (more…)

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