The Long Goodbye

Posted in art, books, movies by johnsnavely on February 29, 2008

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’m adjusting to a new life of no school.

Meanwhile, 64squares is down. I’ve just finished the first season of the wire and am starting the second. And my instinct is to sympathize, not with the police or the hounded dealers, but with the poor junkies who will not be getting their fix because their website is down and the product has dried up.

Yesterday, I read Shane. I had read it when I was a kid and loved it (and the movie). It’s a classic western with all the cliches you’ve ever heard. But reading it again was really fun. It’s short and elegant. The main character is a gunslinger-in-denial trying to find peace who ends up being forced back into his violent past. (Seriously, I could hyphenate that entire sentence.) There are guns, but he (Shane) fires three bullets in the entire story. And that’s all he needs to do. On a similar note, I assume you’ve all seen this:

I’ve been pretty fascinated by Americana recently. Although, I’m not even sure what Americana is. The other day, I saw a beautiful set of “Illustrated Classics” in the comic book store in Harvard Square. They looked lovingly (and by that I mean authentically) trashy. Moby Dick and Last of the Mohicans were both represented. Moby Dick Illustrated ClassicBack in Middle School, I remember these novels as being formative tomes in my construction of what it meant to be American, or what it must have been like. The Western, and the Hard boiled detective story, the (Illustrated) Classic add up to something, but I don’t know what it is.

Over on his site, Bryan’s been talking about kitschy stuff and the currency of image for his awesome thesis redesign of the capitol. Although some of his cynicism is probably apt, I wonder if we couldn’t suspend skepticism here or there and find something worth keeping. At some point, kitsch is our culture. We’re only hurting ourselves with this rambunktious (sic) behaviour (sic). Last year, Edith shared this great quote by Kundera on kitsch:

Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass. It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch.

Last year, I took a little road trip for a week by myself with my dog. It was boring, mostly. There’s a lot of highway out there. I stayed in Motel 6’s (they take dogs) and wasted gas and found a classic rock station in whatever state I was in.

I was filling up at a gas station off one of those trick exits that make you drive out into the woods to find fuel. Across from me, two young, beautiful girls were getting gas for a beatup white old porsche. I think they were driving to New York City. They were laughing or something. We drove off in different directions. That scene in Lost in Translation flashed through my mind. And I felt very old. But also confused. Is it really this way? So cliched? Or does it feel this way because, thanks to Woody Allen movies etc, it’s supposed to feel this way?

It’s so easy to keep cliche at a distance…until one works for you and you’re helpless. It seems a beauty like that we might aspire to make more often.


2 Responses

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  1. bryan said, on February 29, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    John- not sure if you read my post as cynical, but I wasn’t trying to be. I’m actually trying to argue that all those recreations of the capitol– kitschy and serious both– are more accurately the capitol than the actual building. Anyways, let’s have dinner soon.

  2. johnsnavely said, on March 1, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    I think I might have been reading it harsher than you intended. I guess my fantasy is some sort of regressive naivete, where one can’t distinguish between kitschy and serious. It puts so much stuff back on the table, to be judged as “beautiful” (if it merits it). Innocence could be productive.

    Anyway, dinner sounds awesome! How’s thesis coming?

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