Getting pretty close to having read all of Larry McMurtry’s nonfiction. LMcM has a rambling, conversational way in these books, I enjoy it. Here is some previous coverage about his book Hollywood, and his road trip book Roads, and the best one of all imo, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen.
Oh What A Slaughter is definitely worth a read. A good quality of McMurtry and my all time favorite Evan S. Connell is that they really capture the weirdness of history.
How about this, as McMurtry describes the buildup to the Wounded Knee massacre?:
How can you not like a book that has this in it?
Sacagawea’s Nickname wasn’t as compelling to me.
It collects essays McMurtry wrote for the New York Review Of Books: a couple about Lewis & Clark, one about the great one-armed explorer/surveyor/ethnographer/proto-environmentalist John Wesley Powell:
But for title alone I was def gonna read it. Like every American kid I was taught about Sacagawea in school, whose name we were told was pronounced “Sack-a Jew-ee-uh.”
Imagine my shock years later when my friend Leila, who was schooled in Oregon and thus had some cred on the issue, told me her name was pronounced “Sack Ahj Way.” Well, sure. How could we know? Both Lewis and Clark, Clark especially, were crazy spellers, so their clues are confusing. From Wiki:
Clark used Sahkahgarwea, Sahcahgagwea, Sarcargahwea, and Sahcahgahweah, while Lewis used Sahcahgahwea, Sahcahgarweah, Sahcargarweah, and Sahcahgar Wea.
Anyway let me go ahead and give you a spoiler that Sar car Ja we a’s nickname was Janey.
Briefly shared a publisher, Grove/Atlantic, with Jim Harrison, which made me feel cool. Some gems in his New York Times obituary:
There was the eating. Mr. Harrison once faced down 144 oysters, just to see if he could finish them. (He could.)
“If you’ve known a lot of actresses and models,” he once confided with characteristic plain-spokenness to a rapt audience at a literary gathering, “you return to waitresses because at least they smell like food.”
Mr. Harrison had his detractors. With its boozing and brawling and bedding, his fiction was often called misogynistic. He did himself no favors with a 1983 Esquire essay in which he called his feminist critics “brie brains” and added, in gleeful self-parody, “Even now, far up in the wilderness in my cabin, where I just shot a lamprey passing upstream with my Magnum, I wouldn’t have the heart to turn down a platter of hot buttered cheerleaders.”
came up on my Spotify. One great sentence after another on her wiki page:
In 1947, London married actor Jack Webb (of Dragnet fame). This pairing arose from their common love of jazz.
Her widely regarded beauty and poise (she was a pin-up girl prized by GIs during World War II) contrasted strongly with her pedestrian appearance and streetwise acting technique (much parodied by impersonators).
London and Troup appeared as panelists on the game show Tattletales several times in the 1970s. In the 1950s, London appeared in an advertisement for Marlboro cigarettes singing the “Marlboro Song” and in 1978 appeared in television advertisements for Rose Milk Skin Care Cream.
A private and introverted lady, London suffered a stroke in 1995 and was in poor health until her death on October 18, 2000 (the day her husband, Bobby Troup, would have been 82), in Encino, California, at age 74.
In an interview, Mantooth claimed London “was not impish nor a diva. She was a soul, kind of mother. She was the kindest person I have ever known.” He also added, “I don’t know if it was up to her, but Kevin and I were both kept calm by her personality, when we were shooting in the hospital. Only Bobby Troup knew who she was…she was just like Julie! She made us laugh!”
Finally getting down to this one. Not all old philosophical classics are easy reading but Boethius gets off to a rip-roaring start. He’s got the Muses of Poetry at his bedside trying to cheer him up when all of a sudden Philosophy appears:
Philosophy is like
A lot of credit is probably due to the translator, Victor Watts. He sounds like just the man for the job:
Gilgamesh is crushing it, basically:
Gilgamesh the tall, magnificent and terrible;
who opened passes in the mountains,
who dug wells on the slopes of the uplands,
and crossed the ocean, the wide sea to the sunrise;
who scoured the world ever searching for life,
and reached through sheer force Uta-napishti the Distant;
who restored the cult-centres destroyed by the Deluge;
and set in place for the people the rites of the cosmos.
Who is there can rival his kingly standing,
and say like Gilgamesh, ‘It is I am the king’?
Gilgamesh was his name from teh day he was born,
two-thirds of him god and one third human.
But his dominance is getting to be a problem:
Though he is their shepherd and their protector,
powerful, pre-eminent, expert and mighty,
Gilgamesh lets no girl go free to her bridegroom.
So complain ‘the warrior’s daughter, the young man’s bride’ to the goddesses. So the goddess Aruru makes a man who will be a match for Gilgamesh.
In the wild she created Enkidu, the hero,
offspring of silence, knit strong by Ninurta.
All his body is matted with hair,
he bears long tresses like those of a woman:
the hair of his head grows thickly as barley,
he knows not a people, nor even a country.
Coated in hair like the god of the animals,
with the gazelles he grazes on grasses.
Joining the throng with the game at the water-hole,
his heart delighting with the beasts in the water.
Enkidu scares a hunter, who goes to Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh says “ok, go get Shamhat the temple prostitute and go tempt Enkidu”:
Then Shamhat saw him, the child of nature,
the savage man from the midst of the wild.
‘This is he, Shamhat! Uncradle your bosom,
bare your sex, let him take in your charms!
Do not recoil, but take in his scent:
he will see you, and will approach you.
Spread your clothing so he may lie on you,
do for the man the work of a woman!
Let his passion caress and embrace you,
his herd will spurn him, though he grew up amongst it.’
Shamhat unfastened the cloth of her loins,
she bared her sex and he took in her charms.
She did not recoil, she took in his scent:
she spread her clothing and he lay upon her.
She did for the man the work of a woman,
his passion caressed and embraced her.
For six days and seven nights
Enkidu was erect, as he coupled with Shamhat.
When with her delights he was fully sated,
he turned his gaze to the his herd.
The gazelles saw Enkidu, they started to run,
the beasts of the field shied away from his presence.
Enkidu had defiled his body so pure,
his legs stood still, though his herd was in motion.
Enkidu was weakened, could not run as before,
but now he had reason, and wide understanding.
Wild man fucks prostitute, loses his gazelle friends — oldest story in the world.
That’s all on Tablet One, by the way. Remember the old rule: by Tablet Two, you should have established your characters and relationships.
What happens next is Gilgamesh and Enkidu become best friends and decide to go to the Cedar Forest to kill the monster Humbaba.
What red-blooded American hasn’t considered suicide?
HIGHEST recommendation to Marc Maron’s interview with St. Vincent. A truly fantastic interview with a person who can’t seem to say anything except in some intriguing, innovative way. Super cool.
A fun twist in my listening experience: I was skipping over the first ten minutes as is my way with WTF Podcast, but because there’s a mini-interview or teaser at the beginning, I listened to about five minutes of Andrea Martin, thinking she was St. Vincent:
A trippy misunderstanding.
One thing St. Vincent said is that, as a kind of resolution, she’s stopped reading the Internet, and she’s found — whether it’s causation or correlation — that she’s been more present, has more interesting conversations with people she comes across.
Unachievable goal for me, but I am gonna continue to think about this, she’s onto something here.
Today I looked at Drudge Report, as I so often do, and was like “what the fuck am I doing looking at this garbage?” Some headlines from Drudge today, punctuation is sic:
Students slam Michelle O lunch rules: Mayo banned
‘SEX SLAVE’ MET QUEEN
PAPER: Unending Anxiety of ‘ICYMI’ World…
Man posts bail — with sneakers…
BABIES WITH ‘THREE PARENTS’ TO BE LEGAL WITHIN WEEKS…
RISE OF THE MACHINES: ROBOTS LEARN WATCHING YOUTUBE!
Al Qaeda warns of new ‘undetectable’ bombs to be used against US…
Egypt defence lawyers challenge police in gay bathhouse case…
Do I need this garbage in my life?
(Hey serious q: if any HelyTimes readers know some best practices for using photos from the internet on your non-profit blog please lemme know. Can’t find a source for that St. Vincent photo, not sure how hard I should try/worry about that)
Contains WILD spoilers!
1) This movie has a high degree of difficulty.
I read 2/3s of the book Wild – abandoned it before I finished, but I did the same thing with Eat Pray Love and then years later started over and found it very impressive. Perhaps a similar fate awaits Wild & me.
At least two top-notch women I know swear by Tiny Beautiful Things. I like reading interviews with Cheryl Strayed, she seems like the real deal.
In books you can get into somebody’s head. That is their killer advantage, and why I don’t think books are going anywhere anytime soon. You just can’t do that in a movie. Wild the movie does a pretty good job of this, but it’s sort of just doomed, imo. This is a story about a person’s journey from one mental state to another, with most of the work done internally. Very hard to dramatize.
While there are good tricks towards doing that in this movie, it comes up a little short on the radical innovations needed to tell that story in a movie. Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay: a dude who is good at this kind of thing, his books make excellent movies, but maybe a true writer-director could’ve worked the solutions even tighter?
[One particular note: it seemed to me like all the cutaways should’ve cut a few beats earlier. You’re always like, “ok, here we go, we’re about to cutaway to Cheryl’s childhood.”]
2) The story has a motivation problem.
Cheryl decided to do this, herself. No one made her, asked her, even cares if she accomplishes her goal. So when she faces difficulty or problems, it easy to think “well, you’re the one who decided to hike the PCT, dumdum. Why should I care about this?”
In a story, a person sets out to do something and arrives at a win/lose/draw (thanks to John Gardner for articulating that for me). What would count as a win in this story? Getting to Ashland? No, who cares about Ashland, nothing but hippies in Ashland. The goal of this story is: Cheryl restoring herself (whether or not she knows that’s the goal at the start).
But: that’s an internal goal, how will you show it in a movie? It’s easier to answer these questions in a book, where Cheryl can articulate her reasons and get you with her and make you see that this particular journey is important even if nothing tangible’s at stake.
3) Still, pretty good movie.
Despite all that I thought the ending was pretty satisfying. It’s hard to make a pretty good movie. When Reese Witherspoon yells “FUCK YOU BITCH!” I thought that was good acting.
Sometimes I think all the hugely successful actresses [Reese, Anne Hathaway, etc.] are such intense people that when they act like normal people their instinct is to be way too intense. I would argue Julianne Moore might be the best at not doing this. Think how hard that must be: to act intense but not at your full-bore intense because you somehow intuitively understand that your own “full bore” is too strong for the screen. Acting is crazy hard.
Like all criticism should, let this come with a disclaimer: it’s easy to be a critic hard to make a thing, makers > critics x1000!
4) Interesting sex stuff in this movie.
I do remember in the book being jarred by the period of sexual degradation and heroin, hadn’t realized that was part of the tale. It was new territory, I felt, in exploring a woman’s sexual… could we call it addiction? self-punishment? Cheryl’s not not in control at that point, right? But she also isn’t having a great time. It’s fucked up, she knows it’s fucked up. But it’s not fucked up because she’s a slut, it’s fucked up because she’s not being the woman she wants to be (right?).
Whatever, it made me think/was also slightly titillating/made me feel kind of bad for the husband she was compulsively cheating on. What are the nice guy husbands of America to make of Eat Pray Love and Wild, two biggest women’s memoirs of the last ten years, that both start with a woman leaving her nice guy husband for sexual adventuring?
How often in a movie do you see sex that is intended to be not rape but also not fun?
5) The music in this movie is kind of good but also kind of sucks.
That’s my take anyway. What if I told you that in 2014 we were making an epic movie about a woman’s adventure across America? Would you say that scattered samples of Simon & Garfunkel is the best we could do? Fuck no! Why didn’t they get some awesome woman to make a badass score like Eddie Vedder did for the man-equivalent, Into The Wild?
6) There’s a weird shoutout to REI in this movie.
Where Reese calls them to get new boots and is like “you’re my favorite company ever.” Maybe Cheryl really felt that way. I have a bunch of stuff from REI, but sometimes I think their business model is based on making you think going outdoors is more expensive and complicated than it really is to sell you more junk. Which, weirdly: in the same scene where Cheryl learns about REI’s return policy, the dude is like “you don’t need all this shit.”
Former REI CEO Sally Jewell is Secretary of the Interior.
Strikes me as a very Obama kind of pick: on the one hand, kind of hip and modern and innovative, but on the other hand she was still the CEO of a huge corporation.
7) Wild and Eat Pray Love are in long American literary tradition of spiritual narrative.
If I were a grad student at Yale I’d write my Ph. D. on this, trace it all back through Emerson and Puritan religious narratives and captive narratives of 18th century New England and I’d be the smartest boy in the seminar. Since I’m not in grad school though I can make my point in one sentence which is that things that seem radical and new are often just new versions of an old tradition, we’re not so different from the past or as wildly inventive as we think we are, etc.
8) Is this how women go through life? Constantly having to wonder if a random dude is a rapist?
Damn, that might be the most important aspect of Wild, seeing the world through a woman’s eyes, showing that tension of life. When I walk around at 11pm or so in my neighborhood and I see women walking their dogs it always feels very tense. My instinct to somehow indicate I am not a rapist usually just seems to make the problem worse.
ANYWAY: one reason I was excited to see Wild is I’ve been to many of the settings along the Pacific Crest Trail on fishing trips. Here, for example, is a photo of Kennedy Meadows:
Kennedy Meadows is like a plateau high up in the Sierras. To get there you drive up a crazy 27-mile twisty road up from the 395. If you find yourself there, be sure to stop at The Grumpy Bear:
They’re happy to teach you about jerking meat:
Don’t get it confused with the other Kennedy Meadows up in Sonora.
While I was up there I crossed the PCT and wondered if it would be interesting to film a couple seconds of walking on it:
If you’d like to see Wild, but only have ten seconds, my film gets at similar themes but with more nauseating camerawork.