"All the Stones the Builders Rejected"
(And some days it takes more Stones than others...) Where Mythical Bestiary meets Contemporary Culture and Chews On Its Leg Until Covered with Slobber.
Personal Best of 2005
In spite the title, there are, alas, no naked pictures of Mariel Hemingway here, still a fine figure of a girl (forever younger than me, anyway.) An incomplete list of the best of what I read, saw, listened to, smelled, tasted or suspected this last year, in no particular order: BOOKS:
Three by Raymond Chandler: "The Long Goodbye"; "The Big Sleep"; "Farewell, My Lovely": Damn, he's good. I wasn't old enough to appreciate Chandler the first time I read him, being all agog with John D. MacDonald and Dashiell Hammett. Believe the cover hype, Chandler really did "write like a slumming angel" and "as if pain mattered". Chandler is also instructive to read for all the, excuse me, psychopathic Frank Milleresque punks who spew out imitatation noir: both Hammet and Chandler (and Ellroy, and Welles, and etc.) believed in certain things that they found discarded, degraded or abused by the fallen world. It's not just chiaroscuro lighting, asshole attitude, guignol gore, treacherous-yet-sexy women, small mean souls and boxes of bullets.
Jim Harrison, "True North": Jim Harrison's look at the clear-cutting of the Michigan wilderness and the family echoes of the crime. God forgive us, we were once the model for Longfellow's "forest primeval"; north of the line it ALL looked like Hartwick Pines. The hero is using up his life trying to transcend his evil ratfuck bastard ancestors.
Mary Renault, "The Nature of Alexander": a short biography that I read chapter by chapter like a good novel. Renault changed my opinion of Alexander, who I'd thought of before as a glamorous psychopath.
John M. Ford, "The Last Hot Time": Elves, EMTs and a kind of dreamlike gangland Chicago, can't be bad, as the British say. An innocent hero growing wiser with experience but not harder; the toughness was already there. Also a startling apologia for light bondage.
Alan Moore, "Promethea" (Volumes 1-5): Holy shit, is this an amazing series. I know Moore is good, no matter what he turns his hand to, managaing to be both funny and sad in the same page, but this time he does his best to make incredibly abstract concepts into funny, sad, involving concrete characters. And the art by JH Williams III is just as wonderful. A synopsis of the first few pages won't do it justice, but here goes: In the last years of the pagan world (around the time of the death of Hyapatia) an Alexandrine father saves his daughter from Christian fanatics by transforming her into a mythical/fictional/legendary archetype called Promethea. Throughout the ages, a series of people have inhabited the archetype with all the danger and glory that implies. There are also (this is typical in Moore) hundreds of little throway gags going on in the background, like the Weeping Gorilla and a politician with Multiple Personality Disorder who becomes possessed by demons (but no one notices).
John Lukacs, "Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred": a wonderfully written book about the dangers of populism. America is so busy congratulating itself about its triumphs over fascism and communism that we ignore-- or embrace-- "a dangerous and possibly irreversible-- populism.... the tyranny of the majority." Propaganda and publicity instead of thought and discourse, entertainment instead of knowledge, etc. How we got where we are since 1945, while amusing ourselves to death.
Lots of anecodtes and quotations from the personalities of the French Revolution, and a generation earlier, Voltaire as the flag bearer for religious freedom. Started with will and Ariel Duant's "Age of Napoleon" and working my way out from there.
FILMS: (Not as many details given; films are overly publicized anyway.)
"Syrianna": I think a masterpiece; I'm envious of the writer's ability to present a picture of the modern web of oil, power and terrorism. It takes me years to fully comprehend current events enough to write about them; I'm just now catching up with the French Revolution and just finishing my nemeses-come-home-to-roost 9/11 novel.
"Secretary": Every hand has its glove somewhere. A Domme/Sub relationship blossoms into love. Horny, too.
"Last Orders": Cockneys fulfill their best mate's last request to scatter his ashes out to sea.
"El Espinazo del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone)": The best ghost story I've seen in many a moon. Child refugees from the Spanish Civil War, menaced in a haunted orphanage.
"Kung Fu Hustle": Watch it in Chinese with the subtitles on. All the tropes of the genre and more. At least watch the scene where Stephen Chow tries to assassinate the landlady with a throwing knife.
FAVORITE NEW TASTES: Kenyan AA coffee, fresh ground from beans. Fresh French green beans as cooked by Josianne. Pinaud aperitif (the red).