Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How is a pun possible?

Just fyi, the ghost of Jacques Derrida is vandalizing Wikipedia entries to make dumb Foucault jokes.

Get him back Foucault!
Scientia potentia est!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Samantha Moss Let Down by the Second Half of a Book, Part CMLXXXII

Oh! I didn't realize this was a LitBlog now! Awesome idea to turn this into that. Totally great, seriously, because now I can talk about this: I know everyone on Earth has read this book but urrrhrghrghrhghrghr, Wind Up Bird Chronicles, UgGUGHHIhrhrhhrrrggffg
And now that this is a LitBlog, I can review it!
Here we go:

  • The first half was charmingly Lynchian. :) *

  • But I found the second half to be annoyingly Lynchian. :( **

*e.g., interesting mysterious women; strange occurrences leading a mostly reactive protagonist into a seedy underworld

**i.e., the second half kept me interested and entertained well enough, I guess, and periodically brought up some thematic connections to the first half, but I felt like it had kind of strayed so far from the original plot/characters from the first part that it made me wonder why I had invested time/empathy into them if they were only going to be discarded. And there were a lot of little details whose reasons to exist were suspect. Liiiike they were jarringly non-sequitury or just throw-away surrealities or improbable coincidences and while sometimes that works, some other times, in 600 page books, for instance, it's really annoying. Like the bat and the lemon drops and the two sisters, one of whom had a conspicuous red hat that conspicuously failed to fire in the third act, and the cat and the assistant of the brother and pages 23-72. and why can't cinnamon talk? and wasn't it weird how he used western brand names so often? Oh wait, I've just been handed a note that says this is not a LitBlog.
OK, um, not a LitBlog, not a LitBlog, OK, quick, here is something not related to literature that I thought about today:

Problems at the 42nd street transfer probably never get resolved because on the work forms where it says: "Subway lines affected" the workers put "N/A".

Now go out there and be so swell that you'll make me hate you!

Save Ferris

From the comments, moonlight ambulette intones...

listen, this has nothing to do with your post, really, but i've been thinking that you should read Then We Came to the End because it is about people in offices and you work in an office and so do i and i think this book is really really funny and maybe you will too? you still live in new york?

..And my response to that was getting too long, so here it is here:


I do still live in New York for something like two more weeks, and when I move, that book will be boxed among my other items because verily: I totally read that book and I liked it a lot.

In particular:

  • How funny it was;
  • The first-person-plural voice;
  • The guy who quotes Emerson;
  • The Catch-22ishness (though it wasn't slavishly Catch-22esque, which you might initially think);
  • The very last line, which maybe could be considered gimmicky, but worked for me and which I read with what I guess I would call a satisfyingly pleasant shock (that almost never happens to me in a novel -- the last time it came close was Dave Eggers' You Shall Know Our Velocity, where the last line suddenly made me remember the first line of the book (conveniently printed on the cover) and I went back to the first line to make sure I understood the implication of the last line, and I had, and wow, that got me, but then the rest of the book wasn't so consistently great, and so I'm not going to count that one);
  • The fun promotional website, which I wisely did not look at until after I read the book, not that it gives anything away, but because we all know what happens when you look at a debut novelist's fun promotional website and then read her stupid, sucky book. (A clever thing about the website is that only the characters that would have myspace pages do have myspace pages.)
  • It seems utterly implausible to me that a large percentage of a group of people in a cubefarm would (a) know and (b) embrace a Tom Waits song;
  • The "end" the title references, which I take to mean "the end of August and first few weeks of September" thing toward the close of the book, which I read with unpleasant shock (it seemed like a calculatedly throwaway line, and I'm not ready for that to be a throw away line yet; maybe you have a different opinion -- I felt the same way about DFW's "The Suffering Chanel", and I pretty much love DFW);
  • I kind of lost track of some of the characters, although I'm happy to blame myself for this
  • The resolution to the central maguffin conceit ("Design a funny cancer awareness campaign") wasn't that great, but maybe the point was it couldn't be; but I was looking for it to be like The Cheese Monkeys, where the students get a design challenge and you get a chance to figure out what you would do and then you find out what the students did and you're all like, "Chip Kidd, you madman!"
  • The book is set in and spends a lot of time dealing with the great city of Chicago and specifically an ad agency in Chicago, and a week or so ago I spent a whole day in Austin with someone who works in an ad agency in Chicago (!) (we were both there for a wedding), and I asked if he had read this book which I had assumed everyone in the world knew about, and if it had taken the Chicago ad agency community by storm and whatnot, and he said he had never heard of it.
  • From reading the book, you would think "this remarkable debut novelist must live in Chicago!" and when you finish the book and read the author description it says something like, "Ferris currently lives in Brooklyn" and I think that's probably the darkest joke in the whole book.


That gigantic hole in the universe is the result of God making a hand shadow of a dog to entertain Jesus.

GOD: Look, it's a dog. There's his ears...
JESUS: Ha, ha!
GOD: And that's his mouth: "Bow wow, Jesus! Don't forget to walk me!"
JESUS: Do another one!
GOD: OK, here's a rabbit.
GOD: Here's a scary spider!
GOD: OK, Sport, time for bed.
JESUS: One more!
GOD: Here's the Board of Trade hand gesture for "I will sell at 1/4." And now it's time for bed.
JESUS: One more! One more!
GOD: OK, last one. Here's a Klein Bottle.
JESUS: WTF? How did you do that?
GOD: It's easy when you're God, LOL.

The Best Thing I Learned From Wikipedia Today

[the day is early but I don't think I'll top this]

Jonathan Katz* ...
...was the New York ping pong champion in 1964. He is a close personal friend of renowned playwright David Mamet, with whom he attended Goddard College. Katz co-wrote "House of Games" and appeared in a small role in Mamet's 2000 film "State and Main." They used to travel around college to college hustling people over games of ping pong. Katz would let Mamet beat him. They would pretend to play for money then Mamet would say "If you want to play me, you have to beat my friend first." To keep the game moderately close, [Katz] would sometimes spot his opponents 15 points for a game up to 21 and during every point, recall a painful experience from his childhood.


* I refer to the American actor named Jonathan Katz as opposed to the technology writer named Jonathan Katz, the queer studies professor named Jonathan Katz or the historian named Jonathan Katz, who also have wiki entries, if you're one of those Jonathan Katz Completists.

The reason I was reading about him is because the TSOYA blog pointed me to Katz's podcast, of which two exist: they are each about six and a half minutes long, but each have about eighteen minutes of funny in them, so they are like little comedy sausages. I should know, as I did a book report on The Jungle in summer school.

(The "jungle" is not an actual jungle. It is Symbolic.)

Not to pat myself on the back too much, but if I may quote my teacher, "A++".