He speaks in your voice, American, and there’s a shine in his eye that’s halfway hopeful. It’s a school day, sure, but he’s nowhere near the classroom. He wants to be here instead, standing in the shadow of this old rust-hulk of a structure, and it’s hard to blame him—this metropolis of steel and concrete and flaky paint and cropped grass and enormous Chesterfield packs aslant on the scoreboards, a couple of cigarettes jutting from each. Longing on a large scale is what makes history. This is just a kid with a local yearning but he is part of an assembling crowd, anonymous thousands off the buses and trains, people in narrow columns tramping over the swing bridge above the river, and even if they are not a migration or a revolution, some vast shaking of the soul, they bring with them the body heat of a great city and their own small reveries and desperations, the unseen something that haunts the day—men in fedoras and sailors on shore leave, the stray tumble of their thoughts,
It came out the same year as the rings of Saturn, not a terrible book actually. Both got the most hyperbolic reviews I've ever seen so I read both of them. I was 18 or 19 probably, too old to be listening to critics but I was a late developer.
We think Bram Stoker, Bela Legosi, Transylvania. Dark, foreboding castles. Coffins, fangs, mirrors without reflections. Bats flying in moonlight, creating archetypal shadows. Punctured necks and heaving bosoms. The townspeople assemble, demand vengeance.
“To kill the vampire,” the mayor says. “To return to normal.”
“Humans versus monsters,” agrees the blacksmith.
A bar wench says, “The destruction the different. The restoration of the status quo.”
The burlapped mob, moving as one body, winds up the mountain. A crowd, a mass, a flock. They arrive armed with pitchforks and burning torches; garlic and holy water; crosses and sharpened stakes. Talismans of a long dead science.
The monster is defeated, as monsters are. Screams, curses, blood. The sad, victorious dawn.
And now this chocolately cereal. Crunchy, with marshmallows.
I've read losds of books I hate. I always try and get to the end. Imagine if the last chapter, page or line redeems it somehow. In the case of Underworld imagine if it finished "Oh, by the way, ignore everything preceding this, in fact pretend I wrote the exact opposite of every line, then you will learn so much". Like that famous job interview test they used to give us at school which began "Read to the end before doing anything" and then asked you to do really stupid things. Imagine how radical that would be - has it ever been done? Then again if Underworld finished "and then I woke up and it was all a dream" would have been better.
I've read Mao II which was boring, but the ideas were fascinating, and I'm just finishing up Libra which is a lot better and a very sad book. It's got me rewatching the Zapruder film and Ruby shooting Oswald, also a "4K 360° VR" clip of the assassination.
I'm with you on Terrence Malick, did a couple of good films and fucked off for ages. When he came back he was a legend and everyone pretended they liked the comeback film which was just about ok I guess. After that every film got worse and worse - and when you consider that The New World was (at the time) one of the worst films I'd ever seen that means he really lowered the bar....
James Ellroy I've barely read but the ones I have are great. Is it common knowledge that his style came out of the fact that he'd gone massively over the word count but really didn't want to change the plot so he just cut words out of every sentence with the result that they became terser, sharper, more urgent. A happy accident but he had the brains to capitalise.