More quick capsule reviews
I gave Abel Ferrera’s The Addiction
a bit of a gander on DVD. Interesting to see a modern B&W take on the vampire myth, and have it set in the questing, doubting, striving world of PhD students. This makes for an interesting little visual-thematic twist on the parasitic exchange of knowledge at the end. As you can guess, the film presents vampiricism or the New Vampirical Affect as pretty much synonymous with regular (almost academic) drug addiction. Enter your Burroughs reference, hello Nietzsche and Kierkegaard and make way for Feuerbach — ‘cos everyone gets a mention. Seriously, the film is stuffed with topical reference to these and other writers, with of course some notable exceptions (where’s BF Skinner?) and if the postdoctoral setting doesn’t already give you the Next Chapter Due horrors, then these hammy, unfootnoted references will. Even Christopher Walken, so much on home ground here, gets to spout and piffle like tweed and leather elbow patches. Philosophy and addiction, willpower and blood, the necessity of soulless subjection, together at last! If our lead actress was sponsoring her thesis with a little bit of bloodsucking on the side, pimping her philosophical instincts as it were, then OK — but as it stands, I thought it a little snide to try and make weighty referential justifications. That said, the photography is nicely claustrophobic, thematically contrapuntal to Abels’ King of New York (oops, academic talk again). And, predictably, like any vampirical world, it all depends on a very Christian and cross-heavy idea of reality and salvation. Christian, all too Christian, that is.
Irish band Kila
, in full St Patrick’s Day swing, 17/03/04. Furious Oirish rhythms, resoundingly bad PA/mixing at the Olympia squashing the rich sound, mad Oirishmen and women everywhere doing jigs with beers, a core band of 7 augmented by string quartet, those mad mad oirish arpeggios and trad drumming, flutes and uilleann pipes and some resoundingly able musicianship (amazing repertory memory) and the gap-toothed excitement of playing white rhythm grooves without emphasis on bass or counterpoint… those mad fast Oirish jigs. But they also did a subtle, absolutely emotional tune called Travelling Begins, I think, which was damn near wistful and rending. After a truckload of rhythm, a nice breather, a heart.
Literary surprises are few and far between when you can’t afford new books or the have tenacity to review them all — which no reviewer does anyway (‘we sell conviction’ they might say), but I had a few moments of discrete literary pleasure to chance upon Amis’ collection of shorts Einstein’s Monsters
. Amis is quite the accomplished short story writer — because in a sense it’s so clear which writerly models he pays heavy subscription to. There’s one in the Bellow mode, one in Ballard and an hilarious romp in the Borges mode. Also interesting to see how much more acerbic and sassy he plays these modes, how much more British. But the hard theme of the book is the fallout from the nuclear age and nuclear deterrence. An opening essay does a good job at illustrating how nukes, nuclear war and nuclear deterrence do funny things to logic and language (ie, how can you defend your land and people with nukes when after an initial strike very little will be left to defend), and importantly, how their threat has dilated and completely inverted our sense and experience of time. ‘I’m cosmic — in time — but so are nukes: in power’ says Amis’ Immortal
. Time and the destruction of the sky are consistent tropes here; and besides the clearly helpless and therefore humane paranoia infecting the stories, it’s his punchy and precise use of humour — never too extended, never too cheap — that really glows here. I mean, to compare a heavily-sedated schizophrenic’s face to Ivan Lendl, ‘two sets down to his worst enemy and trailing love-five in the third’ is just sublime — for all of us who remember Lendl and his Rexona spots. Or this from Bujak:
Bujak spoke of Einstein as if he were God’s literary critic, God being a poet. I, more stolidly, tend to suspect that God is a novelist — a garrulous and deeply unwholesome one too…
Or maybe that’s Amis senior putting in another appearance. Anyhoo, fun simple stories, all clever, all clear in who what where and how, all in conversational English without an ounce of superfluous fat.
But, again, sometimes I feel like all there's left to do is constantly review stuff...