Something like 8 over the last 4 days. Of my dreams in the past week:
6 involved old people
3 involved an airplane or helicopter
2 involved my dad and me discussing music
1 involved U2 (sigh… my NPP pr is wearing off on me)
… 4 involved my grandparents or Cincinnati (where they used to live). And then I heard that my grandpa (who had lung cancer a year ago, and is probably cured) is going in for another checkup, and he’s worried because he’s been having trouble recently… so send him rays of positive psychic energy, if you have a moment and incredible powers.
Umm. Things I have been reading recently:
Michael Chabon, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” (courtesy of Julie)- This is tricky. I am useless as a book critic, because the things I can say about this book are:
I liked it.
It reminded me of the Great Gatsby (why? because they’re in a city, there are symbols, and life is tough, I guess… ?)
It was cool reading about parts of Pittsburgh- I mean, exact spots in Pittsburgh where I’ve been.
It used the word “phosphenes.” Twice.
I couldn’t relate to it. Why not? I mean, is it “because I’m not gay”? Or, because I’m not “straight but confused”? Or maybe because I’ve never had to make a choice between two people I loved romantically, one of whom happens to be male? And maybe because I can’t see why that choice would be so tough. Oh yeah, that, and my dad isn’t a mob boss, and I’m not wasting away working at a crappy bookstore, and my life doesn’t get wrecked.
Ray Bradbury, “A Sound of Thunder” (courtesy of Joe)- man, Ray Bradbury is a hero. He used to be one of my favorites, then I didn’t read any of his books for a while, and now I found one again. He makes great stories. I’ve only read the first half dozen or so. No particular favorites yet, although “The April Witch” is strangely horrifying, and “The Murderer” reaffirms my desire* to give up a lot of my possessions. I’ll write a more complete review when I finish.
*said desire is, of course, a very lame middle-class desire, which means it’ll never happen. speaking of middle-class:
Douglas Coupland, “Generation X” and “Life After God” (again, courtesy of Joe)- Somehow, I can relate to these more, and they’re also about wasting away at dead-end jobs and your life getting wrecked. Man, they’re depressing, though. It’s the whole rant that I’ve had at certain times, where life seems to be going nowhere, and I’m just a middle-class cog in the system. And how I will live a comfortable life but ultimately end up miserable, and 50 years after I’m gone, nobody will ever know that I’ve lived.
“You see, when you’re middle class, you have to live with the fact that history will ignore you. You have to live with the fact that history can never champion your causes and that history will never feel sorry for you. It is the price that is paid for day-to-day comfort and silence. And because of this price, all happinesses are sterile; all sadnesses go unpitied.”
I’ll alert you now: Joe read that to us during WASP. I can see why Joe likes Coupland so much- the same themes, in a way, as WASP. So if you don’t want to hear any more about WASP or Douglas Coupland, you can quit reading now.
Generation X is nominally a novel, but really it’s just Coupland’s excuse to tell stories. Among them:
An astronaut, Buck, crash-lands on a distant planet, gets a disease where he sleeps all day except for 1/2 hour. A local family cares for him. He falls in love with each of the 3 daughters (Arleen, Darleen, and Serena) in turn, telling her “The love between a man and a woman can restart my rocket. If you come with me, I can start the rocket and get back home. The catch is that there’s not enough air, and you’d have to die so that I can breathe to pilot the rocket. But when we got back to my home planet, I could revive you, and we’d live happily ever after.” The first 2 daughters refuse. Finally, the last daughter accepts, and they blast off.
“‘You realize,’ said Arleen, ‘that that whole business of Buck being able to bring us back to life was total horseshit.’
“‘Oh, I knew that,’ said Darleen. ‘But it doesn’t change the fact that I feel jealous.’
“‘No, it doesn’t, does it?’
I don’t really have much to say about that one, besides the fact that I’d probably stay on the ground, and I’d probably feel jealous.
Also, there’s this:
“After you’re dead and buried and floating around whatever place we go to, what’s going to be your best memory of earth? What one moment for you defines what it’s like to be alive on this planet? What’s your takeaway? … Fake yuppie experiences that you had to spend money on, like white water rafting or elephant rides in Thailand don’t count. I want to hear some small moment from your life that proves you’re really alive.”
Mine? I dunno. Can’t count skiing stories, I guess, although if I could, there’s one that sticks in my mind. It was Thursday of the week I was skiing with my friend from high school and his family, in December 2004, and that day we were in Copper Mountain, Colorado. First run down, or maybe second, we got to a lift called Rendezvous, and there were 7 inches of fresh snow on these trails. I could go on, but basically, I was skiing, one of my best friends and his brother were skiing with me, it was fantastic. But really, that’s not the one moment where I’m alive, I mean, alive with italics. It’s my thing– people always ask “what’s your favorite thing to do?” and you should have an answer I guess. I dunno if that’s it though. Another story from Coupland:
The world’s exploding. The Bomb has finally been dropped. You hear the sirens, see all the flashing lights. You and your best friend are in a store. (There’s a lot of really good exposition, and I’d love to just copy the whole story in here, but it’d be too long. Check it out on page 62-64, if you ever read the book.)
Then comes The Flash. “Get down,” you shout, “There’s no time!”
and so then, just before the front windows become a crinkled, liquefied imploding sheet–
and just before you’re pelleted by a hail of gum and magazines-
and just before the fat man in front of you is lifted off his feet, hung in suspended animation and bursts into flames while the liquefied ceiling lifts and drips upward-
Just before all of this, your best friend cranes his neck, lurches over to where you lie, and kisses you on the mouth, after which he says to you, “There. I’ve always wanted to do that.”
And that’s that. In the silent rush of hot wind, like the opening of a trillion oven doors that you’ve been imagining since you were six, it’s all over: kind of scary, kind of sexy, and tainted by regret. A lot like life, wouldn’t you say?
And then there’s Life After God which is just, straight up, a bunch of short stories. The theme is this: our parents were the first generation to be raised without the strict religious upbringing that dominated a lot of previous generations. And so a lot of them lost religion entirely. And now we are sort of the first entirely non-religious generation. Some of the stories are kind of lame- there’s another bit of Bomb anxiety which is a little heavyhanded, there’s a good quick story about a few fairy tale characters, and then the real world. But there’s one in the middle called “Gettysburg”, which just blew me away. It’s about a guy whose wife and kid just left him- not because of anything bad that happened, but just because she’s not in love with him anymore. Not that she doesn’t love him, but she’s not in love with him. Naturally, he’s confused, and depressed, and at one point his mom comes over to talk to him. At one point she says that what they’re going through is something common to a lot of couples, and it’s one of the sad points in life. She says: (last quote, I promise!)
“First there is love, then there is disenchantment, and then there is the rest of your life.”
“But what about the rest of your life? What about all the time that remains?”
“Oh- there’s friendship. Or at least familiarity. And there’s safety. And after that there’s sleep.”
I think to myself, how do any of us know that it’s going to end up like this? That this is all there is maybe going to be? I say, “Oh, God.”
And my mother says to me, “Honey, God is what keeps us together after the love is gone.”
Geez! That’s terrifying! I’m still ultimately looking for meaning in life (if you’ve found any, let me know!) but I thought that love, this perfect ideal of Love might eventually bring some of it. And Coupland says: Nope. It’s all kind of a cruel joke- there IS nothing more than this. Even Love isn’t anything special.
But contrast that with Peggy Knapp, who taught Shakespeare last semester. At one point in the class, we were doing Othello, and I think Desdemona said something about her love for Othello always growing. Othello scholars, I apologize if I got it wrong. Anyway, Prof. Knapp said, as class was ending and people were putting their books away noisily, “it IS possible to love someone more every day. I know from experience.”
What does Prof. Knapp know that Coupland doesn’t? What, is it just religion? (she’s older, she may be very religious, I don’t know) But if I think most organized religion is, to a varying degree based on the religion, hooey, how can I believe in that and find meaning in it? Or does she just have the perspective of old age that Coupland may not have yet? Or did Coupland just hit some bad luck in the world of love, and is he just bitter?
Aargh! I can’t keep writing, I have work to do, so that I can become a Computer Guy and waste away into a 4-bedroom suburban castle. If you have any answers, please, let me know!
Actually, the Mysteries of Pittsburgh book is mine that Julie borrowed from me. It’s a good book!
I agree with Peggy Knapp. I don’t know if I’ve felt love, but I know I have had the feeling that I learn more about someone and appreciate them more every day. Sometime it stops happening and sometimes it doesn’t. But it, and her comment, give me hope.
Adam Atkinson -
Don’t stress so much about the details of Art’s (or is it Arthur’s) situation. Big picture, he’s just in this weird in-between of young life, represented well as the summer between two semesters. While he’s indecisive, he’s also “mixing it up” a bit, as Royal Tenenbaum would say. And I think that’s something most young people can get with. (I’ve been sure the dude was even bisexual, btdubs.)
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