At least in the great Brooklyn Metropolitan area, it’s the Dec/Jan issue of The Brooklyn Rail, with my review of Alex Ross’s “Listen to This.”
It’s with a frisson of both pleasure and dread that I enjoy the experience of seeing speculative ideas of dystopia start to form in the lived firmament, it’s one of the reasons I recommend annual readings of “Snow Crash“ (‘burbclaves, the Raft) and “Cryptonomicon“ (WikiLeaks). One of the great and tragic elements of Gary Shteyngart’s great “Super Sad True Love Story“ is how he sees America governed by the Bipartisan party, and those not with them are subject to what amounts to authoritarian occupation.
How close is all this? Well, we do live in a country that spies on all its citizens, illegally and with impunity, and although I do trust that torture is no longer official policy (I find it naive to trust that all members of the Security State have given it up completely), those who did commit what is a crime in this country have essentially been told, bygones, don’t sweat it. If only that worked for every felony. And this with a Constitutional Law Professor as President. And then there’s this, the party in the majority, in a position to govern, unable to even describe the concept of doing something that is both good policy and good politics. Because neither party does much governing for the country as a whole, the talk with, listen to, know, and govern for a select few, those Shteyngart calls HNWI. The institutions of government exist to serve these people:
The idea is to run the habitrails until such point as you become a HNWI, then the world of inattentive corporate boards, government contracts and sinecures, think tanking ignorance and responsibility and consequence free failing-upward will be yours. If you can survive until that point, that is. More and more I think the only hope we have for the future is that the whole undeserving Establishment will collapse from their own decadent ennui.
UPDATED: Now with key link; sorry, baby fatigue . . .
Yes, he’s cute, but don’t end up like Arlo, lost in ennui under the oppressive summer heat. This is the time for relaxing, but stimulating, listening and reading. The Big City Recommends™:
Reading: Anything by John Le Carré, P.G. Wodehouse and Georges Simenon (depending on your relative taste for tragedy, lethargy or murder), the “U.S.A. Trilogy” by John dos Passos, Raymond Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye” (the very best Chandler, it will inspire to drink Gimlets which are truly excellent in hot weather), The Forever Way by Joe Haldeman for a good taste of our likely future, and, even though it doesn’t come out until the end of the month, Gary Shteyngart’s “Super Sad True Love Story” looks like it might be something special. And the author has a sense of humor:
Just don’t read anything off Jamie Dimon’s list. It may make you rich (doubtful), but it will also bore you and make you a boor (certain). Instead, read WIlliam Lindsay Gresham’s amazing “Nightmare Alley,” by far the greatest noir novel . . .
. . . or Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, fantasy that’s not embarrassing. And if you’ll be preparing the bounty of the season, I can’t recommend “The Frankies Spunito Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual” enough, it’s more than a cookbook, it’s a beautiful guide to the purpose and beauty of cooking itself.
Listening: The best hot weather music gives you a sense of cool, refreshing focus, not matter the style, tempo or activity. There’s a core of that inside EMI’s “Mahler: The Complete Works“, the Haydn Symphonies, Quartets and Piano Sonatas, “Live Evil” and “Jack Johnson” from Miles’ electric period, and two hard to find but excellent CDs, this ultra-glitchy collaboration between Gunter Müller and Jason Khan, and Don Cherry’s wonderful pop-funk recording, “Homeboy. “
Cool during the day? Tchiakovsky’s Symphony No. 1 and Debussy, try Biosphere at dusk and at night, with a good book (see above) and a cold drink, Don Byas. You may not want to listen to all of Steve Lacy’s great “The Window,” but Flakes is what you need when it seems you can’t remember the cool air of autumn, and Herbie Hancock’s “Thrust” is cooler than cool. This is dedicated to the ladies . . . oh yeah . . .
UPDATED: Correct videos . . . and no I haven’t had a drink yet today . . .
Not unserious filler in between the usual posts, not too tongue-in-cheek response to Ta-Nehisi Coates . . . and not this book. Books about White People that are on the same level and importance to knowing what American culture is as Invisible Man, and are also pure pleasures to read:
A Fan’s Notes by Frederic Exley and Ham On Rye by Charles Bukowski: important novels about work and alienation in American economic culture. Let’s face it, the dominating value in this country is the dollar, and people are judged by how well, or not, they fit into money producing society. Not everyone fits in, many who don’t try to and fail in a variety of ways. I really can’t conceive of any way to understand modern American society without reading this books, and anyone who watches “Mad Men” owes it to themselves to read Exley.
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler: one of the things Chandler’s novels are about is the romantic self-image of the American male, the kind of person we fantasize ourselves to be in this society. One way to see Marlowe is as a Knight, trying to hang onto a sense of right and wrong amidst a debased, material society. This is Chandler’s best book (see also The Natural by Bernard Malamud and The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe).
A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick: look at all the crazy, paranoid white people in ties screaming in the newspapers and on TV . . .
Fear And Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 by Hunter S. Thompson and Miami And The Siege of Chicago by Norman Mailer: with these two, you will have no better guide to understanding those crazy, screaming men in the newspapers and on TV. Seriously, these books are brilliant in the extreme.
Christ In Concrete by Pietro DiDonato: the American experience is the immigrant experience, and as Charles Mingus said about Charlie Mariano, “he’s not White, he’s Italian.”
Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner: the story of this country. Whites and Blacks were cleaved by violence and commerce, and can never be torn apart. The part of the country that can’t accept this physical fact votes Republican.
Updated: Almost forgot to list Snow Blind by Robert Sabbag. Criminal enterprise is an integral part of the American story, and white criminals used to be cool.