When You Just Can’t Get into Authors You Want to Get Into

Last night, instead of going to sleep like a sensible person, I read Bret Easton Ellis’ “Thoughts on David Foster Wallace and ‘The End of the Tour‘”. In it, the American Psycho author holds forth on how the film “The End of the Tour” is a treacly one-note pile of horse flops that, with almost obligatory irony, does precisely what the character of David Foster Wallace worries about in the film: makes a false D.F.W. and substitutes it for the real one.

In The End of the Tour something happens that the Wallace in the movie keeps arguing he would never want: to become a character, and the movie willfully or mindlessly ignores this complaint. This is what the Wallace in the film is bothered by in scene after scene after scene — and what does the movie do? It keeps filming him. What does Segel do? He keeps playing a particular ideaof David Foster Wallace — and this is why the movie would have driven Wallace insane. The Wallace estate as well as his editor have disavowed the film not because it gets anything factually wrong but because it does something that Wallace would never have wanted: it turns him into a character.

All of which is a fine point scored on a film I probably won’t see anyway, for reasons I’ll discuss later. But while reading it I find myself asking why Ellis bothered to write it. Because for all the complaints against the film destroying Wallace’s authenticity in the act of worshipping said authenticity, I didn’t get the impression that Ellis actually thought there was much in the authentic Wallace worth preserving.

Do I think he is the most overrated writer of my generation as well as the most pretentious and tortured? Yeah, I do. And I tweeted this along with other things that bothered me, not so much about David himself but more about how he had been reinterpreted by the culture. The sincerity and earnestness he began trafficking in seemed to some of us a ploy, a contradiction — not totally fake, but not totally real either, a kind of performance art, sensing the shift toward earnestness in the culture and accommodating himself to it.

Of course he goes on to tell us that he did like Wallace and thought he was a genius (Yeah, he did). And a good thought about being okay with complexity follows. But I can’t avoid the idea that if Wallace started selling himself before his death as a great big earnest dork, then he’s complicit in the film’s “false” version of himself, so who cares?

Granted, that may just be me sharing Ellis’ opinion of Wallace’s work. Every time I get on Amazon and try to cajole myself into checking out his books, I get to the part about how Vlad the Impaler is a parakeet and my enthusiasm swiftly dies. I know I’m supposed to find that bold and clever, but I don’t. And reading a multi-layer, meta-narrative Rube Goldberg watchama-thing, as Infinite Jest is supposed to be, sounds exhausting. Making a novel not-a-novel doesn’t make a novel better.

But if I’m being honest, I have the same problem with trying to read more Bret Easton Ellis. I read Less Than Zero last year, and have re-read it since, and I still don’t know where Ellis put the plot. Then I read American Psycho and I had to stop about halfway through because I could not read another brand-specific catalog of what every person in the room was wearing. Getting the joke didn’t make it easier to process; I eventually started skimming both them and the step-by-step descriptions of murdering people (I get it, Patrick reduces people to atomized parts…) just so I could get to the end, which has the same problem as LTZ: it doesn’t close so much as stop. I guess that’s a point, too.

I like the guy’s prose style, and he’s got an inventive eye for decadence, but the thought of downloading Imperial Bedrooms to my Kindle and slogging though another 200 pages of Clay observing things – himself included – with all the emotional involvement of an alien scout reporting to the mothership, makes a nap and a cup of tea sound like a much better use of my time.

Yet here I am writing about him, and thinking about what I’ve read of his. Cavils about plot and structure aside, Ellis makes for a good tour guide to the darkness at the heart of the City of Man.

Everything’s a Problem is the Tumblr You Didn’t Know You Needed

For a long time, we were lost in the darkness. Unable to tell what was problematic, or, if we dared push past our privelege to consider if it was problematic, to know just how problematic it was.

Those. Days. Are. Over.

For example, of course you knew that Wonder Woman’s costume was Problematic. That’s a no-brainer. But could you in your wildest imagination have discerned that enjoying Potato Salad without consideration for it nonwhite origins is even MOAR Problematic?

Of course you did not, you foul hater you.

But now you can know. Listen. Absorb. Don’t Resist.


Game of Thrones Just Did That Thing It Does.

Killing the charactes we like, making us like the characters we hate.

{Warning: Contains spoilers. Also Swearing.}

At this point, we’ve been down this road so many times that some of us are starting to feel numb to it. This season has left a bad taste in many fans’ mouth, because the usual collection of horrible things had no balance with anything good happening. Storylines seemed condensed, rushed, or just pointless. Everything that happened in Dorne felt tired and very lazy, and contrived to build up to a entirely predictable shock ending.

Shock endings are what the showrunners have been accused of primarily trading in, to the exclusion of proper character arcs. I’ve heard this since at least the Red Wedding. At it’s getting hard to deny.

{More Spoilers below SERIOUS YOU GUYS DON’T READ}

Jon Snow’s death in the books comes after a last straw. He receives a threatening, cryptic letter from Ramsay Bolton, and decides to go off and fight him. This represents the total betrayal of what the Night’s Watch is, and could even threaten it’s continued existence (if say, the Boltons or Lannisters decided they were an enemy). So a group of guys who’v’e been mostly loyal to him, if uncomfortable with letting the wildlings through the wall, turn on him “for the Watch”. It actually makes sense.

On the show, it’s done because Ser Alliser Thorne and other grumpy bigots just have to hate on them wildlings (in the books, Thorne is away ranging when Jon is killed and has nothing to do with it), and it’s done via a goofy pretext about Benjen Stark that was designed to do nothing but trick the show audience via the “previously on” that appears before the episode. All misdirection and shock, no character growth or even continuity.

What does this mean going forward? More of the same. People will die, on minimal, flimsy pretexts, and we will be shocked by this. The people we hate now will get theirs, too, just as soon as we’ve lost any possibility of being satisfied by it (remember how much we hated the Lannisters? those were simpler times).

And at some point, one character or other will get the whole picture, and will have the means and the will to stop the White Walkers. I don’t know who that is yet, but in the meantime, anyone getting in the way of them is going to have to fall in line or be pruned.


Leave George R.R. Martin Alone

It’s time to deal with some unpleasant truths, Song of Ice and Fire fans.


  1. The Shows are going to Lap the Books. This is going to happen. We are going to get spoiled by a show in which there is no Lady Stoneheart, no Brave Companions, in which the Greyjoys except Theon hardly exist and have the wrong names. Nothing can be done about it. This was built into the cake when the show started and the books were half-finished.

    And sure, you can say, “Then she shouldn’t have started the show!” But be honest. You’ve busted your butt your whole life to create a literary work that is both popular and significant. And the premium of premium cable channels offers to turn it into a massive television series. You’re supposed to say, “No, I’d hate to see my story visualized by creative people and performed by awesome actors. Please spend your money on something else.” Please.

    Accept that this is happening. Enjoy it as best you can, and when the books finally come out, take solace in the fact that it will be better than what you’ve just watched. The book always is.

  2. George is gonna give us the books when he can give us the books. Yep, we’re four years past A Dance With Dragons and no end in sight. That’s the reality. And the madder we get about it, the more nothing happens, because our nerd-rage has no bearing on how fast we get The Winds of Winter. No. Bearing. Whatsoever.

    So don’t be this guy, whining to Martin on Martin’s own livejournal, accusing him of “betraying” his fans. Display some awareness of cause-and-effect. Do you honestly think this sort of moaning inspires the man to write faster? That he says to himself “Gosh, I’d better not disappoint them any more”? Because it it was me, I’d start wondering how hard I really wanted to work to please the same group of malcontents who took a crap all over my artistic process when I was fighting my way through A Dance With Dragons. If you’re not helping him, you’re not helping yourself. So knock it off.

  3. It’s All Gonna Work Itself Out. If George delivers the books, and they complete the story in a satisfying way, then all of the wait will be forgotten, and we can go back to the books or the series whenever we want and enjoy them. If we don’t like the books’ ending, maybe we’ll like the show’s ending. If George should die with ASOIAF uncompleted, someone else will finish it. That won’t be as good, but it will still be better than Wheel of Time (and the chatter I’ve picked up from those that slogged all the way through WoT is that the books that Jordan didn’t write were at least an improvement over the tedium that the series was stuck in. So who knows what can happen?). We’re going to get our books, one way or another. If we stop complaining, we might even like them.

This is what I had to say in 2011, around ADWD‘s release:

The length of the wait caused no small amount of reader acrimony, and I can see why. The Internet breeds contempt. When authors were faraway geniuses who you might meet at a signing if you paid attention, you had no choice but to wait like a cat left home alone for the weekend. But when an author has a livejournal of his own, and regulary updates it, it’s hard to avoid thinking “Yeah, that’s nice George. Now is Dance of Dragons gonna write itself, or…? And while we’re at it, a few miles on the NordicTrac wouldn’t kill you.”

For myself, I got tired of reading Martin’s dull football commentary, his middlebrow center-left political statements, his self-congratulatory merchandising for his less-interesting books (Fevre Dream: there’s $16 I’m never getting back). So I stopped reading them. I left his site alone until a wikipedia blurb suggested some chatter from his publishers that he might get around to being done soon.

Understand that I’m one of you. I’ve been reading the books since 2003 or thereabouts. I feel frustrated,  like my fandom has been abused. But abusing Martin in return won’t save that. In fact, I kind of regret the mean things I said above (why would he not use his success to say “Hey, if you like this book, check out these others”? Honestly…).

So if the current ridiculous state of ASOIAF is just too much for you, then consider leaving it alone until it resolves itself. You’ll only diminish the wait thereby.


Disney is Going to Re-Release UnAltered Star Wars, Says the Same Stupid Rumor That Said So Last Year

Watching Star Wars – the original trilogy, I mean – as it was before George Lucas screwed with it is what we’ve all been hoping for since the Disney buyout.

Rumors of this were floated about last spring, but Disney did not confirm that they even wanted to do this. A debate was prompted about whether Disney even could do that, inasmuch as Fox owns the distribution rights for Episodes I, II, III, V, and VI until 2020, and for Episode IV in perpetuity. It seems to me that it could be done, so long as Fox and Disney make a reasonable agreement.

Yesterday, I saw a link that seemed to confirm that this was happening. I clicked it. It’s dated yesterday. It says the same thing: sources have indicated that Disney wants to do this, but they’re not ready to announce yet.

The source it links to? The same Comicbook.com blog post, from last May, that we’ve already debated.


Meanwhile, what has Disney actually confirmed for us re: Star Wars? The existence of a standalone Star Wars film “Rogue One”, and who is going to direct and star in it. Also, the director and planned release date of Episode VIII. Read about it here. This was released on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Disney announced the existence of 20 or so book and comic titles to fill in the history between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awaekens. Read about that here.

These are things that will be released in the near future and into 2017 and beyond.

But about uncut OT? Not a peep. Not a whisper.


Earth to Variety: No One Wants to Fix the Oscars

It’s not that I disagree with the suggestions Variety offers: 1) Hire Jimmy Fallon to host, with a multi-year contract, 2) Get people who actually share the general public’s taste to vote, 3) FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MAKE IT SHORTER, 4) Throw in some Audience Participation, and 5) Give the Celebs their booze back. Any and all of those things would probably help. Especially #3.

It’s that you and I and everyone all know that none of them are going to happen.

The Academy Awards have been dull and self-indulgent my entire lifetime. This is known (it is known). It’s going to continue to be. The purpose of the Academy awards is precisely to be “an employee-of-the-year celebration that happens to be televised for the entire world.” It’s a market display. The longer it goes on, the more everyone there is satisfied with themselves. The rest of us suckers will just keep suffering.


Sean Penn, You Magnificent Bastard…

Did you actually say “Who gave this SOB a Green Card?” when announcing the best director winner?

Were you drunk?

Did you think no one would be bothered by you saying that?

Were you not thinking?

Do you know Alejandro Inarritu personally? He says you do, and that you have that kind of friendship. So that’s fine, I guess. Hell, maybe this whole operation was you trolling the perpetually offended, which could compel me to credit you with having a sense of humor.

In any case, you just set off a rage of blue-on-blue on Twitter. You just gave the progs something to be mad about that wasn’t Rudy Guiliani’s small act of lese-majeste. God bless you, you raging self-important dictator-snuggling wife-beating communist, you.

Of course, if anyone had actually watched the Oscars, it would have been better.