I have been very, very busy, going on a vacation of sorts! I was trundling around New England for a few days and in that time managed to drop by and visit Lovecraft’s grave. Isn’t that something!
While I was in New England I also managed to catch a performance of All’s Well That Ends Well, and it happened to be the Boston Commons production, so I have a handily prepackaged review written by the dude over at Shakespeare Geek. It’s a pretty spot-on review, I think (even from the same night I saw the play!), and Duane is a good Shakespeare guy. He’s a lot less heady and academic than I can be, so it’s good to read him and make sure I’m not disappearing up my own ass. (If you like Shakespeare maybe you should read his blog! I do!)
The only things I would add to his take are some personal notes, namely, that I have (gasp!) never read this play before. Yes indeed! Despite my love of the problem plays this one had escaped me, so it was my first experience with viewing Shakespeare as performance-only. Everything I knew about the play beforehand I’d absorbed through osmosis.
That said I have a bit of a problem seeing why All’s Well is classed as a problem play, or problem comedy. It actually seemed remarkably straightforward to me — a young boy without a strong father figure latches onto a braggart, then learns a valuable lesson about humility and self-sacrifice when that braggart is cut down to size. This was probably also an effect of the staging, I admit, and when I eventually get around to the text I’ll probably find some of the weirder elements of the play that were elided or cut, but until then: I ain’t got a problem with you, All’s Well.
I am also in the process of packing up to move to grad school, and also reading A Dance With Dragons, so you can imagine how busy I am. So busy, guys!
But because that’s never stopped me before, I will now make veiled allusions to a project of mine on the horizon, a project design specifically for this blog, a project that will happen dammit because I paid money to set it into motion. But again, given how incredibly busy I’ve been and will be, I have no idea when I’ll actually be able to initiate this project. Suffive it to say, I think it should be a lot of fun for you and me. (if it ever happens)
However, if you’re desperate for something to read today, something of substance, you could do worse than Blake Butler’s piece on American Psycho over at HTMLgiant. Note this:
The way that Bateman copes with the building distortion between his inner want, however buried, and the continuing nothing his life has filled with is to break with himself underneath himself and do violence. The book goes on building further and further levels of intricately imagined scenes of rape and torture, which late into the book begin to take on a kind of ingenuity otherwise absent from his life. All throughout this, Bateman famously maintains for the most part the same copy-voice he uses in making dinner reservations or trying to impress women he wants to fuck. The narration’s sheen is perhaps what most upset readers ofAmerican Psycho early on, in that such acts were being put on with such apparent detachment that the book was “violence for violence’s sake,” which while I personally don’t have trouble with, I don’t think is the case at all here. This is not a book, as has been claimed, that sees the dark of the world and wallows in it. This is a book that in some way wanted more. This is true for Bateman, I think, as a character, if one that never definitely admits it, or changes, though there are certainly moments where the sheen begins to crack, if not in the face of it itself, but in the face behind the face: Bateman visiting his mother in a home and his odd silence there, while still not emotional; his weeping at sitcoms on TV; and even in the exuberant tone he takes describing pop music, which is of course written in a brilliant flat and media-inherited way, but also, in its reiteration, to me reflects not nihilism, but an even deeper burning for there to be something good in the world; something perhaps misplaced but to Bateman joyful, even in the multi-cloaked levels of how blank to some something like Huey Lewis, for instance, is. His wanting, where it lands, seems stilted, misplaced, but that doesn’t make it any less sincere, even when deployed as a passage turned from murdering women violently; in fact, it’s more poignant that way, if you ask me. There seems to be a big idea in literature and even all of entertainment that for something to show heart, be heartfelt, it must have light; that the moments must exhibit some kind of “human element” in order to make it relatable, and therefore somehow validated. This was Wallace’s big problem with this book, and it’s something you hear a lot. I’ll argue, though, that by leaving that sheen up, by complicating the borderline redemptive qualities of Bateman, and feeding his only out into a pathos that is terrifying in its operation in hurting other humans, is actually even more human, more honest; it does not have to bare itself in order to realize where it is. If one’s belief in humanity is founded on the idea of love, then why is that the element we continue to question? Do we really need to reach a moment in every work to remember light and love to know it exists? That the job requires you coming back to this by default seems to me a weaker pose than knowing already it is in there, or can be, and what of it. Depending on that requirement seems cheaper in spite of itself, actually less human, and less sure of the human than one who assumes it, or, holy shit, on paper, lets it go.