Daily Archives: January 12, 2009

Word Porn: ‘Revolutionary Road’ (1961)

The Revolutionary Hill Estates had not been designed to accomodate a tragedy. Even at night, as if on purpose, the development held no looming shadows and no gaunt sillhouttes. It was invincibly cheerful, a toyland of white and pastel houses whose bright, uncurtained windows winked blandly through a dappling of green and yellow leaves. . . “

After I first finished Revolutionary Road, I launched the book across the room and into a box of outgoing mail. This was a few summers ago. I was working as a clerical assistant at a local Elementary school, and had read the book cover-to-cover during a particularly slow week. While I may not have had much to do in the way of work, Yates’ immensely troubling and compulsively readable first novel made sure it was one of the most stressful weeks of my summer. 

There’s real dread here. Moreover, there’s a sense from the characters that speaking directly about the existential terror facing their dewy dreams of American escapism will somehow render the horror irreversible. As a result, reading Yates’ muscular dialogue becomes an experience not unlike navigating a minefield. This is equal parts literary retrospection (see: Hemingway, Chekhov) and prediction (see: Carver). Whatever it is —  a classic Fitzgeraldian opus or modernist masterwork —  the fact remains that Revolutionary Road is undeniably American, and that’s an important thing to consider.

“We marvel at its consummate writerliness,” Richard Ford writes in his introduction to the second Vintage Contemporaries edition, “at its almost simple durability as a purely made thing of words that defeats all attempts at classification. Realism, naturalism, social satire — the standard critical bracketry — all go begging before this splendid book.” And I think he’s right, not simply by virtue of the book’s greatness, but on the grounds that it is close to impossible to truly encapsulate the novel’s mastery with those critical staples. It’s melodramtic, but it’s not a pastiche; it’s satirical, but the objects of its satire are too large and numerous for the novel to really be considered “pointed” in any way; it’s truly tragic, but with enough textual distance that its tragic elements never take center stage in the authorial spotlight.    

Everyone owes it to themselves to pick up this criminally unread novel. If not, then at least check out Sam Mendez’s adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, playing now in select cities. I won’t get to see it until Friday, but if the American Beauty director’s last feature – 2006’s haunting Jarhead – is any indication of the direction in which he’s headed, then sign me up.  

– Jezy

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“Hello Means Goodnight”

My house is an ellipse–

a home without an edge.

I’m keen to bark at my girl’s heels,

lick her kneeballs,

cradle her love ladle…

whatever the case may be.

Chicken scrap dinner table barters

if I’m a good boy.


Or I thumb through her underpants catalogue

where sex is sold solidly two dimensional

and comes with a free tote bag.

Internal rhyme is a crime of fashion,

taken out of context like a hairpiece,

a hex-feast of grab bag vernacular

rotting in my brain.


I’m bored of curves and wet crevices;

I’m tired of weddings,

of funerals,

of funnel cakes,

of crock pot beef,

and of caring about fleece sales

and programming the T.V.

to record feats of anorexic

daring-do:

collagen collages in high def.

(Definitely no more absolutes)

Tired of underused basement stairs

and credit card bills,

always credit card bills.


I don’t dream of colonized children

hanging from my limbs like Spanish moss.


I’m putting her heart in a bag

and hailing a cab from the front porch.

Chris

The Wiener Circle (NSFW)

There are certain experiences in this wacky, mixed-up world that I always look forward to: my next sushi meal, the first sign of Spring, and a new episode of “This American Life“.  Among all the finer things one can partake in, the reassuring voice of Ira Glass coming through the radio each week is up near the top.  It seems that, no matter what the subject may be, I have never been let down by this show.  I laugh, I cry, and I always feel like I come away with a better understanding of what it means to be human.

This past week I finally got around to watching Showtime’s televised version of “This American Life” and was unable to turn it off until I had watched each episode of the first season.  From the bizarre world of modern pig farms to a Mormon artist searching for bearded men, it is  essential viewing. 

The following is a clip focusing on the drunken and usually profane culture surrounding a little hot dog stand in Chicago called The Wiener Circle.  It features a lot of dirty words, but it’s a pretty fascinating vignette.  So, check it out!