“Behind the vacuous perpetual lipsticked-smile lurks the black heart of the true sociopath, just like in real life,” says artist Mariel Clayton of her “Bad Barbie” series, which sees the blonde beauty as sociopath. Very American Psycho…
Rachel Hills discusses Naomi Wolf’s response to WikiGate here, whilst also doing a fine job of unpacking the fun for twenty-somethings = lots of casual sex myth.
On that, “How to Be A 20-Something”:
“Be really attractive. Your acne is gone, your face has matured without having wrinkles and everything on your body is lifted naturally. Eat bagels seven days a week, binge-drink and do drugs: you’ll still look like a babe. When you turn thirty, it’ll become a different story but that’s, like, not for a really long time.
“Reestablish a relationship with your parents. You don’t live with them anymore (hopefully) so start to appreciate them as human beings with thoughts, flaws and feelings rather than soulless life ruiners who won’t let you borrow their car.”
What Would Phoebe Do? on the pretentiousness of Francophilia:
“Gratuitously adding French words to conversation is a time-honoured way of signalling pretentiousness.”
“Certain moments of living in the city will always stick out to you. Buying plums from a fruit vendor on 34th street and eating three of them on a long walk, the day you spent in bed with your best friend watching Tyra Banks, the amazing rooftop party you attended on a sweltering hot day in July. These memories might seem insignificant but they were all moments when you looked around the city and felt like you were a part of it all.”
Sarah at Feministe recalls “How I Learned to Stop Caring and Admit I Love Pop”.
Jezebel chronicles “The Evolution of Moms” from Soccer Mom (Mater Adidas) to a future robot-mom who encompasses all the admirable features of stage and helicopter mothers alike, with a special focus on the parent Sarah Palin made famous, the Mama Grizzly.
As Dawson Leery on late ’90s teen angst television staple, Dawson’s Creek, James Van Der Beek was a whiny pushover who always lost the girl to the sexy and witty and aptly-named Pacey Witter. With the exception of getting drunk and singing the blues with Andy on his birthday, Dawson’s Creek perhaps would’ve been better without its titular character.
Van Der Beek hasn’t done a whole lot since Dawson’s Creek ended in 2003, but what he has done has been a far more apt use of his acting talents.
I recently watched the movie adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s Rules of Attraction, in which Van Der Beek plays Sean Bateman, American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman’s little brother. While the film, like the book, is quite left of centre and something not everyone is likely to have seen, Van Der Beek is chilling as a narcissistic, drug-taking/dealing, death-faking rich college boy, alongside Ian Somerhalder in a similarly affecting performance.
And anyone who watches Criminal Minds would be hard pressed to forget the formerly innocent Dawson as Tobias Hankel, the serial killer who was so damaged by his abusive father, that he took on said father’s demeanour in order to carry out his killings. In addition, he injected everyone’s favourite agent, Spencer Reid, with heroin, causing Reid to struggle with his newfound addiction in later episodes.
Angus, Van Der Beek’s debut film role in 1995, is a much lauded cult teen movie in which he plays the popular jock to Angus’s overweight outcast. I haven’t seen the film personally (I plan to watch it during my convalescence from wisdom teeth surgery at the end of the week), Jezebel seems to like it, and that’s good enough for me!
Van Der Beek is not unfamiliar to parodying himself, either, with cameos in Scary Movie and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back (worst movie ever, but the running Ben Affleck joke is a cracker!), and comedic turns in Ugly Betty and How I Met Your Mother.
If you’re indifferent to James Van Der Beek, like I was until I really paid attention to his acting life after Dawson’s Creek, I suggest you take a look at his post-Dawson’s résumé to truly understand the awesomeness that is Van Der Beek.
So I’ve been a bit behind the eight ball this week, what with moving to my new digs in Richmond and all. But I thought the time had come to stop staring out the window at my fabulous view of the city and catch up on some work.
This last week’s newspaper clipping comes from Sarah Wilson’s Sunday Life column. In it, she discusses the perils of sitting down with a good book and actually reading it, as opposed to skimming, which the internet has taught us, what with emails, blogs and the infinite amount of useless information out in cyberspace.
In the vein of “slow cooking”, “slow reading” doesn’t involve “reading words at a snail’s pace with a ruler”, but “reading fully… and allowing time for dissecting arguments and reflective response”.
This is something I sometimes struggle with, as I feel there is just so much knowledge to be absorbed, and I’m never going to take it all in. Recently, I had so much on my mind (read: moving house) I managed to read the whole of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest without actually comprehending any of it. Dismal review pending.
In other clippings news, I loved The Age’s resident “Bookmarks”compiler Jason Steger’s take on Bret Easton Ellis’ talk in Melbourne recently. Instead of asking about the “inspiration” behind is disturbed characters, which he famously prefers not to divulge, audience members asked such off-beat questions as, “Who… would win in a tag team wrestling match between Christian Bale and Patrick… Bateman [of American Psycho] and Ellis and James van der Beek, the actor who played Patrick’s brother in the film of Ellis’ novel, The Rules of Attraction.”
No wonder tickets sold out in seven minutes!
When I heard Bret Easton Ellis was coming to Melbourne for the Writers Festival, I was intrigued to hear him speak in person, to say the least.
My first, and only, exposure to Easton Ellis prior to reading American Psycho was his 1998 release, Glamorama. I had high expectations for that book, and I was sorely disappointed. I found it too fast paced and celebrity-obsessed which, granted, was the point of the story. However, the graphic depictions of violence (a plane crash with flying pieces of sheet metal decapitating whole rows of passengers, anyone? Or how about a massive miscarriage followed by internal haemorrhaging and subsequent death of the main character’s, Victor Ward, girlfriend?) and sex were far too much.
So needless to say, I was very apprehensive about entering into a literary relationship with American Psycho, but I wanted to at least have read Easton Ellis’ most famous work before seeing him live. (Alas, this is not meant to be, as tickets to his talk sold out within minutes of going on sale! As he, and Buffy creator Joss Whedon, whose talk also sold out, are the only writers I’m interested in seeing at this years surprisingly uninspiring Melbourne Writers Festival, I guess I’ll be giving it a miss this year.)
This time around, however, I was pleasantly surprised.
Again, American Psycho is hard to get into initially, as it jumps straight into a boys night out with protagonist Patrick Bateman and his equally materialistic and über-boring posse of yuppie acquaintances (Bateman is too narcissistic to have actual “friends”). But after persevering up to the first kill, I liked what I read.
Even squirming along Struggle Street during the gory descriptions of the murders—on public transport, no less!—was still a fairly enjoyable literary journey. To give you a taste of just how well Easton Ellis does horrific homicide in print, here’s a description of Bateman’s first kill:
“… I reach out and touch his [the bum’s] face gently once more with compassion and whisper, “Do you know what a fucking loser you are?” He starts nodding helplessly and I pull out a long, thin knife with a serrated edge and , being very careful not to kill him, push maybe half an inch of the blade into his right eye, flicking the handle up, instantly popping the retina.
“The bum is too surprised to say anything. He only opens his mouth in shock and moves a grubby, mittened hand slowly up to his face. I yank his pants down and in the passing headlights of a taxi can make out his flabby black thighs, rashed because of his constantly urinating in the pantsuit. The stench of shit rises quickly into my face and breathing through my mouth, down on my haunches, I start stabbing him in the stomach, lightly, above the dense matted patch of pubic hair. This sobers him up somewhat and instinctively he tries to cover himself with his hands and the dog starts yipping, really furiously, but it doesn’t attack, and I keep stabbing at the bum now between his fingers, stabbing the backs of his hands. His eye, burst open, hangs out of its socket and runs down his face and he keeps blinking which causes what’s left of it inside the wound to pour out like red, veiny egg yolk. I grab his head with one hand and push it back and then with my thumb and forefinger hold the other eye open and bring the knife up and push the tip of it into the socket, first breaking its protective film so the socket fills with blood, then slitting the eyeball open sideways, and he finally starts screaming once I slit his nose in two, lightly spraying me and the dog with blood, Gizmo blinking to get the blood out of his eyes. I quickly wipe the blade clean across the bum’s face, breaking open the muscle above his cheek. Still kneeling, I throw a quarter in his face, which is slick and shiny with blood, both sockets hollowed out and filled with gore, what’s left of his eye literally oozing over his screaming lips in thick, webby strands. Calmly, I whisper, “There’s a quarter. Go buy some gum, you crazy fucking nigger.” Then I turn to the barking dog and when I get up, stomp on its front legs while it’s crouched down ready to jump at me, its fangs bared, immediately shattering the bones in both its legs, and it falls on its side squealing in pain, front paws sticking up in the air at an obscene, satisfying angle. I can’t help but start laughing and I linger at the scene, amused by this tableau. When I spot an approaching taxi, I slowly walk away.”
Now if that didn’t make you wince and writhe vicariously, there’s also the attacks of several other dogs, the tortures of countless prostitutes, the dissolving of several friends’ bodies in lime, cannibalism, the murder of a child, the capture of a sewer rat to use in later tortures, and in a comical scene that illustrates just how sad and detached Bateman has become in his life of depravity, he feeds his girlfriend (just one of many he has on the go at any given time) a frozen urinal cake coated in chocolate and served in a decadent Godiva chocolate box.
If the reader needs more proof of Bateman’s derangement and obsessive compulsive consumerism, they need only to look at the chapters interspersed throughout the narrative on business cards, sound systems and musical artists of the time (1991), like Genesis, Whitney Houston and Huey Lewis & the News.
Here is another example:
“Another choir, on Lexington, sings ‘Hark the Herald Angels’ and I tap-dance, moaning, in front of them before I move like a zombie to Bloomingdale’s, where I rush over to the first tie rack I see and murmur to the young faggot working behind the counter, “Too, too fabulous,” while fondling a silk ascot. He flirts and asks if I’m a model. “I’ll see you in hell,” I tell him, and move on.
“… vases and felt fedoras with feather headbands and alligator toiletry cases with gilt-silver bottles and brushes and shoehorns that cost two hundred dollars and candlesticks and pillow covers and gloves and slippers and powder puffs and hand-knitted cotton snowflake sweaters and leather skates and Porsche-design ski goggles and antique apothecary bottles and diamond earrings and silk ties and boots and perfume bottles and diamond earrings and boots and vodka glasses and card cases and cameras and mahogany servers and scarves and aftershaves and photo albums and salt and pepper shakers and ceramic-toaster cookie jars and two-hundred-dollar shoehorns and backpacks and aluminium lunch pails and pillow covers…
“Some kind of existential chasm opens up before me while I’m browsing in Bloomingdale’s and causes me to first locate a phone and check my messages, then, near tears, after taking three Halcion (since my body has mutated and adapted to the drug it no longer causes sleep—it just seems to ward off total madness), I head toward the Clinique counter where with my platinum American Express card I buy six tubes of shaving cream…”
This kind of stream-of-consciousness and disjointed conflict between the Patrick Bateman that is presented to the outside world—the one that manages to convince a cop investigating the murder of one of Bateman’s lime victims that he has nothing to do with the disappearance—and the inner workings of his own mind, and even again with the superhuman he becomes when killing, continues and only becomes more frequent as the tale continues.
While there is no finite conclusion to the story—one might guess that Bateman was caught during the murder of a taxi driver, when the tone switches from first person to third person, however it is later revealed that he escaped, but is recognised by another cab driver—that only makes it all the more disturbing.
Easton Ellis is a very clever—though slightly disturbed; you would have to be to write as graphically and as convincingly as he does—author, and I would have loved to hear him speak about his most prolific work.
However, while I rate this one highly, I probably won’t return to, nor enjoy, his other novels.
In other—and final, for this week at least—workaholics news, from The New Yorker’s Book Bench, “there’s no point in worrying about all those books you haven’t gotten to yet, because very often our preconceived idea of what a book will be is just as valid and enlightening as the book itself might be.”
So do bookworms rejoice in the fact that there’s no need to get through our stacks of unread books (personally, I have The Babysitters Club, American Psycho, a second reading of Mia Freedman’s memoir, Mama Mia, and Hollywood Ending by Kathy Charlesto get through—a well balanced literary meal, if a little too heavy on the fluff, don’t you think?); that the very idea of what they’re like will sustain our literary appetites?
I understand what author Kristy Logan’s original hypothesis is attesting to, that sometimes “an unread book is an intoxicating, romantic thing, and the act of reading is, in one sense, destructive” to what could have been, however I don’t agree with it.
Fiercely loyal, I will not put a book down until the very last page, no matter how much of a struggle it was to read. Dr. Zhivago, I’m looking at you. I had great expectations for that book, however I was brutally disappointed. Bret Easton Ellis’ Glamorama is another one that comes to mind. I do feel like by reading these books, my fantastical idea of them before I turned their pages has been knocked out of me.
On the other hand, there’s nothing like being utterly surprised by how good a book is, and how profoundly it affects you. Frequent readers of this blog will know that Another City, Not My Own is that for me. The Lovely Bones is one I was pleasantly surprised about, (at the risk of sounding like a bogan) only reading it because I wanted to see the film. While I think the ending was utter bullshit, the integrity of the rest of the story outweighs the disappointing ending for me.
Logan assures us that she doesn’t encourage leaving “all books unread”, questioning whether she should call them “‘pre-read’ books instead”.
The excitement of a “pre-read book”? Now that I can understand.
Related: Things Bogans Like.
Elsewhere: [The New Yorker] Not Enough Time.
Being a recent expat to Melbourne, I am now relishing in the fact that I can go to an after work event, weekend market or party and not have to worry about getting the last train out of Sydney Melbourne back to the country.
However, with the advent of Twitter, anyone wearing pyjama pants can gain access to this week’s Emerging Writers Festival from the comfort of their lounge room/bed, with events all over the city as well as today’s “Stuck in a Lift With… Gala Darling” by Rachel Hills.
Hills is using the “magical bookstore” format, and each floor corresponds to Gala’s favourite book.
However, it’s not always smooth sailing, with followers interjecting their questions and comments. For a first time Twitter user, it was a bit overwhelming!
So here, in a nutshell that I have so lovingly crunched the questions into, are Hills’ 10 questions and Gala Darling’s 10 answers.
- “What’s the first book you ever read?”
- “HAD to have been the Spot series… I also remember loving The Very Hungry Caterpillar… I really loved all that very British stuff too, like Enid Blyton & Peter Rabbit…”
- “Are there any other kids books that you remember or are fond of?”
- “I was mad keen on the Faraway Tree series… But I was really a voracious reader, would come home from the library every Saturday with an enormous stack of books & devour them throughout the week before going back for more. Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, horror stories, anything spooky or supernatural or American! I was obsessed with America & their slumber parties & junk food & always felt like I was missing out being stuck in boring old New Zealand…”
- “What were your other fave teen/coming of age books?
- “I loved Judy Blume for talking about sex… It’s weird actually, I feel like I moved from Judy Blume to Poppy Z. Brite but SURELY that’s not right. I think Anne Rice might have been the stepping stone. & Stephen King?
- “You do a lot of travelling—what books do you like to take with you when you’re away from home?”
- “Depends on how long I’m away from home. The types of holidays I have don’t usually leave much time for reading! But I have moved house many times and I always take Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas & Lolita with me!… But usually when I travel I take the mags I haven’t yet caught up on (ughh I know), or what I’m reading at the time… No guilty faves really. I haven’t read a tabloid in years because they make me angry, haha! I love pretty much every fashion magazine though… You know what? I buy 99% of my books secondhand on Amazon. IT’S SO CHEAP. I can’t stand to pay full retail. Bad Gala!”
- “Is there a book you turn to when things get emotional?”
- “I guess it depends on what the ‘emotion’ is. I love to comfort read, aka read stuff I know off by heart… Actually when I’m feeling emotional or moody I prefer to watch television. Entourage or SATC work every time… Lolita, Fear & Loathing, anything Bukowski, American Psycho, umm Lost Souls (shhhh)…”
- “You’re a hugely successful writer. Is there a book that helped you learn your craft?”
- “I love Anne Lamott. There is something so brilliant, clear & deep in her writing—it is impeccably crafted. The first time I read Bird by Bird I thought my head was going to explode, & I have read it over & over. I’m also really interested in Zen Buddhism so that helps! I also like Natalie Goldberg, but don’t read lots of books on writing.”
- “What book has taught you the most from a NON-writing perspective?”
- “Oh, big question! I feel like every book teaches you something, whether it’s how to live wilding (Fear/Loathing!) or bet on horses (Buk.!), but I guess if I could only recommend one book for life lessons, it would be The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. It is a frigging marvel. Every time I pick it up I learn something new… It is as thick as a bible, all about manifesting & integrity & keeping your word & stuff, I can’t describe!”
- “What books have kept you late into the night?”
- “Haha, pretty much every book I’ve ever loved. I was a secretly-reading-under-the-covers child. I remember reading the Neverending Story one day (yes, one DAY!) when I had the flu & was about 10, fantastic. So it may not have kept me through the night but it certainly compelled me.”
- “What book do you wish you had written?”
- “Ugh, Lolita. It’s like a braingasm. Every time I read it I am shocked at just HOW fucking good it is.”
- “What book do you return to again and again?”
- “All the books I have just mentioned, plus anything by SARK, Russell Simmons’ Do You!, Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block, Fear of Flying by Erica Jong, Grapefruit by Yoko Ono, House of Leaves…
I wish someone would ask me these questions should I ever have the fearful pleasure of being stuck in an elevator. I so have the answers!