The intercom tolls and a machine says
DUE TO DISRUPTION
then switches off. A faint fishlike taste of scrubbed chemicals rises against the roof of my mouth, and the stagnant roar of uncomfortably cool air being pushed through decades-old filters and fans drowns the station in white noise again, as always, as ever, without end. The few of us standing in Grandin Station immediately become islands.
A man a few meters from me turns and says something to me.
He cups his hands around his mouth and shouts. I bet I could see his tonsils if I looked for them. His voice is a blur.
A. Man. Died. On the tracks. This. Morning.
They ran. Him. Over.
The intercoms dings again and a voice announces the oncoming train, which rushes up in a roar and a swoop and a bright battery of interior lighting as the voice is still announcing its arrival. The man’s voice drowned by the air vents drowned by the intercom drowned by the train. I get on the car feeling slightly stunned and sit numbly on one of the dark blue seats and turn my face to the wall or the black glass of the window, which reflects my face, black with blacker eyes, and the featureless black shapes of the people in other seats before and behind me.
Is this the heart this is / the tree that loves the axe / tired cracked branches / also bark so bitter, black.
Dry red roots the roots / ruined and collapsed / is this the heart yes this / is the tree that loves the axe.
Antipater, John Modred. “Is this the heart this is.” Evil And Worse Evil, London: Chatto & Windus, 1946. Pp. 18-20.
Watched The Great Gatsby Saturday night. Feel like a better choice would have been the Star Trek sequel, or even the new Tom Cruise, Oblivion, or, wait, strike that, I’ll wait for the Neill Blomkamp redux. But, and, anyways, The Great Gatsby is a mess.
Ever since watching, of all things, the 1985 television movie Anne Of Green Gables and its sequel, Anne of Avonlea, I have not been a stickler for needing the film to be faithful to the plot of the novel. The vision of the author, if the raw material itself proves perhaps unadaptable, can at least be transmuted to the screen without parting faith with the work. The legendary 1995 BBC version of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, for instance, plays havoc with the novel six different ways from Sunday, but is certainly, and by far and away, the best film adaptation of the novel to make it to the screen, an equal beast to the text.
Then there is Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. We’re all fans, more or less, of his Romeo + Juliet. Let’s not talk about Australia. When I read that Luhrmann was adapting Fitzgerald’s classic, I thought something along the lines of About damn time, and Thank God him and not Paul Verhoeven, or, idk, David Lynch, or Gore Verbinski, who would have reduced the novel to a series of beautiful images. Say, can you imagine Harmony Korine adapting Fitzgerald? Maybe that would have been a better choice of directors, though, who knows? Baz Luhrmann, you silver-haired sous-chef, you’ve hashed up one of my best-beloved novels and plated it on a ridiculous 3D format, and it doesn’t work. Everything I thought would make the adaptation work is precisely what makes the film fail. Why did I think Jay-Z would be an excellent choice for directing the music for the film? Somehow I forgot that the guy who was in one of the biggest Hype Williams videos of all time AKA sincerely celebrates the lush consumer lifestyle Fitzgerald condemns as a degradation of the soul, might not be a great choice to interpret the American classic. The soundtrack is all over the place and contradicts the film. The set design is about perfect, but the editing chops up the pretty pictures in a very distracting manner, strange fadeaways, swooping pans, bustling tracking, sightlines to the horizon, always visual trick to distract from the previous visual trick. The plot is barely there.
Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby has four excellent scenes, by my count, and they all involve Leonardo DiCaprio doing his damnedest with the main character. The introductory smile, pushing his sunglasses up and down in the Duesenberg, the fight in the apartment, and entering and leaving the pool. The first and last of these scenes are images. The second scene might as well be a gif if it isn’t already. The apartment scene alone actually kicks the plot through the grass for a goal.
Everything else is just kind of empty, you know? There is no there there, or whatever the woman said.
The movie is worth seeing but not if there is a better one beside it. Should totally have seen Star Trek Into Darkness. Sherlock Holmes is the villain!
There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.
—Kazuo Ishiguro, 2005.
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NOTES ON IMAGINARY EXTANT, LOST, DELETED, AND UNRECORDED TRACKS WRITTEN, PERFORMED, RECORDED FOR OR DURING THE PERIOD OF TIME IN THE LIFE OF JOHN DARNIELLE THAT WOULD PRODUCE “ALL HAIL WEST TEXAS” NOT INCLUDED IN THIS COLLECTION BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL IMAGINARY.
1. A Warrior of Jarella (3:16)
John Darnielle (“Dar-NYEEELehhhh”)* was born in Bloomington, Indiana (“Bloomington: The Other Bloomington”). This son of the Midwest moved around much as a child before settling in California (“The Golden State,” “Fucking California”). This record is thematically “into” movement and Texas (“The Lone Star State”). West Texas. Not West, Texas, which is a real place, but western Texas, maybe representative of a certain state of mind? It’s vast and expansive and maybe better than this. After Jarella died, Hulk went completely shithouse for a whole issue. Recorded live to Panasonic RX-FT 500.
*not actually how it’s pronounced—Ed.
Hal likes to get high in secret, but a bigger secret is that he’s as attached to the secrecy as he is to getting high.
—David Foster Wallace, 1996.
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All planets have their gravity, of course, a physical constant by which their paths may be predicted, but people, too, are heavenly bodies, and by their recorded ellipses we should with reasonable vim be able to predict the cyclical successes and depressions of our friends and even ourselves.
I may not know the precise location of their fault lines, may never see the lost continents or new worlds or Marianas Trenches, but, by God, over surprisingly short spaces, most of us can with unsurprising accuracy predict which direction each other will take, how very near or how very far away we will track from the light.
Still, many times, like people whose egos insist that they themselves are the centres of their universes, and that the planets concentrate around them and them only with the weight of love and inclined admiration, we ignore the data that contradicts what we wish to believe.
To plot a planet’s future direction, astronomers watch it through large glass eyes and mark its observed course on a map. Projecting these plotted points gives them the orbit of the planet. Marking any deviance in those plot points allows them to predict the approach of unseen objects affecting the body they are observing.
Christ in paradise, and all His fiery dark angels, shake their heads with frustration hearing us ask heaven for a signpost. Betrayed by a friend, we cry, How could we have known? Underestimating our strengths, we say, But why? And failing at work, we blame our co-workers. We ignored the insistent numbers and placed our hopes instead in mirrors and horoscopes.
The comets sparkle around us every August. We know they are coming. But what are we refusing to see? Sooner or later, an unknown asteroid will heave over the horizon and blindside us. And no one to blame but ourselves or maybe 1998’s Michael Bay.