August 30, 2009

Into the Viper's Den

Just finished Thomas Pynchon's new detective novel, Inherent Vice. Not exactly Against the Day or Gravity's Rainbow . . . but we knew that already, didn't we?

The closest parallel to Pynchon's previous fiction would be Vineland. They share a literary sub-genre that we could call viper spiel. As such, Inherent Vice is entertaining in a silly way, loose and rambling, like the free-wheeling, disconnected jabberings of the more creative potheads you may know. Sometimes gratuitous, always fun, Inherent Vice sprinkles just enough of Pynchon's particular time-slipping conspiratorial genius to make it a step above the usual crime genre boilers.

I tend to like my crime fiction a little tighter, and Elmore Leonard this ain't. Like Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, Inherent Vice highlights the nexus where it's author's concerns intersect with the crime genre. Unlike No Country for Old Men, the nexus is fuzzy and inexact.

As crime fiction, Inherent Vice is good, not great. As entertainment, it's good slapstick (a Pynchon trademark). As a Thomas Pynchon novel, it's lite fare. At the end of the day, it's a good read.

August 16, 2009

Scene of the Crime

There's a nice new little site with some crime writing from Louisville at The Johnny Browning Mysteries. Stanley Wright does have a bit of a potty mouth, so there is a warning on it . . . not for the kiddies. Enjoy!

August 9, 2009

The Death of Everything


Burroughs: "Tear it down, tear it down, tear it all down!"

actually it was "Take it back, take it back, take it all back!", but who's keeping track? Bogus attribution and outright lying is the chic literary device of the first quarter of the 21st century. If this seems like a week attempt then it's because I've come unstuck in time.


This is the death of everything. The title reeks of berets and Sartre, of pretension so mundane it's become a Halloween costume. It's like


"oooohhh, scary . . . who the fuck are you trying to kid and/or impress?"

There's the big death, and there's the little death. And a few deaths in between. It's virtually meaningless to talk about death, the big empty. Death is too big; death stands in for its own meaning.

Or not.


I call this blog the death of everything because I want it to be, in a sense, a series of endings. I perceive life/reality as a cycle, a series of cycles, a group of cycles, whatever . . . but unlike circles, there's no smooth continuum, and unlike spirals, there's no controlled (or, sometimes, even logical) motion. As such, you can point at any moment and say "that's the end! DEATH!" and you would be right. Or, you could say "that's the beginning! BIRTH!" and be correct as well. It's all a matter of perspective, you see?

Problem is, everyone wants to be RIGHT. It doesn't work that way. The circles have flat spots, the spirals are less spirals than they are a careening about in scenery that is occasionally familiar, occasionally not.

This is life beyond mathematics, spiritual or actual . . .


Everyone wants a new beginning without an ending. Birth without death.

But it doesn't work that way.

So, lacking rebirth without pain, they choose the status quo. Problem is, there is no such thing as a status quo. Everything is always changing.

You get up every morning at the same time. You eat the same thing for breakfast - say, a bowl of Cheerios. Every day. Same time.

But today, it rains. Yesterday it snowed. The sun will be out tomorrow.

The president got shot. Someone flew airplanes into a large building.

You had sex.

Nothing is ever really the same. But


Somehow, it is. Sartre tries to convince us that just because the sun rose in the east yesterday, and yesterday, and yesterday ad infinitum, that doesn't necessarily mean that it will rise in the east again tomorrow.

Sure. I can buy that. But nobody ever lost money betting that the sun would rise in the east.

"The more things change, the more things stay the same."

God, how I hate the old saws, but this one's apropos. It's the spiral, the careening about in scenery familiar and unfamiliar. It's a life of deja vu.

"It takes money to make money."

Less apropos, but I was thinking of Green on Red for some reason, and that line from one of their songs just came insistently barging through. But wait: not so beside the point, it turns out. Because if you expand it to

"Power serves naught but power."

then you are getting closer to the point.

Money serves money. Power serves power. The status quo exists solely to project itself into infinity.

And that, friends, is the source of everything that is burning up our world: the enormous resource drain to power the continual return of the status quo. I don't mean that strictly in the environmental sense (though, indeed, that applies), but a macroeconomic sense, if economy here is expanded to mean the sum total of all exchange. You see, entropy is the natural tendency of the universe

(everything falls apart)

, and it takes energy (or applied energy = power) to fight against the entropy. So, the more mass a given film clip/reality attains, the more power (energy) it takes to maintain the status quo, like holding an ocean liner at anchor. Turns out the status quo is not the mundane, same-old-same-old; but rather, a raging inferno, a nuclear implosion, and energy sink that swallows up everything in its wake.

Entropy, on the other hand, is zen-like. Sometimes horrible, sometimes violent

(ultimate entropy separates atom from atom, fractures nuclei, sends electrons careening from orbit)

but always tending toward the peace of oblivion

(and [need it be said?] no energy/power drain).

The true conservationist does not preserve. The true conservationist is the death of everything.


the death of everything wants to scrape the barnacles off the ocean liner of culture.


Today we have hundreds, nay, thousands of people telling us what's up with this or that. The democratization of message transmission has led to (what can only with extreme charity be called) the democratization of expression. That's fine: it's not as if the voices are any more wacked out, it's just that there's more of them. And besides, some of the most wacked out voices are right there on the top of the "traditional media" pile.

the death of everything strives to break apart the control systems at the heart of the word. This is particularly tricky considering the fact that the operations take place at the level of word. the death of everything is far from pure in this sense, especially when "calmly and rationally" discussing politics

{assuming that this defective, bipolar political monstrosity is somehow a) functioning logically, and b) worthy of "serious" discussion is in and of itself dangerously faulty logic}

or appearing to align itself in the political spectrum.

"Political", here, meaning American politics.

For that reason, the death of everything needs to be taken as a whole. A defective whole, certainly, but hopefully with its moments of


insight? No, death. The breaking apart, the entropy is the thing. Effective in and of itself, the aiming, the focus, the purpose tends to pollute it, but not fatally.


And thus, the circle, the cycle, the . . . whatever. One thing's for sure, after you've looped around, you're not in the same place, even if the deja vu is heavy . . .


Life and death. Death and life. You don't get one without the other. As the ocean liner of this reality trundles along,


becoming more massive and burdened as it goes,


it sinks ever more precipitously to the dark depths.


Our reality is burdened to the point that it is becoming unworkable. It has to be picked apart, torn asunder, loosened up (nuclei split, electrons ejected from their orbits). Something has to die so that reality can live. And, more than just something, it has to be


everything. Anything less than everything would betray an agenda. Everything dies so that all can be reborn.


"Now I die and vanish," you would say, "and all at once I am nothing. The soul is as mortal as the body. But the knot of causes in which I am entangled recurs and will create me again. I myself belong to the causes of eternal recurrence. I come again, with this sun, with this earth, with this eagle, with this serpent . . . " Zarathustra's eagle and serpent


"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust - Remember always: from ashes you came, to ashes you shall return." Ash Wednesday Invocation

August 8, 2009

It's About Healthcare, Stupid

The debate about healthcare isn't actually about healthcare anymore. It's amazing the lengths to which some Americans will go to further an agenda.

Of course, EVERYONE has an agenda. It just appears that the right are far more comfortable playing shell games with theirs.

The American healthcare system, like the environment, is broken, no matter what the right wing says. The ridiculous thing is that the Republicans can have their way, if they want it. The idiot Democrats want a healthcare bill, ANY healthcare bill, just so long as they can say they "fixed" healthcare (which will not happen). All the Republicans have to do is float a few token votes (from Congressmen and Senators from "safe" districts, such as Dick Lugar) on an industry-friendly bill. The representatives who need to can vote against it for the sake of their culture warrior t-bagging constituents. Viola! An industry-friendly cosmetic fix gets passed on the Democratic watch, the insurance bandits are safe, the Democrats say they "fixed" healthcare, and Republicans who need to can say they voted against it. Everybody's a winner!

Instead, the Republican party has decided to commit their future to the culture wars. The ends (political victory) justify the means (lying). They have once again, Rove-style, taken control of the debate. We're not talking about healthcare anymore: it's all code.

On second thought, maybe I'm OK with this ludicrous argument. It's looking more and more like any bill that will be passed will be worthless. It looks like a few more people will have to be arbitrarily denied coverage or drown in the bureaucracy of their private sector health plans before we really fix this thing.

In the meantime, it saddens me just how many people believe we are actually talking about healthcare.