Watched Trash Humpers last night. Had little to no expectations of how it’d feel. The previews online make it look like it could be a big mess in the badmess way rather than the glorious mess of Harmony Korine’s first two films, Gummo and Julien Donkey Boy, both of which I hugely love. If Mister Lonely felt less prismatic in that way for me in full, it remains unquestionably still engorged with images I will never forget (the black kid riding the pig around? the Uncle Sam spinning basketballs and cackling!), which seems to be Korine’s greatest talent, and one too many forget: putting shit on screen no one else ever would in ways no one else ever would.
Trash Humpers seems to take Korine’s ghetto by way of backyard by way of incidental by way of watch-it-rattle aesthetic to the furthest extent thus far. Made in the light of wanting not to have to play the “make a budget for this movie” game by milking and meeting others’ eyes, Korine turned instead to ghetto-film roots of weird bedrooms, alleyways, parking lots, apartments, the rooms of some invention.
First off, the going rumor that Korine claimed to have edited the film by dubbing between two VCRs is apparently true. Literally scenes transition by showing the crackle and verbiage a VCR displays when switching from Play to Rewind and even some tracking adjustment. The scenes between play mostly like the cream takes of a bunch of huffers wandering around looking for new ways to get off. The central crew here is three people, friends of Korine’s, including his wife, done up in bad old-person make up masks and weird clothes. Korine films and appears various times himself from behind the camera looking like Jim Jones made of plastic. True to the name of the film, they spend a lot of time humping trash. They put their groin on the bin and bang at it in weird silence, as the film has no score, or sometimes while the man behind the camera squawks weird sounds of hack-giggling or sings small lines or screeching Get it Get it, which at first might seem annoying, eekish, but as the film goes on becomes a hobbling refrain.
Damn the men with careful smiles
My head is a jug
Alcoholic philanthropy is still philanthropy
OK I got drunk and forgot I was giving a party
Killed 9 bottles
She got drunk and turned on me like a fish-wife
Summer is not a season, it’s an occupation
Every compulsion is put upon writers to become safe, polite, obedient, and sterile
Drink is a rebellion
I’m just happy to be here
Go ahead, talk out your hat
Mussed again, your hair
Agile tongue, thickened
When I was about 5, my mother started reading the first installment in The Boxcar Children to me. She got to the end of chapter one and asked if I wanted her to continue. I could not believe my luck: this story, these characters, lived on in the following chapter. I was accustomed to picture books, wherein the narrative concludes after 15 pages or so. Any big books I may have had were probably anthologies of similar stories, fairy tales or fables or the like. That there were all these bigger longer stories was the most awesome childhood discovery. That The Boxcar Children was a whole series of such books, well, hell’s bells.
This began as a comment to Catherine’s post this morning, but then I felt like I was talking about something kind of different, so I decided to devote a post. Catherine coined the term “intellectual fatties” to describe long, abstruse novels that she gets no joy from reading. Presumably, the longer a difficult book is, the harder it is to get through, which is why she limited the field as to length. This got me to thinking about books that are long, but only regularly difficult. I don’t, to my knowledge, read many very difficult books of any length, so I can’t speak as to that.
The longest books I’ve finished are Moby Dick, War and Peace, A Suitable Boy, Les Miserables, lots of big Dickens. None of these are terribly difficult intellectually, but in all cases the experience was joyous. Longer is not harder to get through, in my experience. It’s actually much easier to read one 1200 page book, intellectually, than to read 4 books of 300 pages. In the latter case, you have to get accustomed to 4 different worlds, 4 different voices, so many more characters. In the first case, you only acclimatize one time, and then you are sailing. And you get to know those characters so much better, and you become fluent in the sound and the rhythms of the prose. After finishing The Pickwick Papers, the first 150 pages of which are dreck, I missed Sam Weller the way I miss good friends in absentia.
Whenever I teach a book to my students, I assign the first 30 or so pages, talk about those, and then assign increasingly larger sections for the duration of the novel. This isn’t just because beginnings are so important; it’s because starting a novel, and learning to navigate its terrain, is the hardest part, and I want to spend a lot of time helping them with that.
While I don’t have any hard numbers to back this up, I’m pretty sure that most of the books I’ve not finished (but have read at least, say, 40 pages of) come in under 200 pages. Don’t know why, really, but perhaps it’s because the investment doesn’t seem worth it, if I’m not pretty immediately delighted by it. Once I get into it, it’ll just be over. That’s no fun.
I prefer television shows to movies for the same reason. If I’ve signed up to immerse myself another person’s vision of things, I don’t want to be hauled ashore after just 2 or 3 hours.
People experience joy reading these kinds of books and that makes me happy in the same way that some people like having gay sex makes me happy. I don’t have gay sex but I am happy that it’s being had and enjoyed because uniformity of desire scares me. It reminds me of that acidic feeling I had in sixth grade when a classmate told me all men wanted to have sex with Pamela Anderson.
But my question is this: Does anyone openly admit that they experience joy reading an ‘intelligent fatty’ because it makes them feel smarter than other people? Is that part of the appeal or is that the dirty little secret of the appeal or is that not even a factor?
If I was in Chicago TOMORROW NIGHT (thanks Tim), I’d probably stop by Reckless Records, then go to Ed Debevic’s for mean food, then to the book launch sink for Davis Schneiderman’s new novel, Drain. Readings by some Giant faves: “Steve Tomasula, Cookies & MILF (aka Kelly Haramis & Jennifer Boxrud), Don Share, John Beer, Rebekah Silverman and Tadd Adcox (reading a piece by Fred Sasaki). Artwork by Elizabeth Birnbaum, Karen Larson, Eli Robb and Mai Wagner.” 7pm at Part Time Gallery (5219 N. Clark. 3rd Floor).
After that I’d close down the Oasis and tomorrow morning hit Heartland Cafe.
Well, Mairéad’s microphone went kaput, so you only sort of missed her reading. But the book is still available cheap till I decide we’ve made recompense.
Her latest book, The Best of (What’s Left of) Heaven is a 208-page opus just released by Publishing Genius. Purchases made between now and midnight tonight get a reduced $10 price and free shipping.
What’s Missoni? I have no idea, even after watching this. Which is the best. Why don’t more big $$ machines give more $$ to arts, even if you have to put their name on it.
Dear Missoni, BP, Brad Pitt, whoever: if you pay me $$ to live for a while, I’ll write a book that has your entity’s object or glyphmark or whateverword in it. That’s not a sales pitch. I’m for $$ sponsorship, when it does not demand control, as this clearly did not. Props to places with taste. I like Missoni now, whatever it is.