READIN started out as a place for me
to keep track of what I am reading, and to learn (slowly, slowly)
how to design a web site.
There has been some mission drift
here and there, but in general that's still what it is. Some of
the main things I write about here are
listening to (and playing) music, and
watching the movies. Also I write about the
work I do with my hands and with my head; and of course about bringing up Sylvia.
The site is a bit of a work in progress. New features will come on-line now and then; and you will occasionally get error messages in place of the blog, for the forseeable future. Cut me some slack, I'm just doing it for fun! And if you see an error message you think I should know about, please drop me a line. READIN source code is PHP and CSS, and available on request, in case you want to see how it works.
"Be quiet the doctor's wife said gently, let's all keep quiet, there are times when words serve no purpose, if only I, too, could weep, say everything with tears, not have to speak in order to be understood."
-- Blindness, Jose Saramago
"Doc tried calling her name but of course words out here were only words."
-- Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon
...And maybe the best thing yet about Inherent Vice: it appears to have cured me of the intimidation I've felt towards Mason & Dixon, allowed me to really start digging that book! (Backstory: I read M&D when it came out 12 years ago, participated in the pynchon-l's "Mass Discussion of Mason & Dixon", tried my hardest to understand it and to love it, and sort of dropped the ball (or whatever sporting analogy is appropriate) -- and ever since it has been sitting on my shelf beckoning me to reread it, to try again.) So on Friday night, with Inherent Vice fresh in mind, I picked it up and opened it -- and found myself transported! It is a work of beauty. I'm following the pair's peregrinations around South Africa and St. Helena with bated breath, where my memory of reading it before is that this section was something to be gotten through so I could read the story set in America...
I'm a little annoyed with my younger self's pencilled annotations -- there are a whole lot of them throughout the book and they are pretty unbearably earnest -- looking at a scribbled cross-reference with question mark I can see myself at 27 reading the MDMD, trying to make a point in the discussion, hoping for praise from the other participants... (Some of the notes are useful of course but they do break into the flow of the text and they are difficult to ignore entirely.)
Amazon is really doing some cool stuff with promoting Inherent Vice -- I'm not sure exactly what the business structure of this is, it looks like it is coming from Amazon rather than from the publisher, it looks like Pynchon is actively involved. Anyway, today I found a playlist of tunes featured in the book: Soundtrack to Inherent Vice. Not sure why they did not put multimedia players on the page, but there are links to mp3 files for a whole lot of the songs. (Alas, not for the fictional ones... Who's going to record "Just the Lasagna"?)
(Something I ought to do: make a YouTube playlist containing the subset of songs on the list that are freely available... Update: here it is!)
I keep finding myself wanting to compare Inherent Vice and The Wire -- funny they don't seem at first glance all that similar, beyond some superficial notes like a lot of characters being police, lawyers, or drug users -- and look how much I have to abstract to even get this superficial similarity to apply! But Bjornsen's plot to get Doc involved in (oh wait, careful about the spoilers) his personal grudge reminds me somehow of McNulty's subterfuge to get more money for the department. I would love to see Dominic West playing Bjornsen, and indeed for a while I was picking out actors from The Wire for all of the parts...
There may be nothing at all to this juxtaposition. With both works, I had trouble being drawn into the plot and identifying with the characters, but had a good time with the watching/reading.
The clock up on the wall, which reminded Doc of elementary school back in the San Joachin, read some hour that it could not possibly be. Doc waited for the hands to move, but they didn't, from which he deduced that the clock was broken and maybe had been for years. Which was groovy however because long ago Sortilège had taught him the esoteric skill of tellig time from a broken clock. The first thing you had to do was light a joint, which in the Hall of Justice might seem odd, but surely not way back here -- who knew, maybe even outside the jurisdiction of local drug enforcement -- though to be on the safe side he also lit up a De Nobili cigar and filled the room with a precautionary cloud of smoke from the classic Mafia favorite. After inhaling pot smoke for a while, he looked up at the clock, and sure enough, it showed a different time now, though this could also be from Doc having forgotten where the hands were to begin with.
I am not sure if this will sound like weak tea, recommendation-wise -- this is a nice compact example of the bits I am loving in Inherent Vice -- if it made you laugh, read the book for a lot more... The story is coming a bit more into focus for me towards the end of the book, but I'm definitely reading primarily for Pynchon's games.
Another difference between Inherent Vice and my standard category of novel-reading experience is, I like the reading a lot better if there is music playing in the background. Normally I have a hard time reading when I'm listening to music, here they seem to enhance one another. From my iTunes shuffle today:
It ain't nobody's business, Mississippi John Hurt
La-Do-Dada, Dale Hawkins
What Goes On, Robyn Hitchcock and Grant Lee Phillips -- this was a very nice coincidence because it came on just as I was starting to read the lyrics to the Spotted Dicks' new single "Long Trip Out" (which is on the radio in Doc's car), and suddenly I am singing them to the tune of "What Goes On", and they are fitting pretty well. Here is a verse of it:
Long trip out, from the Mekong Delta...
It's a last lost chance, when you need a friend,
And you're flyin on out of
Cam Ranh Bay at midnight,
And you won't know how, to
Get back home again.
Then I spent a little while distracted, trying to find out more about "What Goes On" -- turns out it is a Velvet Underground song.
The Birds Were Singing, Carter Family
There'll be Joy, Joy, Joy, Carter Family -- the Carter Family threatening to distract from the novel, they do not quite work together.
Floater, Bob Dylan -- now this is more like it --
Till the End of the World, Ernie Tubb
Salty Dog Blues, John Hurt
Knockin on Heaven's Door, Dylan and the Band -- I was not actually participating in the music-listening/reading activity here, "Salty Dog" had reminded me that Lola needed to go out --
I Something You, Robyn Hitchcock.
The book? I'm dying to recommend it to you but having trouble with what to say about it... I am bursting out laughing about once per page.
...and later on in the shuffle, Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra plays the "What-cha-call-'em Blues" which go very nicely with the lyrics I am reading at this moment, to Carmine and the Cal-Zones' "Just the Lasagna". Conclusion, when there's music playing it's much easier to imagine Pynchon's lyrics being sung.