Sunday, August 15, 2004

Man, it's been forever since I've blogged.

Sometimes I get in this mood where I say I'm going to say something interesting, witty or borderline insane on here every day, like all the good bloggers do, and then I suddenly realize either that no such thoughts are coming or that I'm just too fucking busy to be amusing. And busy is definitely what I've been these last few weeks -- simple work-oriented-newsletter stuff that just seems to take YEARS to finish. I've spent whole weekends at work; a couple of weekends ago I spent ALL NIGHT at work. I spent all day today at work. Things just take forever with me, it's a sickness. Anyway, I left a couple of hours feeling not bad about things in general, so I'm back here listening to what I have recently decided are my favorite songs. Wanna know what they are? Good, I'm dying to tell you.

I list them in more or less chronological order in terms of age, oldest to latest, although this is mostly guesswork:

1. "Night Train" -- James Brown
2. "The Pick Up" -- Etta James
3. "Be My Baby" -- Ronettes
4. "Tramp" -- Otis Redding & Carla Thomas
5. "The Hawg, Part One" -- Eddie Kirk
6. "A Big Hunk O' Love" -- Elvis Presley
7. "Surfin' Bird" -- Trashmen
8. "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again" -- Bob Dylan
9. "What Goes On" -- The Velvet Underground
10. "Stray Cat Blues" -- The Rolling Stones
11. "Moondance" -- Van Morrison
12. "Like A Hurricane" -- Neil Young
13. "Marquee Moon" -- Television
14. "Kentucky Avenue" -- Tom Waits
15. "Land" -- Patti Smith
16. "Where Were You?" -- The Mekons
17. "Wall Of Death" -- Richard And Linda Thompson

I could also list the stack of books I'm set to review in the next couple of months, but that's too scary. One of them is Bill Clinton's book, and the thought of sitting through just gets scarier and scarier. But one of them is also the new Russell Banks novel, "the Darling," and one is David Mitchell's much-hyped "Cloud Atlas" -- not to be confused with Liam Callanan's "The Cloud Atlas" from a few months before -- and there's also Jeffrey Meyert's Somerset Maugham bio.

Boy is Maugham boring. I was so in love with "the Painted Veil" a few months back, then I went on to "Of Human Bondage," which nearly bored me into a coma. It's like a Dickens novel without Dickens, the story of this poor masochistic sap named Philip Carey whose mother dies in childbirth, and who then has this a David Copperfield of a time trying to find out what's it all about Alfie. He's raised by this vicar and his wife who blather about God and -- surprise, surprise -- are spiritually empty; so, of course, is Philip, who gradually matures into the most senescent athiest I've ever encountered. The older he gets, the more he falls in and out of love with one destructive bitch after the next, the more his artistic or professional friends see their dreams ground into the dust, the more Philip decides there's no God. In fact, this is the only message the universe seems to have for him, the more he peels away ay it: no God, no God, no God. On and on this goes. Philip's despair never once deepens or even becomes interesting; it's just a dry old crust of bread he seems to never tire of chewing and chewing and chewing. Maugham is so hopelessly superficial and so banal when he thinks he's being intelligent or penetrating.

I'll give the book props, though, for the character of Mildred, this nasty, worthless, heartless little waif who is pretty much the self-hating Philip's dream date. When she's around, you occasionally think you're reading a real novel.

I'm now reading "The Razor's Edge," which is only a little better. Actually, maybe, it's worst. It's mostly a book about rich people sitting around Paris watching the world fall apart. Well, there's more to it than that; it has a story about this guy named Larry Darrell who has this Philip Carey-like quest to figure out what the fuck's going on; he isn't always on the scene but his quest and his concerns are what everyone reacts against. The people in the book are mostly wealthy snobs who, shall we say, are not rendered with Proustian precision. Anyway, hopefully more focused thoughts on all this later.

Last week I read a really terrific collection of the Best Crime Writing of 2003, which will hopefully appear in the Free Times later this week. Or not, who knows with them.

One good thing, though -- I'll be interviewing Stanley Crouch in a couple of months for the Free Times. Crouch is the headliner at that annual USC gabfest that Janette Turner Hospital puts together. First question: how good did it feel to slap Dale Peck? And did you slap him hard, or just a little? Did you make his teeth rattle? Was blood drawn? What did he say in response?

Patti Smith just came on. Now is the time on "Rodney Welch: The Blog" when we dance. (Got to lose control! Got to lose control! Got to lose control! Then you take control and you roll down on your back! Do you like it like that??? Like it like that??? Like it like that??? Like it like that???)

Honest to God, that song came on last week and I was sitting here just rocking away and I knocked over a whole shelf of CDs.

What else is on my mind? Oh yes, Jessica "Washingtonienne" Cutler, the intern who bragged on her blog about blowing a few Washington nobodies and got outed by Wonkette -- which led to her firing, a book deal, a spread in Playboy, and now, the grand coup, a profile in today's Washington Post Magazine, which ought to be titled "Give a Slut A Cover Story and She'll Swear She's the Spirit of the Age."

It's the kind of story you read in a lot of Sunday magazines, as well as in Vanity Fair: a story about a faux celebrity that questions the legitimacy of her fame and boosts it at the same time, an easy, voyeuristic kind of tale that also serves as a peg on which to hang a lot of Reader's Digest thoughts about the direction of the country. Even Naomi "Aura of Election" Wolf -- last seen weeping over the fact that Harold Bloom touched her thigh 20 years ago -- gets in the act, along with pollster Daniel Yankelovich, both of whom come to the conclusion that Jessica is signals the decline of Western Civilization. A cliche but it's true: you can't buy this kind of publicity. You have to get on your knees for it.

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