Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Just got back from a great Free Times party at the Comedy House in Columbia. I haven't been to a comedy show in years. Anyway, it was their "Best Of" party, which they throw for the staff and every business which has won a "Best Of Columbia" award. There was lots of food, a semi-funny comedian whose name escapes me, and a great goofball band called McFly, which plays (or seems to play) cheesy 1980s music. Their lead singer wears this flashy red suit, their keyboardist is thin as a rail and dressed all slutty, their bassist looks like a Catholic girl gone bad. There's also a long-haired lead guitarist and a drummer with a bandanna. With enough Wild Turkey in your head they sound great and look adorable. If an unembarrassing picture of me was taken I'll post it.

I'm not really in the mood to discuss John Updike, but I finished his new one, Villages, and I'm hyper to start writing about it because I fairly marked up every other page of the book -- sometimes wearily, often enthusiastically. It's the sexual biography of a perpetual adolescent and aging serial adulterer named Owen Mackenzie and I went through it thinking "Here we go again. John Updike. Four million and one painterly descriptions of pussy. Meditations on the deterioration of the body. Weariness. Sadness. God." And I often thought, not uncommon when you read his later books if you've been following him awhile, "He's dog-paddling. All sex. No story. He's just hitting the same notes he hit years ago." Even Updike himself announced months ago that it would be "More of the same." But you know, I think he really may have gotten somewhere toward the end, in the last third or so; the subtle description of Owen's wife Phyllis began to get to me, began to work on me; she's really kind of the main character. And I found myself penning little questions in the margins, where I'd ask myself if Updike was as good at describing the process of divorce as he is at describing adultery, or is he better. Anyway, it succeeded in moving this resistant reader; I'm just not sure how much. Early this morning I started reading Couples -- which I may or may not finish -- and thought how extremely different it is than his latest work; there's some thing very dutiful and self-consciously artistic in that early description of the house. If he told that story again I'm sure he woul;d have boiled it down, and he wouldn't have written so long either, I don't think. We, or at any rate I, tend to think of Updike's glory being in his past, but maybe he's an old master and people just don't notice it. Maybe he's been writing the same book all along -- but maybe he's getting better at it.

More on this later.

I bought an old Neil Young CD called Hawks & Doves and I want to listen to it a little before I drop off. I'm too wired to sleep. Who goes to parties on Tuesday? It's insane.

Tomorrow I have a book review and two short record reviews in the Free-Times.

Tomorrow -- which by the time I post this will be today -- I'll be married for 20 years. Hey, ho, hey nonino.

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