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AvatarComments by Rufus F.

On “Sunday Morning! “Four Souls” by Louise Erdrich

It would be great to hear what you make of it now. All I can remember is the cover, even though I think I read it 20 years ago as well.


A bit of synchronicity- I am concurrently discussing Gatsby because there is a fire-damaged apartment near me that has been renovated and reopened as "luxury apartments" (one-third the size of my apartment for two and a half times the rent) and redubbed "The Gatsby", which led to a discussion about what real estate yuppies think the novel is about, aside from featuring a really nice mansion.


I think I mentioned Basquiat because I was just talking about him with my roommate, who's a semi-working artist. Anyway, she was doing a residency in a little artist community in the Pacific Northwest, US, and there was an older gentleman there from NY who told the artists "You know, I broke Jean-Michel Basquiat when he was first starting out. I gave him his first gallery show." So, they thought "Yeah, right!" and then looked it up and, sure enough, he was the guy who broke Basquiat.

So, they screened a PBS doc about Jean-Michel Basquiat and that NY scene of the era and, about halfway through, all of the artists in the back of the room looked at each other and said "This would never happen today". People from that background are increasingly shut out from the arts, not to mention NY. I do think there are great artists out there- actually, we give them monthly shows in the record store I help run and there's an amazing painter there now. But the arts have gotten a lot better at marginalizing them. In my opinion.

I guess what I worry about is the great artists are all limited to shows that folks like us put on in lousy basement record stores!

On “Top 10 Films of 2019

My biggest regret was not seeing Little Women before publishing my last post. What a great film that was! It's obviously a story we've seen many times before, but it reminded me how much of storytelling is getting together characters that we like and want to watch, and letting us watch them.

On “Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders, Round Two

This one was especially effective, but it's also become a constant on the left: Bernie Bros, Brocialists, "Dude-bros", "finance bros", "tech bros", etc. You start thinking you wouldn't want to be the brother of some of these people.

On “Sunday Morning! “Ducks, Newburyport”

That sounds pretty cool. I'll ask at our bookstore.


Well, yeah, she's obviously not the first to use stream of consciousness narration, but I'm not sure that's a cheat exactly. And, you know, I've read this one and I've read Ulysses and they're not that similar, aside from the use of stream of consciousness.

On the other hand, one of the reviews of this book said "Ulysses has nothing on this..." which struck me as a pretty silly reading of Ulysses.

On “From the Congressional Budget Office: A Report on the Effects of Migration on Wages

I have this theory (which is so obvious I'm sure I'm not the first) that bourgeois liberal people don't have as much political power as they used to or would like, so they increasingly focus their energies on monopolizing the production of cultural legitimacy. Which is why we get this sort of MFA cartel system in the arts. And plenty of novels about bourgeois MFA graduates trying to make it in New York publishing that nobody reads, but which get stellar reviews.

On “Confessions of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment? Maybe a Depressive Pixie Dream Girl. The first quirky thing she does is try to kill herself. Maybe Jack Lemmon's the Manic Pixie Dream Shrub in that flick. Neither of them are remotely cool and what's quirky about the characters is they're decent individuals in a cold mass society. It's a fantastic movie, but I think there's a pretty limited heuristic power to these internet tropes.

On “Sunday Morning! Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Right, that's interesting! There's also the whole symbolism of the pentangle, which would not be out of place atop a Christmas tree, had they had them back then.

On “Pete Buttigieg’s High Hopes

I never really bought the argument that people have made to the effect that "Trump didn't really want to win". I always had the feeling that he *really* wanted to win, same as I do with this election. With Biden, it's more like he's willing to get the job done, if he does win. But, if not, that's okay too. Maybe that's unfair, but it's why I don't really think he will beat Trump. Which sucks when you think about it.

On “An Instant Coffee Life: From Juan Valdez to Jean-Luc

I feel sort of fortunate in having no real idea about what constitutes "good" coffee and "bad" coffee because it saves money. I drink black coffee and we have trendier coffee shops around me and it all comes down to price. If I'm paying three dollars for a cup of black coffee, it's not good. My palate is just fine with drinking 7-11 coffee. I can't tell the difference.

On “Roger Stone Found Guilty of All Charges

Has anyone considered the possibility that Donald Trump is *so* virtuous and trusting that he keeps getting taken in by all of the corrupt people around him?

On “Sunday Morning! The City & The City

I still haven't seen much more than a few scenes online. My plan is to digest the novel a bit longer and then watch the episodes.


I have a feeling the best way to see it is read the book first and then watch it. Some people were saying they couldn't quite follow it, but the people who read the book all seemed to agree they nailed it.


Thank you! It's been nice motivation to check out things people have long recommended to me, get my mind blown, and then say "Hey! Y'all gotta check this thing out! It will blow your mind!"

On “Monday Morning! More Selby Jr. and Beginning Bresson

Right? But you can come to the same conclusion- actually I did- the opposite way around. Think of any lousy, thin, direct-to-DVD pulpy story that didn't work and 9 times out of 10 the characters were nondescript. It was Average Guy: "We'd better get to that oil rig before it explodes!" Average Girl: "Let's not stand here! Let's go!"

Conversely, I could watch Withnail and I over and over and it's basically just three guys and they're in the country and it's really funny because it's *those guys* and they're in the country!

In fact, there's volumes in Proust where there characters are vivid and razor sharp and the "plot" is like: They went to the opera, and then they went to a dinner party, and a little later they went to another dinner party.

On “Beto O’Rourke Calls it a Campaign

It's not him. I just don't know if the American electorate is really ready to elect a whippersnapper.

On “The Outer Worlds: The Partial Review

I don't know if this is a great place to mention this, but I'm gonna be late this week... I'm writing about Diary of a Country Priest, which is one of those movies that changes how you think of movies a little- at least, it did for me. Plus I'm getting over a cold. So, I'd rather wait a day and do it justice. Hopefully, this will not throw off the weekly rotation! Cheers!

On “Sunday Morning! “Colorless Tsukuru Tzaki and his Years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami and R.I.P. Kim Shattuck

Man, I loved Sputnik Sweetheart too! I just started reading him last year after hearing about him in a Patti Smith book. I'll go back and find those posts when I get to Norwegian Wood. I actually need to track down a copy of that book- none of the libraries here seem to have it.

On “Saturday Morning Gaming: Alien Artifacts

I haven't played any games since I was a little kid playing Frogger.

But Happy Birthday, Dude!

On “Monday Morning! “Paris Without End: the True Story of Hemingway’s First Wife”

You know, the weird thing about it is they get easier every time. I've been through about ten of them in my life and none was as tough as Laura Schwartz when I was 23. Oh, man, I loved that girl! I spent the better part of a year lying in bed in a rented basement apartment crying my eyes out. Even the divorce, which was rough, was not as rough as that first real heartbreak. So, it sucks. But it's not Laura Schwartz bad.

On “Comment Rescue: The Underclass

Point taken that "underclass" should be something like "proletariat". As for the rest, let's see:
1. Society *might* be better off without the underclass, as defined, but we'd be lacking a great deal of the most meaningful art, writing, and culture of the last two centuries, so I don't know about "unambiguously". It's a bit like saying we'd be unambiguously better off without people like van Gogh adding negative value to society.
2. Historically, many societies have had such a class because they maintained the belief that "races" varied widely in terms of cognitive ability, so I'm not sure that's a good measure either.
3. I've worked in the theater and usually the way you often do come to an agreement in that situation is by rotating jobs. Maybe it's different if you're performing in Hamilton (not Ontario).

But, I'm skeptical about this "widely varied" bit. My one-minute autobiography: I was born in a working class family, started in public school, tested very highly for IQ, got put through gifted schools, slacked off in high school big time, worked for five or six years, went back to college and graduated from a very rigorous university with prep school valedictorians as classmates, got my PhD and taught in a working class city, and finally got sick of academia and did labor jobs again. And I was married to a prep school girl from a very rich family for about a decade. So, I've known a lot of people from very different backgrounds.

And, I gotta tell ya- most of them I've met are in the middle. It's true that the scary-smart ones I've met were in universities and the fell-off-the-turnip-truck ones were in menial labor, BUT that accounts for about 2-3 fingers on each hand. Most people, at least in my experience, don't really vary that widely in terms of intelligence. The biggest difference between the social classes that I've observed was in terms of linguistic skills. The prep school kids can express themselves like a Ted talk and the working class people generally cannot.

But, of course, that has to do with training, which has to do with expectations, which probably does shape where someone ends up. Not to mention that with the way labor is structured today, many of those proletarian co-workers speak English as a second language, regardless of their abilities back home.

So, I don't know. I like to believe in meritocracies of intellect, at least in principle, but I still have yet to meet the menial laborer whose story begins "I was born into a wealthy family and started off in a very prestigious private school, but I couldn't make the grades, so next thing I knew, my only option was menial labor."

On “Sunday Morning! “The Memory Police” by Yoko Ogawa

I've already passed peak superhero a while ago. However, I would love to see a David Lynch superhero film. Granted, their superpower would probably be transcendental meditation...