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Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

Perfecting Loneliness

Perfecting Loneliness
Jets To Brazil
Perfecting Loneliness
It seems like most of my record reviews run about the same way: I tell some irrelevant story, and then I assert that this album is not nearly as good as the band’s last album, and then I try to come up with some witty ending, and tack on a semi-relevant image file stolen from somebody else’s web site. And I’ll have to admit that the temptation to do that here is strong. I’m not crazy about Perfecting Loneliness. I was (and am) pretty crazy about the band’s first album, Orange Rhyming Dictionary. At this point, the indie rock purists will point out that even that pales in comparison to anything that Jawbreaker ever did. Eventually, we’ll work our way back to wondering if Slint were nearly as good as their reputation.
jets
However, I’m going to skip all that this time. The fact is, I ain’t what I used to be, either. Or, at the very least, I ain’t what I used to think I was. It’s hard to stay creative in a static situation. This is probably one of the reasons that I’ve moved so much, changed jobs so much, and have a dismal time maintaining relationships. I think it’s also the reason that most bands break up. Sometimes you get those fiery conflicts of personality, but more often, I think things just fade away and get stale. I’m not at all sure that a career is a good thing. Or a marriage. Or anything else that has the potential to create stasis. Naturally, it’s not that deterministic. There are always ways to work around stasis, or ways to make the best of it. But sometimes, we just run out of ideas, and need to make a clean break of it in order to stay vital. And then you have to make the decision between stability and change for its own sake. Most people opt for stability. I’m probably a band hopper, and Perfecting Loneliness is the sort of album that would probably make me hop.
Ah, hell. There’s the attempt at a witty ending. *Sigh*…

Gravity’s Rainbow

Gravity’s Rainbow
Thomas Pynchon
Gravity's Rainbow
I once read a description of Gravity’s Rainbow that called it “less complicated than Ulysses.” The comparison, I think, is apt. After 750 pages, it’s very difficult to say what Gravity’s Rainbow is about. Drugs, lust, rockets, Pavlov, paranoia, and song are all prominent. But I wouldn’t say that it’s about any of those things. Characters enter the story and then disappear. Plot lines start and stop abruptly. Motifs are introduced and forgotten. The whole book is one long string of non-sequiters. And it’s the non-sequiters that are interesting — not so much the story as a whole, which is virtually indiscernible.
Gravity's Rainbow
I was actually first asked to read this book for a class when I was an undergraduate. At the time, I didn’t get through it. No so much out of lack of interest, but more because of lack of time. It’s not exactly a zippy read that you can just skim through. And having gone back to it, and having done some background reading this time, I am disappointed to find out that Pynchon is an actual person. The first time that I had read Gravity’s Rainbow, that question was still much in dispute. Wilder theories claimed that he was actually J.D. Salinger; tamer ones suspected him of being an English professor in Southern Florida. To the disappointment of conspiracy theorists, he turns out just to be a regular guy who doesn’t much like uninvited company. He turned down a medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and despite the unanimous vote of the judges to give Gravity’s Rainbow the Nobel Prize in literature in 1974, the decision was overturned by the Nobel advisory board, who described the novel as “obscene.”
It is.
On the other hand, there could still be conspiracy at work. What better way to avoid the public eye than to build a convenient and boring alter ego? What better way to settle suspicions of conspiracy than to demonstrate publicly that there is no conspiracy? And so I prefer to disbelieve the resolution, and to maintain the fanciful. Who is Thomas Pynchon, and how much does he know? It’s a question more interesting left unanswered.

It’s a Family Affair

brothers_small
I spent this past weekend with my family in New Jersey. It was my grandmother’s 80th birthday, and my grandfather is starting radiation therapy for his cancer this week, so it seemed like a good time to get the family together for food and photos. I spent a lot of time in the car this weekend, but am happy to say that it was worth it. Photos of the affair are now online, for those interested…