My brain demands an intellectual balance at all times. I have no idea why or whether anybody else has the same condition. For instance, if I’m reading a book written for grown-ups my brain will force me to watch endless crappy movies as if to offset the possible benefits to be gained.
Right now I’m reading The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, a Japanese author recommended to me by my youngest brother. A stunningly good writer, his beautiful prose meditates on Japan, war & philosophy conveying a strong sense of dislocation & alienation from contemporary life.
Unfortunately, I have also had the overwhelming urge to view:
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – a total travesty compared to the original graphic novel, featuring lousy special effects and a worse script.
Bad Boys II – unbelievably bad. Everything about this movie was indescribably awful and it went on for two and a half hours. Starting with the scriptwriters, who think funny banter is two actors shouting at each other, and ending with the director Michael Bay everybody associated with this picture should be publicly executed or at the very least never, ever allowed to make another motion picture of any kind.
Old School – as a rule I avoid any movie with a blow-up doll on the cover, especially if it’s a comedy. Blow-up dolls are never funny & let’s face it there are people out there using them for the purpose they were intended for (as opposed to being the basis for lame jokes in movies) which is just sad, tragic and more than a bit disgusting. That said, there was couple of funny scenes in general thanks to the surprisingly good cast. It also had Juliette Lewis in it, whom I have long maintained is in fact Tom Hanks in disguise – ever seen them in a movie together?
So is it worth being forced to watch such heroic rubbish in order to savour the pleasure of a well written novel? This urge to average my intellectual intake can be a good deal more traumatic. I read Camille Pagila’s published thesis Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson a few years ago. A deeply misunderstood and widely misquoted work, it is a pretty fascinating examination of the effect of sexual identity on the creation of art or indeed what the examination of art tells us about sexual identity.
The book systematically examines major works of art from the time period covered and, as I recall, has a particularly memorable chapter on Wuthering Heights. Pagila didn’t really mind the mis-quoting as it turned her into a highly paid media star/pundit as opposed to an unknown, badly paid academic (as an aside: Dr Kissinger was once asked why academics are so spiteful to one another and replied “Because the stakes are so low”). It’s a pretty long book and during it I was forced to endure the entire Jean-Claude Van Damme back catalogue, relieved only by the Steven Seagal oeuvre.
John Ralston Saul’s extraordinary meditation on the failure of the modern world “Voltaire’s Bastards: The dictatorship of Reason in the West”, actually extended my need to dumb down into the physical world, creating a serious compulsion to eat junk food whilst watching Chuck Norris lead the Delta Force. Did the chapter arguing how photography destroyed the need for representative art and led to the creation of the meaningless modern art movement really have to be counterpointed by the antics of the American Ninja?
Happily, right now all I have to do is think about nipplegate and I’m able to continue reading.