the beep one

Welcome to the beep one. The beep one stands for the bret easton ellis project. The one is just a number; one because this is the first one (in a series of maybe seven?) In this project, I intend on reading Ellis’s bibliography in the order of publication and afterwards write a few words about it.

bret easton ellis is a novelist, an author who writes books, based in L.A (Los Angeles, the city of angels, dreams, lights, tinsel town. Broken dreams. The bubble (according to Mark Cousins)) mostly known, maybe, for his third novel American Psycho. He was born in 1964.

The first book he published is called Less Than Zero, and will be the topic of this post.

As I write this, I am listening to a suicidal tendencies CD. Suicidal tendencies is a punk band, also from la. I only just discovered the band, and I have rented two CDs of them from the library. I appreciate the hardcore and “crossover” quality to them. Their lyrics are also good, although sometimes they can seem a little paranoid in what their singing about?

It is early evening on august 28th and I probably will go to bed soon. The weather outside is cloudy but not cold. (In fact, it`s been surprisingly warm since I got home from work. Not desert warm but, you know, like, warm.) On September 2nd, this post will be out.

I am drinking a coke and the music is streaming out of my laptop.

It is not windy here, but in ellis’s less than zero there is, at times, a lot of wind. Clay, the narrator/‘protagonist’ comments on the warm and hot desert wind multiple times. I wouldn`t say he “complains” about it – he simply states that it’s windy and move on. One time he is afraid the windows of his house may shatter because of the wind. Maybe that`s some kind of complaint? I wouldn`t say so.

The windows don’t shatter, or it hasn’t happened yet anyway. (I am still not completely done with the book, and even though this is my second read-through, I can’t remember if that will happen later.) When he’s not commenting on the wind, Clay spends his time going to parties with friends, doing dope, driving home early in the morning after one night stands with people he thinks he knows or remembers from a time past, and “hangs out” with his family. (he has two sisters, and his parents are divorced) He is a student at the university of new hanpshire and is home for Christmas break.

(as I wrote the sentence with people he thinks he knows or remembers from a time past I remember there are parts of the book written in italics. These parts, passages, are about a time before Clay’s house presumably was sold, and when his family presumably was still together. These parts, passages reveal that even if he doesn’t like to admit it, he still misses these times. Maybe they remind him of better and more stable times. Maybe in a way he is like Holden Caulfield in that he doesn’t want to grow old. Or maybe he just hates college and wants to go back to a simpler time before college.)

The novel is praised for being a so-called zeitgeist novel. It was published in 1985 when ellis was still attending college. He was twenty-one years old. How cool must that be, to have a debut novel out before you’re finished with school – you literally go from one to the next and just skip the whole “trying-to-make-it” phase. That’s what he did, it seems. (more on this in a later post, I think, when doing Lunar Park but I can’t promise anything.) He was “only” 21 when less than zero was published but the way less than zero is written makes him seem like a much more “experienced” writer. The way the overall language and narrative flow and work together makes it feel like Ellis knew what he was doing, knew where he wanted the book to go, knew how to get there and certainly knew how to stay true to his style the whole ride out.

Ellis himself claims to be a moralist (source: first sentence on his author page on goodreads, check it out) but there is an uncanny feeling of demoralized nihilism in less than zero. Short scenes, uneventful events, “deadpan” dialogue contribute to making the book seem “boring” to some readers, yet undeniably “deep” to others/ the same readers. This ambiguity is what makes the novel so interesting to readers through the years, and is a big part of what has made it survive for so long. The novel offers the fundamentals of what it means to be human in a capitalist society. It’s a study on what human values mean and its place in popular culture (such as music and film), as well as the role of drugs (as a means of escape) in the midst of all this. An escape from what? Ellis provides both the answers and the correlating questions.

It is now the next day, August 29th. I have finished editing some of what I wrote yesterday, and also wrote more new things in this review. The review is practically finished, even if I haven’t finished reading the book yet. (I finished the book earlier today, 2nd of september)

It’s been cloudy today and a little rain. Not as warm as yesterday. I had hot dogs and fries for dinner today, no Coke, and I drank more coffee than usual.

The rest of the beep is a no-brainer. I just have to actually read the books and write the texts – you know, do the actual work.

Sorry for the divergence. . . Back to less than zzero.

As the readers ride along with Clay (and his friends/(ex)girlfriend/dealer Trent, Daniel, Blair, Rip as well as other various characters who drift through the novel) from one Los Angeles party to another in a Lynchian fashion (Clay receives phone calls from strangers who spend three minutes in silence and then hang up), the way the novel is written grammatically makes them (the readers) sit constantly on the edge of their seats, waiting for something else to happen. The climax constantly keeps building up, but there never is a flood of release. In essence, less than 0 is a postmodern anticlimactic novel, reminiscent of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, in prose-form. Postmodern – Ellis is breaking a writing convention when he is telling the reader what happens, merely presenting facts of the events of the story, without any unnecessary commenting of opinions or emotions of the implied narrator/author – and not “showing”. This leaves the reader to make her own decisions and interpretations. Is this what makes him a moralist? That when the reader can decide for herself whether a certain situation is good or bad, then the author can relax and chill in the background and go out and call himself a moralist? (You decide!)

Clay, the narrative/’protagonist’, plays a role in this reader-interpretation. He is cleverly named, as he is (like the rest of the major and minor characters in the novel) formless, featureless and the reader is allowed to form him into what shape or size she wants to, like actual clay. The narrative is as featureless as Clay and the other characters; there is no abundant emotions in the narrative. The narrative is narcotized, as numb as its drug-infused characters are.

(This abovementioned writing technique we see later on in his later fiction as well. It’s part of his overall “project”.  (– his own beep, perhaps. But probably not) They reappear, at least as far as I can remember at this moment, in Lunar Park and American Psycho. Part of this beep is to find out whether it could be said that Easton actually had/have a project of his own in his fiction. Maybe we can find out that he is a moralist after all.)

My suicidal tendencies CD is getting to its end, and so is this text. But there is at least one more thing I need to mention before this review/incoherent thought-spewing/word salad (?) of Less Than Zero ends. And it’s quite monumental in fact. (I wrote part of this next paragraph on a note-app on my phone this morning, waiting for the bus to work after having had troubles sleeping the night before thinking about what I should write) I mentioned Clay drives home in the early morning from (what I presume is) a one-night stand. On his way home he drives past a billboard that says DISAPPEAR HERE. Throughout the book, he occasionally returns to this phrase in his own head. In his thoughts, he also occasionally returns to what is part of the first sentence of the book: PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO MERGE. Put together, these two phrases remind the reader of where she is (HERE), what to do (DISAPPEAR) and what not to do (MERGE). It is a reminder that we exist here and now and there is nothing we can do about it except try to move on, disappear into everyday life. It’s a reminder of who we are, and who the people of the book are. Like an echo of the title of the book itself, we are less than zero.

~ milk

 

 

Advertisements

Thirties

Friday: Sashimi.
Saturday: Jogging in the mist.
Sunday: Coffeehouse and matinee.

Monday: Home Depot
Tuesday: Gallery Opening for Tess’ friend Shelley.
Wednesday: I broke a wine glass when removing it from the dishwasher. There was an argument.
Thursday: We talk about getting a dog. I want a Scottish Terrier. She wants a Red Setter.
Friday: Sashimi.
Saturday: Jogging in light rain.
Sunday: Coffeehouse and museum.

Monday: We stay in. I read a manual.
Tuesday: There’s a wedding invitation in the mail.
Wednesday: I sleep in early.
Thursday: We eat light meals.
Friday: The sun is strong. I close the blinds.
Saturday: I can only guess sashimi.
Sunday: The operation is a success.

Monday: My mother calls me. The neighbour had the same experience in the 80’s.
Tuesday: Home Depot.
Wednesday: We joke about having sashimi.
Thursday: I put my Facebook status to ‘It’s complicated.’ I get 16 comments.
Friday: I put my Facebook status back to in a relationship. We also eat sashimi.
Saturday: Sashimi.
Sunday: We go watch dogs.

Monday: I jog for the first time after the excavation (overcast)
Tuesday: Extraordinary coffeehouse meetup.
Wednesday: Book launch for Tess’ friend Richard.
Thursday: I read Richard’s book.
Friday: I forgot to buy sashimi. We go out.
Saturday: We go to the cinema. Afterwards we talk about having sex.
Sunday: It’s my 31st birthday. Alan and Winona brings cake.

Monday: I work overtime.
Tuesday: We go to a show in London. (We parked in C-16)
Wednesday: I have trouble sleeping.
Thursday: I talk to the insurance man about prices.
Friday: Sashimi.
Saturday: I jog.
Sunday: We go out looking for wedding presents.

Monday: My parents come over for dinner. We laugh and drink wine.
Tuesday: My brother and sister calls me. We chat about high school.
Wednesday: Tess and I jog.
Thursday: Tess and I jog.
Friday: Tess and I jog. We eat sashimi.
Saturday: Tess and I jog.
Sunday: Tess and I jog.

Monday: We go jogging.
Tuesday: We have sex.
Wednesday: We go watch a movie.
Thursday: I ask if we can just talk, we go jogging shortly after.
Friday: We eat sashimi on the run.
Saturday: We get a new but smaller car.
Sunday: We jog, we eat, we watch a movie, we sleep.

Monday: The coffeehouse unites.
Tuesday: I jog alone.
Wednesday: I buy flowers.
Thursday: Tess has her 30th.
Friday: We have sex (windy, but sun is out) Sashimi is had.
Saturday: We go to a live show.
Sunday: Family dinner with Tess folks.

Monday: Tess friend is staying a couple of nights.
Tuesday: I go jogging.
Wednesday: Tess and friend goes to a hen-do.

 

 

~Peanut

“UFO In Her Eyes”, by Xiaolu Guo

UFO In Her Eyes, by Xiaolu Guo.

Around a month ago, I read a book called A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by a Chinese author who I`d not heard of before, Xiaolu Guo. Xiaolu Guo is a Chinese novelist, essayist and filmmaker who, born in 1973, belongs to a wave of Chinese writers and artists known as the ‘Chinese Post 70’s Generation’. It is a term to denote artists who were born in the 1970’s, and who grew up in China after Chairman Mao’s death in 1976.  It is also known as the ‘Post Cultural Revolution Generation’, or ‘Post Maoism Generation’.

One of the trademarks of this movement is, compared to the previous generations, they were allowed to immerse themselves in a more liberal way of writing, not limiting themselves to the desires of the Communist party.

What I especially liked about Guo’s A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, was her ability to capture a meeting between two entirely different cultures and languages. She shows how one (seemingly) universal, yet (undeniably) hard to define concept as love is able to connect people. Another aspect I immediately became interested in, is how in the book, Guo illustrates how important language is to our understanding and interaction with the world, culture and emotions around us. (I wrote a post on this book, so if you want to read a somewhat more elaborate explanation of this, I recommend you read it!)

After finishing A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, I wanted to check out more of Guo’s authorship. After some research, I find out that she has written eight novels, where the two first publications are written in Chinese, while (as I can understand) the remaining five are written in English. UFO In Her Eyes was published in 2009, and one of the novels written in English – i.e not gone through an English translation from the original.

In UFO In Her Eyes, The National Security and Intelligence Bureau are investigating an event in which Kwok Yun, a 37 year old illiterate peasant, has been reported to witness something peculiar in the sky; a spinning metal plate. Agents from the bureau interview the inhabitants of Silver Hill Village, the place where the sighting happened, individually. They encounter different personalities, who all have their own role in the pre-Industrialized village; butcher Ling Zhu, stall holder Kwok Zidong, tea farmer Fu Qiang and rice farmer Wong Jing, to name a few. They all have different opinions on the village’s political status quo, the social situation in China in general, of the circumstances surrounding Yun’s strange UFO sightings, and whether there might be any connection between the three.

Kwok Yun is also under investigation for having assisted an unknown Western traveler she sees immediately following the UFO sighting. The middle-aged white man is laying on the side of the road, clearly in need of help. It turns out he is bitten by a snake, and Yun takes him with her to her home in order to tend to his wounds. They are unable to communicate verbally to each other, and they know nothing about one other – except she is wearing a T-shirt with Western writing on it that the man is able to understand.

A few months later, the village receives a letter from this man, sent from his homeland of America. In the letter, he explains who he is and why he was in Silver Hill Village in the first place. He also shows his gratitude of being helped by the stranger Yun, by including a check of 2000$USD, a considerable amount of money for the villagers.

This sparks a debate between the inhabitants; how should they spend their newly acquired money?

UFO In Her Eyes is a light, humorous and most of all satirical take on China’s problematic social history, focusing especially on Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution. While the novel takes the paranoia, and real-world effects, of surveillance by Big Brother seriously, it is also able to depict the inhabitants of the village as down-to-earth people with a self-reflection over their situations. While being isolated from the benefits of living in a big city – such as education and health care – they do not come across as naïve or unaware of their own social misfortunes. But implying that the village inhabitants have reasons to be socially misfortunate would be incorrect and even condescending of me. What I`m trying to point out is that, even though the agents from The National Security and Intelligence Bureau give off an aura that demands respect and formality, the villagers are able to meet them, talk to them, and recognize them as one of their own, and they are not afraid of speaking harshly or humorously to them. The villagers do not try to glorify their situation, either. They speak their minds and share their opinions and experiences without being afraid of saying negative things about Big Brother.

It is the interaction between the villagers and the agents that makes UFO In Her Eyes delightfully satirical. Knowing far too little about the subject, I have nevertheless made a tentative conclusion as to what might be the reason for Guo to be able to write a story like this. I believe the answer is because she belongs to the before mentioned ‘China Post 70’s Generation’. The writers belonging to this generation did not feel the direct effects of Mao`s restrictive China, politically, socially or culturally. Maybe Guo, and the other writers, was able to be more liberal and non-restrictive with her writing, and her filmmaking, than what the generation of artist prior to her would have been.

And so I end this review in much the same manner as my last one of Guo`s A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, namely by expressing my desire to read more of the author. In order to approach an answer to my musings, I would like to read her latest novel Once Upon a Time In The East, a chronicle of memoirs, or her 2004 autobiographical novel Village of Stone. Both these books discuss her childhood, what is was like growing up in China, and eventually moving to the West, and all the changes this might imply for her.

UFO In Her Eyes has also been made into a film, released in 2011 and directed by Guo herself.

(Actually, before I leave you alone, I encourage you to read this (very short) interview of Guo from 2004 in connection to the publication of Village of Stone, that I found on her website: http://www.guoxiaolu.com/REV_WR_VS__secret_life_coral.htm. It tackles a little of what I`ve pondered in this text.)

Ok, bye.

~ milk

`Fremmedordbok for kjærester´av Xiaolu Guo

Fremmedordbok for kjærester av Xiaolu Guo

Ønsker man å lære seg et nytt språk, får man ikke bare innsikt i en ny måte å snakke på gjennom pugging av gloser, grammatikkregler og rettskriving. Man lærer seg dessuten etter hvert en ny måte å se og oppfatte virkeligheten på. Dette er et tema forfatteren Xiaolu Guo tar opp i boken Fremmedordbok for kjærester.

Xiaolu Guo er forfatter og filmskaper som kommer fra en fiskelandsby i Kina. Hennes litterære og filmatiske prosjekt tar utgangspunkt i hennes egne erfaringer og reiser fra å vokse opp i en liten kinesisk landsby, til å bli en etablert forfatter på et fremmedspråk. Hun utforsker hvordan unge mennesker går frem i ukjente områder og situasjoner, hvordan de tillærer seg nye kunnskaper i en ny hverdag.

Boken Fremmedordbok for kjærester er originalt skrevet på engelsk, med tittelen A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers. Jeg leste en norsk oversatt utgave.

Vi følger hovedpersonen Zhuang Xiao Qiao, som flytter fra landsbyen hun kommer fra i Kina, til London hvor hun skal lære seg engelsk. Vi starter som Zhuang; som nybegynnere. Vi er nybegynnere i den Vestlige verdenen og forstår tingene rundt oss, kulturen og samfunnet som Zhuang, i hennes møte, umiddelbart forstår dem. Dette kommer til uttrykk blant annet i språket. I begynnelsen av boken er språket enkelt, setningene korte. Men etter hvert som hun lærer seg språket bedre, blir også tekstens språk mer avansert. Hvert kapittel tar for seg et fremmedord, som om boken var en ordbok, og dette ordet blir tematisert gjennom kapittelet. Vi får lese om hvordan Zhuang er vant med å bruke begrepet fra Kina, og hvordan dette er forskjellig fra i London.

Ikke så lenge etter at hun flyttet til London, møter Zhuang en mann – dobbelt så gammel som henne, eks-pønker, vegetarianer – som hun forelsker seg i. Møtet mellom disse to, og samhandlingen deres gjennom boken, er Guos hovedverktøy i sitt ærend å sette lys på de største kulturforskjellene mellom Østens og Vestens virkelighetsoppfatning. En måte Guo speiler disse forskjellene på, er hvordan Zhuang introduserer seg selv som ‘Z’ til denne navnløse mannen, og hans venner. Kun ‘Z’, og ikke noe mer, angivelig for hun tror hennes fulle navn vil være for komplisert for naive engelsktalende mennesker å huske eller uttale.

Boken handler om forskjeller på individplan. Et eksempel er Zs reaksjon på mannens vegetarianisme. Hun kan ikke forstå hvordan han skal kunne få i seg ordentlig næring uten å spise kjøtt. Hun blir servert selvgrodde grønnsaker, mens hun lengter hjem til sitt kylling, – og svinekjøtt.

Noe av det første som slo meg i lesningen av denne boken, var forfatterens måte å skildre hvordan kulturforskjeller – så vel som individers virkelighetsforståelse – kommer til uttrykk gjennom språket. Et lands, en kulturs språk er uvurderlig viktig ikke bare når det kommer til å kunne kommunisere hverdagslig med en annen person; språket er dessuten viktig om en ønsker å forstå selve tenkemåten og tilværelsesfilosofien til en annen kultur. Kobler man dette opp mot noe så abstrakt og vanskelig definerbart som kjærlighet, har man et interessant utgangspunkt for enhver diskusjon, noe Guo med denne boken utfører på mesterlig vis. Boken er dessuten en lærerik en – vi får muligheten å sette oss inn i en totalt annerledes kultur på et individ, og – hverdagsplan. En ting er å lese om det i en stor, omfattende faktabok, en annen å forsøke å sette oss inn i en enkel, uskyldig, skjebne.

Jeg mener at i arbeidet med å oppnå en større aksept av et voksende universelt mangfold, må man forsøke å utvide den kulturelle horisonten vår, sette oss inn i andre måter å forstå hverdagen på enn den vi er vant med, og sette spørsmålstegn det vi ser på som de mest åpenbare tingene. Denne boken tilbyr et skritt i riktig retning. Jeg gleder meg til å få muligheten til å lese mer av Xiaolu Guo!

~milk