April 13, 2005

The Trend of Perversity in Pop Literature

xxx.bmp McBride's language in Miracle at St. Anna is magnificent. The idioms of the South, captured by Bishop's wit is simply hilarious. “If it looks like fish, smells like fish, and tastes like fish, you can bet it ain’t buzzard” is a line straight out of my old office-store manager’s playbook. Quoting his father, he’d constantly say things like, “he was more confused than a man hit in the face with a sock full of diarrhea.”
And the incredibly funny scenes such as the little boy licking the awful tasting face of the chocolate giant had me rolling. Yet I did have a big problem with much of the over-the-top sexual and language content. The racy parts went too far I think but then what should I expect in a contemporary best seller. Oh what a minute, that’s not true for a second. Numerous best sellers come to mind… The Prayer of Jabez, The Purpose Driven Life, Your Best Life Now, and many others, all without scenes that make me blush. Why, I ask, do authors feel such a drive to fill their pages with perversity? I mean, come on, if McBride had turned this book into popular songs, there’s no way that many of them could play on the radio. What is it about black and white that makes us forget our standards of decency and let our minds view what our natural eyes would be disgusted at. I mean really, pretend for a minute that this book was made into a movie. Then say some night you were flipping through the channels and Old Man Ludovico was fantasizing back to the intimate details of his graphic and sexual encounters with young Ettora… you’d think you were watching the Playboy channel! Yet, we let our minds trick us in to thinking it’s appropriate just cause we’re reading it. Well, you know what? I don’t like listening to Howard Stern and I sure wouldn’t read his books. And just because McBride is the funniest author I’ve read in a while, doesn’t make it right to lower my standard. Again, I love the language and how he takes you in… but I don’t care for the inappropriateness of much of the novel.

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April 5, 2005

Lucy Loves in All the Wrong Places

untitled.bmp The editor of our textbook, The Best American Short Stories of the Century, John Updike says that "The Best Girlfriend You Never Had," "depicts a circle of friends drifting toward the millennium unfulfilled, wanting love, wanting more. The narrating heroine... is an immigrant, crossing not the Atlantic but the well-worn and weary continent, 'toward something like a real life.' Out of dreams, reality - and vice versa." Indeed, we see that the narrator, Lucy, is surrounded by people who all love someone who doesn't love them back. Lucy is naturally in the same boat as these and her sometimes humorous but more often saddening stories of love gone wrong remind the readers of their own past, I bet. Still, the narrator is optimistic, not yet totally disillusioned by either her age or her best friend's rather sobering comments that she has at least fifty-five steps between her current life and married life someday. Indeed, she ends her story with pretending to take "the first step toward something like a real life, the very first step toward something that will last." In a word, her marriage. Not that readers believe Lucy's marriage will turn out necessarily... Taken into consideration her previous track record with men, current confusion with her best friend, and even all of her agonizing memories of her father's inability to love, we are left with questioning the success of Lucy's eventual marriage. As Updike says, Lucy is floating in and out of dreams and reality. I'm concerned to see what would happen when the dream of Lucy's marriage turns into the chore of married life.


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Mero, the Half-skinned Man

Click here to see the emu picture taken from the online version of this story, published in the Atlantic Monthly magazine's November 1997 edition (although our textbook lists this story as 1998).

Mero's problem is that he is a half-skinned man. He is constantly running, running after something but never quite getting it. He's a vegetarian who orders steak but of course can't eat it because of the guilt. Women come and go; he's been married 3 times now and looking for another. He can buy cars like cigarettes, no matter if they break down on him because he has the money. Yet, Mero does not feel completed or fulfilled. Even at his ripe old grandfatherly age, he still dreams about sex at night and daydreams about his brother's pseudo-incestuous relationships. Yet, he does not have a female counterpart in his life. He is reduced to a shell of a man plagued by the vicious reality of look but don't touch, dream but never attain, fantasize but never actualize... He is only half of a man.

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