Christopher Pratt (cpratt) wrote,
Christopher Pratt
cpratt

Dow Mossmann == Jandek

Watched Stone Reader last night. It's worth a rental, absolutely. However, the more I think about it, the more disturbed I am about it. You see, it's really more about fandom than it is about literature or Art or what have you.

It goes like this: A man who is a voracious reader [and into all kinds of hep stuff like The Recognitions and Life A User's Manual - he's got good taste] spends his life putting together low rent TV commercials for local politicians. It seems clear that he does this well and makes good money at it; he's got a lovely house in the New England countryside with fabulous built-in bookshelves to hold his collection [of which I am v. jealous]. Many years after buying a paperback of a book that got a favorable review in the Times [albeit on page 3, not on the front page], he reads it, likes it a lot, and thinks it'd be a hoot to find out more about the author. Thing is, though, the author's never written another book and has seemingly disappeared from public view.

This is, well, cool. One of my favorite stories is something called A Winter Journey by Georges Perec. It's about a man who discovers a book of that name which, he realizes after reading it, was so incredibly good that an awful lot of other authors ripped off Hugo Vernier, the author. What's even weirder is that as he looks for more information on Vernier, he keeps running into nothing: card catalogs are missing cards, he can't find any copies of the book, no information on the publisher, etc. So, for me, Stone Reader started out kinda like a real life version of A Winter Journey.

After all, wouldn't it be really, really cool if you came across a book that, after having read it, you recognized as one of the best novels ever written - and when you went to research it further, you discovered that it had been completely forgotten, and that you, incredibly cool person that you are, can now introduce it to the reading audience it so richly deserves?

But what if the book sucked ass?

That's of course the problem here. It's a good movie [not technically, though - it looks like crap and is fairly poorly put together, but hey, it's a no-budget labor of love], but at some point I started getting creeped out by the author's [pardon me, auteur] fandom, especially the shots of him rooting through the author's boxes of cruft in his house in Iowa. [Whoops, spoiler: he does eventually track down Dow Mossman, the missing author.] The moviemaker never seems to accept that it's entirely possible that the novel he read, The Stones of Summer, is nothing more than deservedly forgotten poo written by a marginal talent in the middle of the Vietnam War.

There's a scene in which the moviemaker is sitting in the office of a literary agent [or is it a publisher?] talking about The Great Books of the Twentieth Century [you know, Gaddis again, Catch-22, etc.] and then he... whips out a copy of Stones. Uhhh.

Anyhow, lostncove was talking about how all of us are searching for understanding here on LJ, but I suggested it was really more that we're searching for others who might enjoy the things we do. Later on, I realized that often it isn't so much that we hope to lead our friends to things they might truly enjoy; most of the time, it's about trying to get them to like the things we have a taste for ourselves. And that's really hard. Think about the last mix tape you made for someone: did you put songs on there that you really like in hopes of getting them to either like them as well [or perhaps at least compliment you on your taste]? Or did you make an effort to get to know their tastes, and then search out songs that you thought they might also like?

The latter is, like, rilly tough. I often feel the best I can do is write about the things that personally excite me and hope that somebody somewhere will try them out for themselves and maybe feel the same intense pleasure I do, be it with a Max Tundra CD or a bottle of Wishing Tree shiraz. At the same time, I'm well aware that it can take me months to listen to something someone else suggests... even though it's not that uncommon for me to find good new music that way.
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