Monthly Archives: April 2009

sprawling post: Jamestown, bigotry toward psychiatrists, post-Jamestown, considering the blog

JAMESTOWN

I finished Jamestown what seems like an eon ago. I enjoyed it, especially towards the beginning when I was in a state of near constant incredulity. The first part is told from Pocahontas and Johnny Rolfe’s perspectives, and here’s a sampling of Mr. Rolfe:

There is a window at the front of the supply trailer behind the bus, made, I think, for folks like us who like to see their stuff while hauling it from place to place, and a window at the bus’s back, so people on the bus who wanted to could keep an eye on the air that touched the window that touched the air that touched the window that touched the air that touched the redoubtable body of Jack Smith, shackled to a chair, and his liquor, trapped in glass.

Really, Johnny? “The air that touched the window that touched the air”? This is his diary, supposedly, not disembodied first person. Which, no one writes in their diary like this, but he and everyone else are constantly writing and speaking like this, and in a number of other styles of diction. And at one point, a woman knocks her husband off a ladder as he’s cleaning the gutters as foreplay, which he welcomes without much injury. Everybody’s articulate in their superheroism or patsydom. This is in addition to the appropriate weirdnesses of adapting the 1607 story to the new setting, where Manhattan is England and Brooklyn is Spain and Virginia is Virginia. (I had to look the “Spain” part up, and I still may have it wrong. They had history in Europe? Some family named Hapsburg? I was busy taking American history twice.) This gives us assassins coming over the Brooklyn Bridge and climbing up that tall thing in Fort Greene Park, which amused me. Also means the four main characters from the “settlers” crew are named John, John, Johnny, and Jack. It sounds as though it could be gimmicky or academic, but it was funny and its characters were people, albeit better defined in their awesomeness and patheticness.

I’m not sure what to make of Pocahontas’ secret name (her real name that kills her, you’re probably not following me here, either) business. The last part felt flat in general to me: we keep finding things out about the world, and it’s exciting, and then the point-of-view gets expanded to include everybody in the second part, and that’s exciting, but the last part was not exciting. Which I could accept, but I expected to care about Pocahontas’ death, and I did not. The last chapter was good, though.

Random kudos to Sharpe, also, though, for this line from the psychiatrist interviewing select guys from the bus: “I shrug again. To be seen through and yet maintain a nearly expressionless psychiatric neutrality is so delicious I’m getting a bit of a junior erection that I hope the subject can’t detect from where he sits.” This kind of delight in smug dickery is what I suspect every variety of therapist feels on an at least daily basis. The shrink in question is about to start inadvertently tripping, so his judgment may be slightly altered, but still. You know that Deanna freaking Troi could lead a mutiny on the Enterprise and the shit would be actively going down and deception would be a moot point and she’d still be all, “I’m sensing some very intense anger from you, Captain.” (Minus the part where Troi could successfully lead a mutiny on the Enterprise and the part where “you know” anything about it, depending on who you are.)

STUFF I READ AFTER THAT

So after that I read AM/PM, which was lovely and also free with subscription to paperegg books, which I’m excited about. They’ll send me two books in the mail from Chicago at some point. I don’t know anything about them. It was a good excuse to break my rule about buying new books. And it’s a happy replacement for my New Yorker subscription, which finally ends with the April 6th issue! It’s the end of an era of me stacking magazines on my desk and skimming through them three times a year at best.

Which I started doing after AM/PM in an effort to reclaim the space. I liked the fiction issue, which was surprising, since I often find their fiction boring. (The most not-boring-to-me was this one, not from that issue, though.)

Also in the New Yorker was a pretty amazing profile on David Foster Wallace. I read that, and then I read all the DFW stuff I’d skipped past on my RSS reader, which was a lot, in a couple sittings. I’m not linking to any of it, because I recommend that you not read it, because it was really sad. Or maybe the article just made me sad, so everything I read about him afterwards seemed sad. Regardless.

BLOG

But partially why I’ve been reading these things is because the poll has reached new lows with its single vote for Frank O’Hara. Which I don’t find overly surprising, as I think the rules of blogging are that I’m supposed to attempt to entertain you rather than demanding you satisfy my plan. (And notify more than eight people of the blog’s existence, and post more frequently than biweekly, and comment on other blogs… Nothing in these parentheses is very likely to happen.)

I’ve enjoyed the polls though, so thank you all. There’s something about having an assignment, however voluntary, that makes me pay a little bit more attention. Not that that’s a moral triumph, but it keeps the book from just being swallowed by my brain never to be heard from again.

My feeling is that the blog is dead. I think I’ll read Meditations in an Emergency because of the principal of the thing, and then I’m thinking The Blindfold. Puro Border arrived, so I’ll have to read that so I can pass it on. Maybe I’ll have things to say about them, or maybe I’ll revive this after a hiatus. Happy spring, people.

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