Saturday, January 19, 2008

Howling, even. Huck would be impressed.

NOW READING: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

So here's a thing I really, really like about Infinite Jest, a thing which I bet approximately two other people on the planet would even notice, much less care about. But here it is. So there's this word, see, that leapt out of the pages of Huckleberry Finn at my my friend Marcia and me back when we read it in high school. (Huck Finn, you say? I thought we were infinitely jesting...well, stick with me here.) We loved it. Early in Huck's journey, while he and Jim stay on that little island in the river, there is a dead body and Huck, creeped the hell out, says, "It most give me the fantods."

Fantods. How could you not love it? I mean, who even (besides Mark Twain, apparently) ever even knew there was a synonym for heebie-jeebies? But they're not just heebie-jeebies. They are darker and more demonic. The word is just so perfect! Marcia and I used "fantods" as frequently as we could from that point forward. It may have been the best thing we took away from that book. (Discussing all the issues swirling around when/how our AP English class came to read Huckleberry Finn under the tutelage of Patti Patti is defnitely another story for another day...)

I can recall a moment in college, lying around with a dozen or so girls from the dorms after staying up way too late being silly, when I told some story and noted that whatever freak thing I described "totally gave me the fantods." I remember Heather -- smart, ever proper Heather -- asking, "Just what is a fantod?" And some of my other crazy best friends sort of rolling their eyes and saying, "Oh, Linda and her fantods..."

You can imagine my delight, then, when I first came across the word in Infinite Jest. It was all I could do not to shriek on the bus where I was reading it and cry aloud, "Fantods! He knows about fantods!"

But now, now, now here gloriously on page 189, it gets even better. First of all, I love Madame Psychosis and her radio show, and I love M.I.T. and its weirdness, and I love the random engineer because he is just like so many engineers I knew back in my radio day. But here is Mario, listening to the show and sitting up close to the speaker, because he has to have the sound low, "because Avril has some auditory thing about broadcast sound and gets the howling fantods from any voice that does not exit a living corporeal head..."

I. Love. It. I'd be happy enough just to see anyone using that word anywhere, period, but then he goes and does it repeatedly. And when you get right down to it, it IS a little creepy, isn't it, to think of voices emanating from something other than talking heads?

Just keep on sprinkling them through this story. Fantods. Wonderful, howling fantods.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

That good ol' resilience of the human spirit and stuff

Lust, Caution by Eileen Chang
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
NOW READING: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

OK, so I'm done randomly picking up books upon which this awards season's films are based. I think. As previously mentioned both Lust, Caution and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly are tiny books, so reading them in, like, an hour each was no feat. And I do so like to read books before I see the movie! So now I have to go see those two movies.

We DID see yesterday -- at long last -- The Kite Runner. I found myself more and more looking forward to it as the day went on. It's one of those books that I still don't think is perfect or anything but taught me so much about Afghanistan (and, well, kites!) and really held my attention; as it settles in my memory I've grown more and more fond of the story. I thought the movie did a superb job of staying true to the book while leaving things out. I get angry at movies that do NOT stay true to the book when they leave things out. I'm not saying you can ever exactly reproduce a book on the screen but my point is exactly that: of course you cannot. The onus is on you to be faithful to it knowing it won't be the same. Some people seem to miss that point.

Anyhoo, I liked The Kite Runner film as well. The kids really were quite good. And by the way, I totally commend Paramount and all the effort that went into moving the four child actors from Afghanistan to the United Arab Emirates to keep them safe. I think Paramount did all they could/should do. I think it's pretty pathetic that the boys or their families would have to fear any sort of reprisal for making the film. In Afghanistan, the U.S., or anywhere, I wish religious and conservative people could just chill out and let others live their own lives. Who made you the judge, the punisher? Who said vengeance is OK? Then again, this very question is confronted in the book/film, in what I thought was hands down the most powerful scene while I was reading. I even had to stop and take a breather on the plane after I read it. I refer to the stadium scene of course. Anyway, kudos to Paramount and everyone who helped with that. (Here's an article about moving the boys, very interesting...)

So NOW, back to Infinite Jest! Have I mentioned that I really like it? I am on page 130. In a normal book, this would be a significant chunk, but Infinite Jest being so...infinite, it is a drop in the bucket. I have already spent time with loads of quirky characters in their bizarre situations. He does this amazing thing where he plunges you in and out of these various people's lives, and each time a new bit starts you don't know if you're going to revisit some athlete/druggie/spy you've already met or discover someone new, but you never feel lost. You do, however, feel very very amused.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

No diving country for the infinite butterfly runner

NOW FINISHED: No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
NOW READING: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

OK, so I read another book that has recently become a movie. Interestingly (or is it?) I wasn't really going to read the whole thing; I just picked up No Country for Old Men to peruse it last Sunday afternoon because we were planning to see the film that night. And after seeing it (no spoilers) we were so confused about the events following the climax that I decided to read it just so I could figure out what happned.

I have also read a bit of Infinite Jest this week, in between seeing other movies. Today I just read the filmography in the footnotes. Those of you who have inifinitely jested will know what I'm talking about. Those who have not...well, it's a big 'un but if you feel like getting lost in a book, this is a funny and damn smart one in which to do just that. The filmography saw me laughing aloud several to many times, and reminded me how much I love reading it and how I will likely spend the entire remaining week of winter break doing just that.

But The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is so little...surely I could read that in just one sitting before seeing the film this week...ditto for Lust, Caution...and in an ironic twist we still haven't even seen The Kite Runner, which is the book I picked up immediately upon completion of my reading for finals and finished reading on the plane to Phoenix...