padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
Padraig, have you read Gibbon?
haven't, no. I should. the farthest back I go with "modern" classicists is Syme, tho Mommsen is near the top of my reading list.

Decline and Fall is obv a towering achievement but in terms of historiography so much has understandably happened in the last 250 years that I feel like he's not the best place to start, unless you're reading for style or pleasure more than accuracy.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
fwiw I would 100% put American Psycho up against canonically great literature, whatever that entails

not because of the prose or the black comedy - which are entertaining, but not at the level of greatness I'd agree - but for its elucidation of the darkness at the heart of the American dream, and by extension the rot at the heart of all empires. I doubt that was that was the author's intention but it was his achievement. the very surface glibness that people accuse it of, I would argue, contains great depth, as the seemingly smooth and featureless surface of a Lake Baikal.

Trainspotting is very good but not quite on the same level for me. the themes aren't dissimilar, i.e. Welsh's drugs/partying as a defense mechanism to get through the "long, dark night of late capitalism" (can't remember if the exact quote is from Trainspotting or a related short story, but it doesn't really matter). it's more self-conscious about everything, the transgression, etc. and it's fixed to its time and place, rather than using its time and place to evoke the timeless. and Ellis, unlike Welsh, had the sense not try to write a direct sequel to his magnum opus.

people can disagree, that's fine. the only thing that really bothered me was the suggestion I'm somehow condoning brutal misogynistic violence. anyone with that opinion can, all due respect, fuck right off. if you just think it's boring or vapid or badly-written, more power to you.

btw you'd never catch me dead reading Stendhal or Flaubert or etc, and I'm perfectly happy with that
 

you

Well-known member
Posting this after posting and deleting a few times. I'm not sure a forum is a good platform for discussing literature, it quickly reduces to 'what is better?' 'is it good'. 'is Tolstoy worth the hype?' (to whoever, asked - its a long old romp and worth time if you have it. I found the two post scripts concerning the writing of history to be valuable, they've stayed with me for years. I've recommended them to be read alone in the past.)

Re. Ellis. Is the shallowness or emptiness an achievement? Is being boring, (fantastically boring, for Ellis is a fantastic bore if you've listened to him) reducing violence to surface and sheen like Sade (see Sade in Dialectic of Enlightenment by Horkheimer and Adorno), to be applauded?

He fits into a very American publishing tendency to laud the void - Delillo, Hardwick, Tao Lin, Ben Lerner, Chris Kraus... cheap post-modern gestures that offer little other than emptiness. Philip K Dick explored emptiness, but it was always to post another question - what is reality, what is human, what is experience, what is empathy etc. Beyond providing a mirror of vacuity I'm not sure what Ellis seeks to offer (Comparisons with Houellebecq anyone?) I've read all his books except one.

Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison are, as ranking is de rigueur, 'better'. Surely, in the information age, a book's merit is to make the reader feel a connection, a sustained sympathy rather than to re-enforce emptiness and distance? This can be done with a narrative concerning isolation or emptiness. Felicia's Journey, Remains of the Day, Robert Cormier.

Just finishing David Copperfield at the moment.
 
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catalog

Well-known member
That is interesting padraig, how you've said that what you are getting from it is happening almost despite the authors intentions. I don't think I'll be reading it anytime again soon, but might do if I happen to stumble into it again
 

catalog

Well-known member
I've only read one Houellebecq novel, but to me he seems a lot funnier and just trashier than someone like Ellis. Like, it feels like he's just having a massive laugh, some of which hits, and there's the odd bit of seriousness going on. I suppose his main thing is being provocative? i don't get annoyed with him, but i know others do. i'm not in a rush to read anything else by him. it was 'the possibility of an island' is read, apparently not a classic one.

chris kraus - i really liked 'i love dick' but found the sequel, 'torpor' really boring, then i started another one of hers and left it, cant remember what its called.

ben lerner is on my radar, just cos i was in madrid fairly recently.

tao lin - i really liked 'trip', particularly the final section, but i couldn't stick with anything else he's written.

never read cormac mccarthy, my friend bought me 'blood meridian' when i told him this (we were in a pub chatting and he insisted on buying it there and then from a nearby bookshop) but I read the first page and thought... 'this isn't for me'. any good?

re ellis, i was thinking that what he did with the sexual violence and murder in AP, you could perhaps compare to what larry clark has done in his films. I used to love those as a teenager, but as I've got older, they make me cringe more and more. and clark would always say, i'm showing what's happening, but you always had the suspicion that whilst that might be true, there was also something else going on. Dunno tho, maybe not the same thing?
 

you

Well-known member
The 'best' part of American Psycho is the view switch late in the book, from first person to third. I always felt it worked, really served the narrative nicely. I've have not seen it used well since. That's as positive as I can be. I cannot believe this book has sustained so much discussion.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
I cannot believe this book has sustained so much discussion
lmao see this right here, this condescension I could do without. did you drop enough names? jesus christ. we get it, you're a Serious Literature Person.

at least jenks is straightforward

Remains of the Day is alrite as far as gimmicky, effete interwar dramas go

Delillo indeed embodies cheap, empty postmodern gesture. I've never read Tao Lin but his persona comes off like that, but for the age of Twitter.

McCarthy is truly great writer - much better than Ellis, absolutely - and Blood Meridian is as canonical as a work can be, on the same level as Faulkner, Joyce, etc. he's kinda darker, weirder, updated Faulkner (who I esteem highly). I thought The Road was overrated tho, post-apocalyptic fiction for people who'd normally disdain genre fiction.

PKD is of course, the best, tho a worse writer of prose you won't find anywhere

most of those other people I haven't read, a few I haven't heard of
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
how you've said that what you are getting from it is happening almost despite the authors intentions
not despite in the sense he intended the opposite, but maybe he achieved something without meaning

he's said (or written, or both, can't remember exactly) that writing Bateman was like channeling a violent spirit

I should be clear if I haven't been yet that I don't think Ellis is a great writer (or a good or, mostly, interesting person), just that he achieved one great work of art

I see the stylistic comparison to Larry Clark. couple things - for one, his movies have a deeply uncomfortable air of teensploitation - all those naked actual teenagers, not 28-year old actors - that make them impossible for me to watch as an adult. also, I don't think there is anything under the surface there. it's like Kerouac, you see it as a kid and go wow, then when you get older you realize his vision of youth is like virtually every adult's vision of youth, bullshit. they're the bad kind of nihilism, empty and meaningless.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
I would highly recommend Blood Meridian tho, one of the few novels that can be accurately described as biblical

it sometimes has showy, endless, lacking punctuation Faulknerian sentences of stunning imagery but it's also mostly very taut

and as historical fiction it really nails the most important job of historical fiction, presenting people from a different time as thinking and viewing the world as people from that time, rather than modern people in period costume. the first part covers a particularly crazy, little-known part of American history, the filibuster expeditions that took place between the Mexican-American War and the Civil War.
 

you

Well-known member
lmao see this right here, this condescension I could do without. did you drop enough names? jesus christ. we get it, you're a Serious Literature Person.
Nope. I do not identify as a serious literature person. I loved American Psycho at the time but looking back it's a one liner of a novel. Very simple premise with little beyond that. Subsequent books from Ellis have affirmed this, I'd argue. It is a flat book, that's what I meant. *

* Perhaps that is why it sustains discussion on this platform? It is difficult to discuss literature here.
 

catalog

Well-known member
i did really enjoy deadwood, the tv series, and was looking for a book on those themes (also really liked 'there will be blood', on a similar theme of psycho pioneers) so maybe will give blood meridian a go.

re clark, theres an interview somewhere which is quite revealing, where he says that in everything he does, he's basically trying to recreate the moments he felt as a boy, always trying to get back to them, cos what he felt in those times remain the most powerful things he ever felt (i'm obvs paraphrasing, if i find the interview, i'll post it). this is why, particularly in the photography, theres way more of a homo-erotic feel than a titillation feel. so that for me sort of blew apart the 'i'm holding up a mirror to society' way of explaining it, although, if you take the argument to its logical conclusion, you could argue its the same thing ie this is what society has made me into, that kind of thing. i appreciate him being honest there, but you can see why he probably doesn't say this so often, cos if you follow the line, it does take you somewhere more uncomfortable
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
Very simple premise with little beyond that
a simple premise isn't a mark against (or for) art. some of the most powerful art ever made has been concocted on the simplest of premises.

Malevich painted White On White. "Sister Ray" is 3 chords for 17 minutes. simple premises.

complexity isn't a mark of superiority, just complexity

here's a simple explanation for you: American Psycho sustains discussion because people find it worth discussing.

it's not difficult to discuss literature here either. you just have to be engaging on a topic you and other people find interesting. maybe it's just that you find that difficult?
 
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you

Well-known member
My gripe isn't the simplicity of premise. It's that there is little beyond that, I feel, in American Psycho. That's what I was trying, obviously not very lucidly, to articulate.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
he's basically trying to recreate the moments he felt as a boy, always trying to get back to them
I can appreciate that. but it's uncomfortable and sad/laughable in the way any one ghoulishly trying to hang on to youth is.

and the sexually exploitative side. like, Gus Van Sant had the good sense not to cast teenagers when he made his opus about male hustlers.

There Will Be Blood isn't a terrible reference point for Blood Meridian in its kind of Old Testament severity/grandeur, intensity. Deadwood (big fan) has that comedic balance - Blood Meridian is pretty unrelentingly grim - but they're both at the harshest end of revisionist Western. I think you'd like it, anyway.
 

jenks

thread death
In The House of Fame, Chaucer reveals the arbitrariness of what survives the test of time. In this poem he comments on canon formation directly. the image of names carved on ice, which melt if they happen to be in the sun, and survive if they happen to be on the other side, is striking reminder of how unfair posterity can be. And he could see that in the 1370s.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
It's that there is little beyond that, I feel, in American Psycho.
I disagree - not going to rehash all the arguments, see the last few pages - but it's about self, identity, the search for meaning, existential alienation

even if there were not, the simple premise has the force of a hammer blow that a billion pages of Delillo etc never could

I don't care that people don't like a book, what's strange is how it seems to offend and bewilder people that anyone could find it meaningful
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
Did the premise of American Psycho seem fanciful, or purely satirical/allegorical, at the time it came out? I mean to say that a highly successful businessman would be slaughtering people (or fantasising about it) and getting away with it?

It seems to me that in the last 10 years especially the reality of rich, powerful men committing abusive acts towards powerless people and getting away with it thanks to their wealth and power has become not just speculative but a matter of common knowledge.

'American Psycho' wouldn't be a bad title for a biography of Jeffrey Epstein, for example. (Or Donald Trump, for that matter.)
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
One thing with Ellis vs Welsh... I think they're coming from a very different angle just cos Ellis has sort of chosen a subject that he thought (I guess) represented an important aspect of America and used that to explore/attack whatever the US. Whereas I'm pretty sure Welsh wrote about experiences he had or those similar ones to those he had. If he did end up doing something similar it's quite surprising.... though not impossible. I've certainly never thought of them as similar books really beyond that they're culty and shocking to some.
 
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