Friday, June 3, 2016

This Post Resists All Attempts At Titling

     ...because it was designed that way.

     If you were born a few years before the era of Teen Death Songs, as I was, you might remember when AM radio stations played music. The greater fidelity of transmission and reception provided by FM radio put an end to that, of course. Yet some of the hits of the early Sixties don’t sound quite right in high fidelity. They seem to have been designed to be heard on tinny, staticky AM radios...specifically, the sort of radio that was built into the dashboard of a 1965 Chevy Caprice.

     The result is a seeming loss of authenticity when those early AM radio hits are reproduced on modern equipment. The listening experience just isn’t the same. Why, to this day I can’t abide hearing “Walk Away, Renee” in remastered digital quality sound. My wife, that heretic, suggests that it might be because of the wear and tear fifty years of sitting in front of a computer monitor has put on my ears, but I know she and all my other friends are just trying to make me paranoid, and I’m not going to let them!

     I watched a bad movie yesterday evening. That is, I tried to watch it. It was too bad for me to finish, which is something of an accomplishment in movie-making. Few movies have managed to slip under that rather low bar.

     This one was an Australian zombie flick: Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead. It made so little sense that I actually started cheering for the zombies. I pulled the plug about 35 minutes in. It thus joins a rather inauspicious list:

     ...none of which I could finish.

     (Why yes, I do own every Steven Seagal movie ever made. Why do you ask?)

     Writers sometimes become better known for their behavioral oddities than for their works. Some famous ones are Ernest Hemingway’s constant pursuit of new adventures, J. D. Salinger’s antisocial nature, Truman Capote’s hat, Norman Mailer’s famous combativeness, and so on. But those behaviors seldom found expression in their books.

     What about relentlessly recurring fictional elements? Leaving aside considerations of genre, what writers are known for ensuring that a particular character, setting, or object appears in every one of their respective novels?

     The “trivial solutions” are, of course, those writers who have a single protagonist character. Probably this is most common in the thriller/mystery genre, where a writer makes a particular hero the focus of all his writer’s stories. For example, Lee Child, currently one of the best known writers in that genre, has retired military cop Jack Reacher as his perennial protagonist. But that’s become too common to be interesting.

     Becoming known for such a pattern might be an unexplored route toward expanded readership. The “fetish” character/setting/object could act as a lure for his fans: “Can you find the lava lamp in Joe Schmoe’s latest?” It might even offset otherwise substandard plotting or characterization.

     Hmmm. The more I ponder this, the more possibilities it seems to offer. Perhaps there’s room in the pantheon for a writer who inserts an armadillo into every one of his tales.

     After being embarrassingly swept by Toronto, the Yankees finally win a game – and by the skin of their teeth, at that – and manager Joe Girardi calls it a “breakout.” Well, that’s the sort of opportunistic talk to be expected from the manager of a struggling team. But a late-inning rally that squeaks out a one-run victory doesn’t constitute a “breakout” in most people’s books.

     The starting pitchers, who (except for Michael Pineda) are generally performing well, are getting very little run support. The starting lineup contains three players hitting below .200 and none at .300 or better. Errors in the field have contributed to the Yanks’ woes as well.

     Perhaps the entire team should spend a year in triple-A. At appropriately reduced salary levels, of course.

     We did something a little out of the ordinary, a few weeks back: we had our barn renovated and vinyl-sided. It needed something: the most recent paint job was in poor shape, one of the doors could no longer be closed, and there was rot at the bottom of the outer sheathing. To my considerable surprise, having it sided was the least expensive way of extending its useful life.

     But no action is without side effects. The local bird population has made our renovated barn a poop target. My wife is already talking about getting it power-washed. And I’ve been thinking that perhaps apartment living might not be so bad after all. Stay tuned.

     Yes, Gentle Reader: This certainly is a long distance from my usual fulminations. It’s just that I’ve grown so weary from the political blather that it hardly seemed worth my efforts this morning. I resolved before setting fingers to keys that I’d stay away from politics and public policy for the length of the day. Hopefully, it will make a good intro to the weekend.

     I’m sure this weariness of mine is not unique. With politics and government everywhere, intruding into every aspect of life no matter how small, the urge to flee can become irresistible. But aside from the imagination, there’s nowhere to flee to – and I’m positive that that, like the un-title-ability of this piece, is entirely by design.

     Enjoy your Friday.


Jack Imel said...

Well, part of the enjoyment I'm having Friday has been reading those little gems about your life. I agree on the AM radio sound. The last time I heard Jackie Wilson sing "Lonely Teardrops" made me wish I could hear it again from my Crimson 'n Cream '56 Bel Air. And can you imagine listening to "Shrimp Boats is a Comin" whether by Jo or Doris on a present day super Quadra Fonic Hi-Fi? Give me the thunderstorm static and a little bit of the wavy signal reception.
Thanks for sharing the stuff... and avoiding the current topics of the general malaise. I could go on about my own pleasantries resulting from a return to my roots out here in north-central Kansas, where there is "nothing" going on but life ...would bore your readers.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I couldn't finish it.

I stopped reading at "Perhaps there’s room in the pantheon for a writer who inserts an armadillo into every one of his ....

Weetabix said...

I loved The Big Lebowski. I guess there's no accounting for taste. I'll leave it to you to decide which of our tastes I mean. ;-)

Coen Brothers films can be pretty odd. Somehow absurdity of the aplomb with which Mr. Lebowski goes about seeking compensation for his mistakenly ruined rug through situations that define "diminishing returns" amused me. That rug really tied the room together.

And any movie with Sam Elliot and Philip Seymour Hoffman can't be too bad.

Jonathan H said...

Have you read about the deaths of Joe Buckley? He is a real person who is a big fan of Baen Books.
Killing him off in various ways is a recurring theme of Baen Books, across multiple authors and genres - quite a different twist on the recurring theme or character you mention.

Malatrope said...

"The Big Lebowski" is a brilliant movie! How could you put it in the same category as "Romeo Is Bleeding"? Maybe you bailed too early and didn't appreciate the perfection of the pacing, a perfect linear build-up that leaves you in stitches on the floor by the end. Or perhaps you've never experienced the finer nuances of being run over by a naked woman on a trapeze...

"Shut up, Donny!"

Malcolm Hays said...

It would be tough to find authors that include something in EVERY ONE of their novels, but there are several authors who are able to consistently use one or more of their fictional creations in various ways. Here are a few examples:

Michael Moorcock has the "Eternal Champion" who shows up in numerous ways in various series.

Brandon Sanderson has created the "Cosmere," among which are several characters who are able to travel from one setting to the other, through some unknown means.

Stephen King uses the character Flagg in several of his stories.

Terry Brooks has his "Elfstones" that show up in his very first novel "The Sword of Shannara" and are used many, many times in just about every following Shannara novel.

F. Paul Wilson sort of combines Lee Child's Jack Reacher approach with his Repairman Jack novels with many of his other novels that involve something called "The Otherness," a chaotic force for evil bent on taking over the universe.

I'm sure I can come up with some other examples. But, as I said, it would be difficult to find an author that uses the same device in ALL of the novels. Oh, David Eddings might be one, as he essentially wrote the same basic story in at least six different ways...

Arthur said...

I really enjoyed the Big Lebowski. I have to say though it was the first movie I've watched that I actually noticed the number of f-bombs dropped - and I personally use vulgarity pretty freely. About 10 minutes in I decided that the screenwriters had a bet to see who could write the most expletives into the script.