SPIRIT IN THE NIGHT
We had snow here today. Portland isn't quite equipped for this weather, and it's actually the worst storm the city has had in a decade. I think they predicted six inches, and given that the town shuts down at the barest hint of powder on concrete, pretty much everything ground to a halt. I look at it as a gift to those of us who had a winter break that was busier than expected. It was nice to laze about with the cat and watch DVDs (The Ben Stiller Show and Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West).
I spent a lot of my time off with a vehicle, which meant that my reading took a hit (getting most of my reading done on the bus these days). I chose a slim volume out of the stack I received for Christmas: Meat Is Murder by Joe Pernice, part of the 33 1/3 series, where an author takes a record that was influential to them and writes a 100-page treatise on it. Pernice (himself a musician, part of the Pernice Bros.) took the approach of writing a book of fiction, a confessional narrative about a young boy in a dull town and his fumbling for identity, his liberation through music. For the most part, it's pretty good. It may have been a little light on its actual discussion of the Smiths' record, but it managed to avoid being too precious about it when it did. Perhaps my only complaint was that I think Pernice stretched a little too hard to show he was a writer, pushing a simile to breaking point or choosing a word out of his thesaurus when just the basic one would do.
On the flipside, CLAMP's Shirahime-Syo tries to say as little as possible, instead working its manga magic with a subtle finesse that is quite effective. Published by Tokyopop in a gorgeous hardcover edition, this decade-old graphic novel has three separate stories about the Snow Goddess' influence on three separate lives (generally, doomed romantics), wrapped in a framing device that drives home a larger point about humanity. It's reminiscent of the film Kwaidan and, in turn, the graphic novel it inspired, Scott Morse’s Visitations.
Having gotten so used to reading the more light-hearted material from CLAMP, due to my rewriting a lot of it, it was refreshing to sit down with something different from the studio. Shirahime-Syo is full of gorgeous brush work and subtle storytelling. Why show a killing, for instance, when a simple splash of blood on the white snow will do?
Movie-wise, Fellini's ! Vitelloni (the exclamation point is supposed to be upside-down, but that's too advanced for me; it can also be referred to as I Vitelloni) is currently doing the art house circuit. Kino has done a new print that is at times a little soft, but generally crisp. The story is about a quintet of Italian boys in the mid-'50s who are stuck in an aimless life in a nowhere town. Fellini plays with the sort of archetypes typical of the teen movie genre, showing the different personalities of the group (the lothario, the artist, the intellectual, the man's man, the dreamer) and using each to show different options a life can take. The ending reminded me of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, a big influence on me.
But perhaps what stuck with me the most after ! Vitelloni was the narrative device. There is a voiceover by an unseen character who insinuates himself into the social circle. He refers to the boys as "we," yet himself never appears on screen. He could be a sixth member, or he could just be an authorial voice, a conceit. I wonder if anyone has ever done this in prose?
Current Soundtrack: Bruce Springsteen The Essential... disc 1