Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hippies and Vaseline

So I get email from Greenpeace. Usually I just delete without reading it, because you know how that goes, but they're doing one of their hippies vs. whalers things, where they have their ship physically tail whaling vessels and try to get them not to kill the whales and then bring them forward in time to save the Federation. True Story Swear To God. Anyway. So I'm reading it and I read:

"For eleven days, we've been chasing the Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru through Antarctic waters."

And thought, "hang on!"

Quick Googling confirmed that my brain was not misfiring, and that as I thought, this is the same ship used in the filming of Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint 9.

One constructs scenarios. Are captured Greenpeace activists dismembered until they turn into whales? What happens if the whalers' strategic supply of vaseline is disrupted? Which poor sailor has to sleep in the cabin where Barney and Bjork had cinematic kinky whale-sex?

[I should note before closing that I know I owe more substantive posts; unfortunately, life's been busy; viz., I'm red-eyeing it to DC tonight, and am posting this from the Sacramento airport, where I've just left a 9.5 hour hearing that hadn't quite finished by the time I left because I had to catch my flight, and which parenthetically looks set to kill the big health care bill I've been working on these past four months. Which is to say, my brain is too fried to post anything involving big words, likely will be so fried in the immediate future, but if the bill gets voted down I should have some more free time!]

[Incidentally, that post title should really bring in the perv demo to our humble blog. I do my bit!]

Saturday, January 12, 2008

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Redux

For any Raymond Carver fans out there, The New Yorker recently published an early draft of the story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, titled Beginners.

An accompanying article and some additional supplementary material demonstrate the influence of Carver's editor, Gordon Lish, who turns out to have had a larger than usual impact on Carver's writing.

I went back and re-read What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and then read Beginners. What We Talk About is definitely the better story. It's tighter, less self-indulgent, and cuts out a lot of the fat and redundancy of Beginners.

Carver's widow and past collaborator, Tess Gallagher, wants to republish more of his works in their "original" form. Beginners is just a start. She feels that Lish crossed a line and compromised Carver's artistic integrity in the drastic edits. Granted, the edits were pretty severe in the case of What We Talk About but the work as a whole was definitely better for it. What we lose is not the rambling genius of a Melville or a Thackeray, as Gallagher might want us to believe. We simply lose much of the redundant and frankly unnecessary description. It is a matter of greater artistic discipline, the outcome of which is reaching a place of meaning previously unattainable.