The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Something for the Weekend


Cover illustration by Adrian Tomine for the Japanese edition of Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon, published by Shinchosha Publishing.

The Darkness — Norwegian cartoonist Jason profiled in The National Post:

“A comedy that has some darkness, like The Apartment, is more appealing than if it’s just fluff. Ingmar Bergman’s best film, to me, is Fanny and Alexander, that is dark, like many of his early films, but there is a joy also, an affirmation of life,” he continues. “Darkness just for being dark doesn’t interest me that much. … I prefer the vitality of something that isn’t perfect.”

Jason will be at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival this weekend, and you can read my Q & A with him here.

Bam… Bam… Bam… David L. Ulin, writing at the LA Times, on interviewing William S. Burroughs:

“Life is a cutup,” Burroughs says about halfway through his conversation with Ginsberg, referring to his technique of bisecting pieces of text and reconfiguring them as collages, letting the juxtapositions create a meaning that transcends traditional narrative. “And to pretend that you write or paint in a timeless vacuum is just simply … not … true, not in accord with the facts of human perception.”

Yes, yes, I found myself thinking, not least because four years later, Burroughs had said virtually the same thing to me. “Life is a goddamn cutup,” is how he put it. “Every time you look out the window, or answer the phone, your consciousness is being cut by random factors. Walk down the street — bam, bam, bam…. And it’s closer to the facts of your own perception, that’s the point.”

Ulin is referring to a conversation between Allen Ginsburg and Burroughs recently published in Sensitive Skin magazine.

And finally…

A Deadman’s Masterpiece — Gabriel Winslow-Yost on Tarkovovsky’s movie Stalker, the Chernobyl disaster, and the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series of video games, for the NYRB:

The Zone in the video games is a beautifully dangerous place, bigger and grimmer than Tarkovsky’s, but somehow still appropriate. There are plenty of long, tense walks through damp weather or empty, creaking tunnels. Packs of dogs wander the landscape, ruined farmhouses give shelter from the rain; here and there the ground ripples strangely. Stalkers gather around campfires, bandits take potshots at passersby, and a man lies wounded in a ditch, begging for help. Watching Stalker, one is occasionally brought up short by remembering that it was not filmed in Chernobyl, so perfect an analogue does that event seem for the film’s images of technology and nature, beauty and danger in strange alliance. The games, at their best, can seem like a sort of miracle: a dead man’s masterpiece, come home at last.

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