Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Nick Hornby is screwing me and QUICK NOTES: UP THE YANGTZE

Nick Hornby, as much as I love this foul-mouthed Brit, is fucking me. And I'm not particularly happy about it.

The story so far:

I bought a collection of Nick Hornby's The Believer columns in a hard back selection titled The Polysyllabic Spree. It was a wonderful book that followed Hornsby has he bought and read a shocking number of books each week. The collection was about the love of reading, and why we read, and what we find interesting as people. I was stunned by how good it was and wrote many letters proclaiming Nick Hornby as my new deity. None were answered.

Two weeks ago I was in that gem you N'orwesterners call Seattle, trolling the 826 Store (a space theme! I highly recommend a spin in the "teleportation room" with a special someone) for laser guns, when I stumbled upon two other collections of Nick Hornsby's amazing column. One, Housekeeping vs. The Dirt and another who's name I cannot remember. I was excited and even though I've set boundaries for my purchasing of books (boundaries that are slowly wearing away) I purchased Housekeeping and, jauntily, raced home to read it.

My problem: I'm pretty sure I already own this book. I'm almost positive that the sheisters at The Believer have simply taken the first half of The Polysyllabic Spree placed it in to an adorable, thin paper back and sold it, without warning as a completely different book. Thus, screwing me out of another fourteen dollars. And as I've continued to read the book (hey it's a good read, and even on a second venture I'm still enjoying the heck out of it) I keep hitting bits that just seem a wee too familiar. A chunk of book about a hooker and a blowjob, pretty sure I've read it. The animated slice from Marjane Sartrapi's Persepoli, certainly seen it somewhere.

I'll be honest, I haven't dug in to the collection to check on this swindle, one, because I'm lazy, and two, because I'm sad that this is certainly the case and that yet again I've thrown a heap of money down a hole. That said, be warned readers, The Believer, magic as they seem, are cheap, snake-oil salesman and if you've already read The Polysyllabic Spree you've already read this.

I'm hoping that, as in the past, my rant against The Believer will somehow end up on Dave Eggers front desk, and he'll arrive at my house with an armful of amazing books for me to devour. C'mon Dave, you take my 14 bones without even a grimace of remorse, a life long subscription to The Believer would do wonders to ease my aching fiscal bones.

Just saying.

We watch a lot of documentaries in this house. Alex is obsessed, and I'm perfectly happy to indulge her love as I've been hoovering these bits of informative glee for years. I snatched Up The Yangtze as I was bit obsessed with China late last year, and I'd been curious as to just what was happening with the damming of the Three Gorges and so on and so forth. I wanted to feel educated and perhaps shed a tear over some human interest.

Instead, I made these quick notes:

1. China, lively and crowded as it is, seems a deeply depressing place. Smoggy, amoral, on the verge of Westernization in a way that only seems ready to damage the individuals of this massive country. The characters in this film, residents of various social classes in a tiny, bizarrely lit town on the Yangtze river, seem vacant in a way I've never seen before. The little girl, who lives in a shack on the river, wants nothing more than to be on a cruise boat, washing dishes for some of the most atrocious white people you've ever seen. The older boy, a rich kid from the city, sees the cruise boat as his first step to international stardom. That's the future kids look forward to when you live in a river town. China, I blame you.

2. Up The Yangtze was a little too much narrative and not enough documentary. It's bookended as some sort of journey for the director (a sniveling voice we only hear) to rediscover his heritage, but his voice disappears and instead we're joined up with these two new members of this strange cruise phenomenon. But every shot is just a little too perfect. Every emotional moment just a bit too on the nose. It seems as if the director, Yung Chang, wanted a certain story and did a bit of shaping to get his footage there. Sketchy if you ask me.

3. This is a depressing story, and thus the film is almost too depressing. It seems as if Yang Chung is trying to show that the Three Gorge's Dam project is hurting everyone, but I feel like everybody already knows that this environmental travesty is destroying, well, most things. Thus, we have a film that showcases two lives sucked in to the Dam's wake, but we don't see a solution to prevent this in the future. The film ends, and all we can think is "China is fucked" and I'm not particularly excited to be reminded of that.

4. I wouldn't call this a great film. It has beautiful shots, especially the opening sequence in the shipyard, but Chung doesn't have enough of a big idea, and what we get is just a reminder that China does a lot of bad things, all the time. And, hell, who doesn't already know that?

Wednesday: Shaun of the Dead

No comments: