Posts tagged ‘Patrick Bateman’

The Greatest Book You’ve Never Read

I love books that show up out of nowhere and strike you across the face with their brilliance.

 

 

There are two books in my life that I have serendipitously plucked from a bookstore shelf, taken home – where they absolute blew my mind and which I have consequently re-read every year and will continue to forever and forever, amen.

 

 

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The first book was found just as I was about to leave for college – The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis. (That’s my much loved copy pictured above) I had never heard of it, but the cover design and title intrigued me and I felt  pulled to it. It ended up totally and completely rocking my little socks right off. I had never read a writer with such a natural, casual voice and Ellis’ use of the multi-narrator format in the book opened my eyes to non-traditional narration. He doesn’t use it in a heavy-handed Crash kind of way, but allows the readers to piece together a truth for themselves from the varying snatches of reality from each of his characters. It also allows for a richer narrative, letting the reader into the thoughts of several of the characters, instead of just one.

 

 

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A few years ago, there was a bit of a ruckus amongst Twilight fans when Stephenie Meyer’s half-finished manuscript for her novel, Midnight Sun, leaked online. She retaliated by  announcing that she was abandoning the novel, to much disappointment from fans. Midnight Sun is Twilight told from Edward’s point of view, and from what’s available on-line, it’s really enlightening. Like everyone else, you may have asked “Why is Edward such an over-controlling asshole?” – being privy his thoughts, emotions and motivations in Midnight Sun make him seem more like a man in desperate love than a mind reading psycho. The publication of Midnight Sun would have changed people’s feelings on the whole series. In any case,  I think it’s a majorly cool idea to write a novel in a series from a different characters point of views.

 

Jump Back.

 

I have probably read The Rules of Attraction more times than any other book (with Valley of the Dolls coming in close second). It blooms and gets richer with every reading – references within the different narratives begin to overlap. All of Bret Easton Ellis’  books take place in a demented universe of his own creation; most of his characters criss-cross wonderfully, often popping up in one, if not all, of his novels. For example, Sean Bateman – one of the three main narrators in The Rules of Attraction – is younger brother to Patrick Bateman, aka American Psycho. They each cameo in the other’s books as background players. Ellis has built such a big world for himself to play in, its fun to see where he’ll go next.

 

 

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Also, I love Ellis’ books because his characters are appalling awful – cold, vain, heartless bisexual nymphomaniac drug addled blood sucking vampires (sometimes literally). His characters are the complete opposite of me and I am fascinated by their twisted world. Ellis probably based most –  if not all – of his characters off of people he knew in real life, including himself, god bless him. Go on wit yer bad self, Bret Easton Ellis.

 

 

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The second book that I found –  the one alluded to in the title of this post –  only a month ago. I was intrigued by the title and cover, but the killer copy on the back cinched it for me:

 

“You hold in your hands a true lost classic, one of the most legendary cult books ever published in America. Jack Black’s autobiography was a bestseller and went through five printings in the late 1920’s. It has led a mostly subterranean existence since then – best known as William S. Burrough’s favorite book, one he admitted lifting big chunks of from memory for his first novel, Junky. But its time we got wise to this book, which is itself a remarkably wise book – and a ripping true saga. It’s an amazing journey into a hobo underworld; freight hopping around the still wide open West at the turn of the century, becoming a member of the “yegg” Brotherhood and a highwayman, learning the outlaw philosophy from Foot-and-a-half-George and The Sanctimonous Kid, getting hooked on opium, passing through hobo jungles, hop joints and penitentiaries. This is a chunk of the American story entirely left out of the history books – it’s a lot richer and stranger than the official version.”

 

 

Fuck. Yes.

 

William S. Burrough’s favorite book? Hop joints? The Sanctimonious Kid?! Sign me up! (Well done, copy writer at AK Press!)*

 

 

You Can’t Win is an autobiography by Jack Black (not that Jack Black) published in 1926.  Jack dropped out of society at 14 in the late 19th century and grew up learning underhand skills like home burglary, safe cracking, opium smoking and rail riding from folks with names like Smiler, Soapy Smith and Salt Chunk Mary. “Blacky”, as he was called when he was on the road, was one of the “Johnson Family” and was a staunch member of the Yegg Brotherhood of Criminals.**

 

 

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You Can’t Win follows Blacks journey in and out of jails (escaped from in both the USA & Canada), successful and failed burglaries, his decade long crippling addiction to opium and finally his friendships with fellow hoboes in jails and bum conventions throughout North America. That in itself would be an incredible book, but the craziest part (and this is no spoiler, he begins the book with this information) is that unlike most of the people we meet with Jack in this book, he was able to reform, become an upright citizen and end up as a writer and librarian.

 

 

Instead of spending his life wasting away as a hop head or getting blown away in a botched robbery attempt like most people he knew, Black realized that he could do society a service by putting his years of wrong doing to use by writing a book which laid out, in plain language, what was going through the heads and hearts of societies dropouts, and to remind people that in the end, even the lowliest criminal need love too.

 

 

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Black writes in an efficient and conversational manner, and doesn’t sugar coat. He never tries to come off as the “hero” and tells his story with fondness and heart. Black gives a speech at the end of this book that may be one of the best end-of-book-speeches ever.

 

I loved this book so much that I knew as soon as I finished reading it (and re-read that fantastic speech a second time) that I must tell the world of my new-found favorite book. Please let me know if you read either or both of these and what you think of them. Also, I would also love to know about what books have rocked your world.

 

I’m always looking for a good book.

 

*The company that published You Can’t Win, AK Press, aka Nabat Books,  is amazing and where I am going to be spending all of my birthday money. They’re so cool that prisoners can get any of their books sent to them for $10 and this is their bitchin’ manifesto:

 

 

 

“Nabat books is a series dedicated to reprinting forgotten memoirs by various misfits, outsiders and rebels. Nabat books are based on a few simple propositions:

 

 

That to be a success under current definition is highly toxic – wealth, fame and power are a poison cocktail; that era of triumphant capitalism that enshrines the most dreary human pathologies like greed and self-interest as good and natural; that the “winners” version of reality and history is deeply lame and soul-rotting stuff.

 

Given this it follows that the truly interesting and meaningful lives and real adventures are only to be had on the margins of what Kenneth Rexroth called “the social lie”. Its with the dropouts, misfits, dissidents, renegades and revolutionaries, against the grain, between the cracks and amonst the enemies if the state that the good stuff can be found.

Fortunately there is a mighty underground river of testimony from the disaffected, a large cache of hidden history, of public secrets overlooked by the oppressive conventional wisdom that Nabat books aims to tap into. A little something to set against the crushed hopes, mountains of corpses, and commodification of everything. Actually, we think this is the best thing western civilization has going for itself.”

 

** The Yegg Brotherhood is the idea that criminals aren’t lowly, brainless animals but men with character. Black says “The thief who goes out and steals money to pay back room rent rather than swindle his poor landlady has character. The one who runs away without paying her has no character…In the underworld one has good or bad character as in any other layer of society. The thief who pays off borrowed money, debts, or grudges has a good character among his fellows; and the thief who does the reverse has a bad character.” Fascinating stuff, honor amonst thieves…

 

***Just found out, while googling pictures for this post, that You Can’t Win has been made into a feature film starring Michael Pitt (?!) and will be released this year sometime. Don’t know how I feel about that….

Girlhood Crush – Christian Bale

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I don’t have a clue what happened on the set of American Psycho, but whatever it was, it changed Christian Bale’s life forever. Up until that film, Christian had mostly been playing the lovable-crafty-slightly-abrasive-gorgeous-dream-boy, then he beefed up and veneered out to play Patrick Bateman, and I feel like he kind of stayed that way forever. (The same way Jennifer Connelly sadly lost all of her luscious curves to play a heroin addict in Requiem for a Dream, and then stayed scary skinny afterwards.) In recent years, Bale has kind of gone into Nicolas Cage territory – swinging wildly from blockbuster action films (Terminator Salvation) to indies where he gets sharply emaciated (The Machinist, Rescue Dawn, The Fighter) and, of course, his ridiculously voiced Batman. He’s yelled at lighting guys, he’s shaved his head bald – he’s kind of all over the map. So I can’t say much for him as he is now (except I saw him at Disneyland once and he is TALL.) But, once upon a time….

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A couple of years ago for my birthday, I threw myself a “Dress as a Spielberg Character” party. We had several Elliots from ET, Elsa from Last Crusade, even a Smee and Peter Pan. I dressed as Christian Bale’s character in Empire of the Sun, in a little British school boy outfit – and everyone asked me if I was supposed to be the guitarist from AC/DC. NO ONE at that party had ever seen Empire of the Sun – a Spielberg movie!! As you can probably guess, I saw it upon its release in the theater. And while WWII internment camp movies probably aren’t normal fare for 8 year olds, I adored it. And thought Christian Bale was precious – and an incredible actor. He blew me away again in Henry V

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So, of course, when in 1992 I heard he was headlining a musical about cute NYC turn of the century paper boys called Newsies I was all in. At the time, Christian was adorable, the movie was decent, and that was that. I recently learned that Christian did not sign on to a musical, but that they changed their minds once he was already cast, and he bravely decided to learn to sing and dance and stay on the film. When watching Newsies as an adult, this is very obvious. He is kind of an awful singer and dancer, but he’s so beautiful and he’s trying so hard that it’s kind of endearing. 

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I guess Bale really loves to dance, though, because his next film was the 1993 film Swing Kids. LADIES. Can we talk about this movie. Seriously talk. Because I cannot even tell you how INTO this movie I was.  I was heavily into swing the moment I saw Swing Kids – which was about six months to a year before it became cool in popular culture. I bought and wore a vintage 40’s dress to my freshman year winter formal (see photo below, i’m bottom left) and was HEARTILY made fun of. (“Why are you wearing those weird clothes? Why is your hair like that?) (Even though I knew deep down I looked bitchin’). And all of those fucking posers were the ones who got super into swing when it got fashionable. Ahh, high school…but I digress…

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Swing Kids is a movie wherein good-hearted best friends Christian Bale and Robert Sean Leonard (don’t worry, we’ll get to him soon…) decide that the only way they can really rebel against that pesky nazi party is to swing dance. This is seriously the plot of this movie. Swing dancing vs. nazis. (But who didn’t tear up at the end….swing heil! swing heil!) For ME this was a movie featuring two of my very favorite boys being so incredibly adorable I could bearly stand it, AND dancing like fucking badasses. (and some nazi stuff….) I listened to the soundtrack obsessively, I was INTO it. AND it fully cemented my Leonard/Bale crushes. One of my favorite things about the film is that even though he is supposed to be German, Bale has the exact same New Yawk accent he has in Newsies. The fact that Branagh is doing a hard German accent, and Leonard and Whaley have a flat Americans just makes it even weirder…

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Then we had his super cute portrayal of Laurie in Little Women, followed by his incredibly fucking hot performance in Velvet Goldmine. Can I pause just a minute and say that Velvet Goldmine might be one of the best Hollywood films for hot boy-on-boy action – Ewan McGregor, Christian Bale AND Jonathan Rhys-Myers? YES PLEASE. We had one more dreamboat role for Bale in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and then BAM! Patrick Bateman for life. So weird. 

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BUT! At least he is a man who had grown up strong and takes the roles he really wants, so kudos to him for that. 

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Mr. Bale, I salute you.