wealth, biography (w/footnotes!)

so on my way to/from portland i’ve been listening to a howard hughes biography – btw, what’s the more middle-class/middle-brow/middle-aged form, the audiobook or biography ? – and i’m having fun but i’m also having a hard time. i’ve long vowed to check out hughes because he seems so creepy, and i’m excited to be in a position where i have the time to pursue this sort of yen.

‘problem is that the biography is written in a style i’ve always associated w/Vanity Fair magazine. ‘book’s more about wealth than it is about Howard Hughes. hughes’ richesse is obviously a major backdrop to his downfall – hell, aren’t all classical tragedies about one kind of monarch or another? – but that doesn’t mean that one should turn his life’s tale into a paean to wealth as such. no, sir. one recalls the marxian concept of reification in which things take on the animated, effective qualities of human beings and human relations, thus reducing subjects to their pliant objects, mediums to work on or through*.

so far, the result is that hughes’ personhood seems more or less just as inaccessible as it was when i first slipped the disc in the disc-slit**. there is no shame if you’re a celeb-watcher or somebody who worships “all the best people”…hell, there is nobody nowhere above conflating people and praising things in this hole. but as a left-wing nutjob (and unrelatedly, a fan of case studies in the morose withering of ill-adjusted nerds), i’m left muttering “put this dude to the wall.” or i just moan, “whaaa?’ cuz i don’t really know, you know?

i wonder if i’ll make it through all sixteen discs? mebbe it’ll improve as i near the vampire/junkie period i loved learning about from the great james ellroy***. the thing about audiobooks is that i end up lowering the bar in that automotive context****. it’s more like “tell me a story, please” then “make me think hard enough that it produces enough pleasure or pain (or “plain” or “pleather”) to make me want another dose.”

* okay, that was a pretty brisk evocation/definition of ‘reification.’ we can hash out that concept and its provenance if that would amuse you.

** disc slit =

*** ellroy’s is the the antithesis to this style. in his stories, things are all but vanquished. all there is is people in ellroy, if by ‘people’ i mean ensembles of horrid wants, failures and frailties. he bears a resemblance to burroughs in this way (not to mention the diction thing). both these men care deeply enough about very specific places and times to paint them in an unflinching light that only suffers from caricature to the extent that all satire begets a weird gigantism. ellroy is the historian of a certain american moment in the same way that i’d call burroughs its sociologist (if by ‘society’ you mean ‘violence,’ if by ‘violence’ you mean ‘sex,’ and if by ‘identity’ you mean ‘addiction.’)

**** the other thing is that i’m limited to the public library’s inventory, cuz that stuff is expensive otherwise. since taking my job i’ve taken on the following audiobooks:

sandra higgins found dead by george v. higgins (it’s awesome, though i cannot imagine it on the page. higgins leads with his dialogue, or really monologues in this case. if you somehow decided you were going to read just one crime novel ever, higgins friends of eddie coyle. were there a god, the cinematic rendition of this latter novel, which was directed by Peter Yates of Bullit and The Hot Rock fame, would be available to us yokels. but no dice, mice.)

the audacity of hope by you know who. it’s excruciatingly painful but it’s not obama’s fault by any means, and is no reflection on obama and his worthiness as a candidate, etc. i couldn’t get past his evocation of the Constitution, followed by his qualification about the Founders’ slaveholding, followed by a qualification about historical relativism, followed by…now you know what the whole book’s like. this guy was an organizer? i like him, but i like him as a leader, which isn’t always the same thing as an organizer: phil simms or lenin could tell you that. if you wanna borrow this i’ll borrow it to you and you can hear for yourself, darn it.

2cd life/work of john maynard keynes. weird dude and bisexual social-democrat. did you know he was an original member of the bloomsbury group with roger fry, virginia woolf, etc.? also i learned a lot about keynsian economics, which are almost n/c and taste like forbidden fruit in an economic era that worships milton friedman and hayek (keynes’ chief foe).


One Response to “wealth, biography (w/footnotes!)”

  1. kyle Says:

    For now on I will always refer to my CD player, my tape player, my DVD, player, and my VCR as my disc slit.

    Thank you.

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