Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Shape of Things to Come (2006)

Somehow I drifted away from Greil Marcus after the 21st century started. As a friend says—the same friend who urged me to take a look at this—"Greil Marcus loves finding great importance in small things." I take that as a good thing and I'm glad I checked this out. Sub-billed as "Prophecy and the American Voice," it focuses on John Winthrop (English Puritan lawyer and cofounder of Massachusetts), Philip Roth (American Jewish novelist), David Lynch (Montana filmmaker), and David Thomas (Cleveland rock 'n' roller), along with the usual assorted sundry. I like Marcus's chosen lifestyle / profession of sitting in his room and thinking of ideas, making connections between the music and art and books he reads, looks at, and listens to. It often means many things are coming up at once and he can build charmingly intricate balancing acts talking about them all at once, seemingly unrelated but relentlessly connecting the dots—and really connecting them. I loved his deep dive on the Philip Roth novels American Pastoral, I Married a Communist, and The Human Stain, along with Roth's American dystopia, The Plot Against America. My view on Roth is slightly different, favoring Sabbath's Theater as his masterpiece, which Marcus does not mention. David Lynch gets perhaps the lion's share of attention in this collection, with two sections devoted to two of Lynch's most controversial movies, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Lost Highway. Marcus does much to illuminate both of them, though unlike many I was already something of a long-time convert to the Twin Peaks movie, which I think sometimes could be Lynch's best. I'm curious but I'm not sure how this long piece on it is taken by the typical Lynchian, just as I'm not sure what a typical Lynchian even looks like. What I like best about Marcus are his deep preoccupations with the things of strange beauty. In some cases, as with the Sex Pistols and David Lynch, I arrived there my own way. In other cases, as with Elvis Presley, Marcus made me see things I never had before. The Shape of Things to Come was a little more like the first for me. I especially enjoyed seeing what he has to say about Roth and Lynch. For anyone who likes Marcus.

In case it's not at the library.

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