Thursday, February 4, 2010

psycho at two fames a second


As recently fine writers recently have reckoned,
Hell’s much like “Psycho” played two frames a second
for a day, not ninety minutes. I’m
not looking forward to spend there my time,
but can assure you that I am resigned
to go wherever I will be consigned.
I’m sure it won’t be heaven––fat chance they
will send me there, for I don’t like to pray.
I understand that that’s what they do, all
the time there, winter, spring, and summer, fall,
and take a break just in December to
enjoy “Messiah” ––words are by a Jew
in both parts, and the music’s quite supernal,
more enjoyable when time’s eternal,
than praying, which is always boring.
I’ve heard that time in hell can be rip-roaring,
and even if they slow it down as done
in “Psycho,” hell can terrific fun,
not etiolated like Beckettian prose,
although there is no sun there, I suppose,
but more like florid verse of Keats and Yeats,
both popular within the Pearly Gates,
though some choose either Eliot and Auden
where there are flames on which the gas is poured on,
while others’ favorite writer is Bob Dillon,
a Jew who smiles and smiles, and ain’t a villain.

Hell’s like a prison camp without barbed wire,
surrounded merely by a ring of fire.
Its friendly inmates generally are warm
towards arrivals willing to conform
to Satan’s rules, which make a lot more sense
than those ordained for heaven’s residents.
There’s nothing that is useful there to learn,
but since you’ll have a lot of time to burn,
watch “Psycho” at two frames a second, and
be glad that you’re not in the Wonderland
called heaven, thanks to your past acts of malice.
Enjoy yourself below the ground with Alice,
and if they let you see a movie choose
“The Ten Commandments,” which is hot for Jews,
and don’t watch “The Last Passion of the Christ,”
because they don’t serve drinks there that are iced,
and rub in to you noses it’s your fault
you aren’t in heaven with a single malt.

Inspired by an article on Don DeLillo by Charles McGrath in the NYT, February 4, 2010 “Don DeLillo, a Writer by Accident Whose Course Is Deliberate):
Don DeLillo, whose new novel, “Point Omega,” came out on Tuesday, is not exactly a Pynchonesque recluse. He travels, sees friends, gives readings occasionally. People know what he looks like: a slight, reserved man, now going gray, with an intense, serious expression. “I only smile when I’m alone,” he said recently, not smiling. But Mr. DeLillo, famous for novels about dread, violence, the dehumanizing effects of technology and the invasion of popular culture into private lives, shuns publicity. Though he has become a cult writer of sorts — particularly admired by readers who have found novels like “Players,” from 1977, about Wall Street brokers who get mixed up in a terrorist plot, almost eerily prophetic — he is uncomfortable with cultism. “I was called a cult writer in the 70’s, when that meant that very few people were reading me,” he likes to say. He is almost equally uncomfortable with his commercial success, which began after the publication of “White Noise,” his 1985 novel about Jack Gladney, a professor of Hitler studies. Mr. DeLillo doesn’t teach or appear on panels or turn up at big literary gatherings, and he seldom gives interviews. He doesn’t use e-mail, because he says it “encourages communication I’d just as soon not have.”…
Unlike “Underworld,” a sprawling, near-epic of a book, “Point Omega,” like most of Mr. DeLillo’s recent work, is brief, spare and concentrated, a mere 117 pages. There are only three main characters, and their conversations seldom last for more than a couple of sentences. Writing in The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani said that “instead of the jazzy, vernacular, darkly humorous language he employed to such galvanic effect in ‘White Noise’ and ‘Underworld,’ ” Mr. DeLillo had chosen to use “spare, etiolated, almost Beckettian prose.” Mr. DeLillo got the idea for the book, he said recently, in the summer of 2006, when, wandering through the Museum of Modern Art, he happened upon Douglas Gordon’s “24 Hour Psycho,” a video installation that consists of the Alfred Hitchcock movie “Psycho” slowed down to two frames a second so that it lasts for an entire day instead of the original hour and a half or so. “I went back four times, and by the third time I knew this was something I had to write about,” he said, adding, “Most of the time I was the only one there except for a guard, and the few people who came in left quite hastily.” The slowness of the film, and the way it caused him to notice things he might otherwise have missed, appealed to him, Mr. DeLillo said: “The idea of time and motion and the question of what we see, what we miss when we look at things in a conventional manner — all that seemed very inviting to me to think about.” So he wrote a scene, now the novel’s prologue, in which two unnamed characters, an older man and a younger one, visit “24 Hour Psycho,” and he later added an epilogue set in the same gallery. The action of the book takes place in between those brackets, and Mr. DeLillo said it didn’t become clear to him until he realized who those two unnamed characters were: Jim Finley, a young filmmaker (whose only previous work is a 57-minute compilation of clips from Jerry Lewis telethons), and Richard Elster, a 73-year-old conservative intellectual still smarting from an unhappy stint at the Pentagon helping to plan the Iraq war. Finley wants to make a movie about Elster and has followed him to the Arizona desert, where the older man has gone to chill out and to exchange his ordinary sense of time for a longer, more existential view. Eventually Elster begins to sound a little like the French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin, imagining an omega point beyond consciousness and human evolution. The novel too slows down, in sentences that are spare and condensed, without much metaphorical decoration, but Mr. DeLillo was reluctant to take much credit for that. “I feel that a novel tells you what it wants to be,” he said. “I know that sounds pretentious. But that’s the sense I have. I felt I was discovering rather than inventing.”
J. Harold Ellens’s comment was: Wow, what were you on when you wrote this? I hope the Scotch tasted as good as it sounds. Hal

This inspired me to add the last two lines, which were not in the version he had seen. Hal’s response was:

Greatly improved, my friend. Greatly improved. Amazing how a little Scotch can improve almost anything heavenly or hellish. Hal PS: I like your dissertation on DeLillo.


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