counterpaul wrote:I do not consider Finnegans Wake to be an artistic failure. I regularly reread it, roughly every other year or so for the last 20 years, and I think it is both a) a narrative and b) almost completely character-driven. This isn't the place to go on at length about Finnegans Wake,
This is the one statement you’ve made that I kind of wish I hadn’t read. You will accept, I’m sure, that someone with that kind of taste is out near the limits of the avant garde. The number of people who attempt FW and end up with that kind of relationship to it, even among proudly literary types, is tiny.
FW is a tough nut to crack, that's for sure. And I love it with all my heart, but I would certainly not claim to have "cracked" it! It's just so endlessly beautiful, though! And so I keep coming back. And the more I read it, the less distant its pleasures become and the more the story (and the utter joy
in the telling of the story) reveals itself. The first time through was long
in the going and I didn't get much out of it beyond the musicality of it--and barely that at times!--but something, partly my total love of Portrait and Ulysses and partly something pervasive in Finnegan itself, made me want to give it another go. And so I did. And it was a little easier, though still almost totally baffling, the second time. And then the third time, I felt myself entering the dream. Something clicked. I started to "meet" the characters, and that was the key. What a joy it has been to revisit since then!
It also calls into question whether we really understand the same thing by ‘anti-narrative’. FW to me is classic anti-narrative; if that book isn’t it, then nothing is. The Return’s refusal of normal narrative pleasures is as nothing compared to FW.
Certainly, as I said, nothing Lynch has made even approaches FW's radicalism (IE, which I also adore, maybe
comes closest, but is still miles and miles away).
As to whether FW is an "anti-narrative," it's an interesting question. I don't think it quite qualifies. Much like Lynch, I think Joyce was far more interested in expanding
what a narrative could be than he was in interrogating what a narrative does to a reader. I think your earlier example of Calvino is a much better one, as is Brecht, even though they are both much, much easier to read than Finnegan. The project, in those cases (and not
in the case of Joyce or Lynch), is to create the distanciation necessary to combat a reader/viewer's natural desire to lose themselves in the narrative in order to interrogate the ways in which narrative can be used to as a tool to lull us into accepting various political injustices. A worthy artistic goal, even if it's generally more interesting in conception than execution for me personally.
Either way, Lynch and Joyce could care less. It's simply not what they're up to.
My own tastes go as far as Ulysses, The Waves, Infinite Jest, Tarkovsky, Bruno Schulz and Riddley Walker, a novel that might look as hard as FW but is not. Go much further beyond these in terms of lack of entertainment and emotional engagement, however, and it’s snooze-time.
Fair enough. I suppose I'm entertained by different things. It's not that I'm claiming I'm "above" wanting to be entertained or something (gag!), I'm just arguing that there are those of us out there who maybe find entertainment, along with all the other wonderful things that art can do, from things that some people might consider snooze-fests. That being said, you've listed off some of my favorites! I love me some Joyce, Woolf, Wallace and Tarkovsky!
Some of this is professional – I’ve seen too many dreadful attempts at fiction headfuckery. Some of it is personal – I’ve written too many dreadful attempts at fiction headfuckery (standard response from editors: ‘There he goes again in backwards-talking dwarf mode”). This must be Dougie-boring for others to read, but we should understand that we’re coming at this TV series from fairly different backgrounds. Above all nowadays, I admire works that marry substance, patterning and innovation with suspension of disbelief, emotional impact and yes ‘entertainment’, however that’s defined. Fiction cannot just be a chess/art installation-style head game for me (I share the distrust of many writers and editors of the fraudulence of the modern plastic arts world).
So you're a literary editor--I had thought you meant you were a fellow film editor (that's my line).
I certainly know what you mean about your professional obligations (like I said in another post, I can't let my love of Lynchian rhythms influence much of my client work), but I would ask, as part of the reading public, that you keep one eye out for the rare, precious, Joyces and Nabokovs of this world. They pop up every once in a great while and a lot of editors try to squash them rather than letting them do their thing.
I would also say that it's not headfuckery that interests me. In fact, few things in this world bore me more than empty headfuckery. I know it's easy to mistake genuine artistic risktaking for the former, but they're entirely different animals. I think building up a distrust toward modern plastic art and fiction/film/video inspired by same, though understandable, is a big mistake. You'll end up missing some awesome stuff that way.
I decided long ago, for my own benefit, to approach every unfamiliar piece of art with open arms. Show me something new and my first thought is, "Who knows, maybe this will change my life and bring me years of ecstatic joy." Most of the new art I'm exposed to is basically garbage and does nothing for me, but I've found through experience that approaching it defensively, with arms folded and eyes slit and mind barred off, only leads to missing some of the vanishingly tiny minority that is
It's happened to me many times. I remember first watching Godard, having been primed to believe that his work was cold and empty provocation, and feeling nothing, and stating proudly that he was overrated for quite a while until having to finally eat my words when I reassessed his work with a more open mind and ended up feeling like a total idiot. The same thing happened a few times in my teens and twenties (Sonic Youth's work is another example of a great joy in life delayed by silly pre-judging closed-heartedness).
Starting with the assumption that anything and everything might
be wonderful and moving doesn't turn me into an idiot who loves everything. I still end up either hating or being indifferent to roughly 95% of the art I'm exposed to, but it does help me find the things I do
love more easily. And it makes the process of watching/reading/hearing new things much more pleasant to boot. It's win-win!
counterpaul wrote:Lynch's approach to character in most of his work since the original Twin Peaks has been what I think of as an "inside-out" approach wherein we get to know a character by getting to know the way they perceive rather than the way they behave.
Click. See above.
It appears that you’re talking about an equivalent of that Chandler-based film noir that I can’t remember the name of, a reasonably successful experiment in which the entire film was shot from the POV of the male lead.
As DKL might say in his gentle and friendly, but totally emphatic way, "That's not it at all
But you’re also meaning something broader: “the plot, the setting, the tone, etc.--all grow out of the emotional reality of the character.” Dougie is in a state of desolation, so Rancho Rosa looks desolate, right? His relationship to Janey is infantile so what we mostly hear from her is maternal scolding? (I find this last possibility especially intriguing; krazy brain mental, but intriguing and promising lots more ‘clicks’).
You're getting warmer, here, but you're still not there yet.
Aspects of your proposal certainly make sense, as the Return does feel like a hallucination and/or an experience of solipsism. And it’s thrilling to think of something that radical being broadcast on TV. But one problem is that it mainly feels like one person’s sensibility, not the series of different sensibilities we’d expect if this idea was being applied consistently. Why does so much of the show have the same ‘Dougie’ atmosphere of emptiness, tedium, desolation, disconnectedness, etc, in the scenes where he isn’t present? If the answer is that the whole show is taking place inside Dougie/Russell Brand/David Lynch’s head then my bottom starts to squirm.
Zoom out a bit more, and stop being so literal.
I am emphatically not
proposing anything close to an "it's all a dream"/"Coop will wake up from a coma" style reading of TPTR. No, no, no; nothing like that at all.
Let's start with one key, underlying assumption I'm bringing to the table, here (and which seems to be weirdly controversial with all the fantasy/world-building style rationalization that goes on here): Lynch is a surrealist and Twin Peaks is surreal and a rational reading of this work is not going to lead you anywhere interesting or productive.
The inside-out style character-driven storytelling style I believe Lynch has employed in FWWM, LH, MD, IE, and TPTR is not allegorical or even symbolic. It's not an X=Y approach to storytelling at all.
Okay, enough with what it's not.
TPTR is Dale Cooper's story, 25 years after he fundamentally failed himself. He is utterly lost. His most basic assumptions about himself, from his point of view, are out the window. Who even is
he at this point? As we meet him, and as we are reintroduced to the world of Twin Peaks, this is a disturbingly open question.
This is, therefore, the mindset through which we must see the entire world in TPTR. For Lynch, character is everything
. TPTR is Cooper's story, so if Cooper is lost, all
The story is Cooper's Return, and so the plot has to do with the world readying for Cooper's return. Am I making sense? We are not seeing the events of the story exclusively from Coop's direct, literal point-of-view. This is a story with a great deal of scope. But we are
seeing the events of the story from Coop's emotional
point-of-view. TPTR is governed by Coop's psyche.
This is a beautiful extension of Twin Peaks because Twin Peaks was always
about how nobody suffers trauma alone. The entire town suffered Laura's trauma and it was the town's collective denial that ultimately killed her. This is what the show is about.
Coop's story extends to the entire world because Coop is not only of Twin Peaks but is of
the world. The logic remains essentially the same, though, even though Lynch's expression of that logic has become more abstract.
There isn't a "reality" over here and some distorted view of reality we're seeing instead. It's not that kind of puzzle. It's sure as hell not allegory. It's the story of a psyche, being told through the language of dream and intuition. What we're seeing is as real as it gets!
Does this make sense? I feel like I'm at the edge of really articulating this idea, but I'm not quite there yet.
Drawing attention to form doesn’t make a work “shoddy”, no. Classicism is pretty much the opposite of “shoddiness” and in its very beauty often draws attention to its own forms and adherence to traditional aesthetic ‘rules’. So here’s an attempted definition of “shoddiness”: some feature that might appear involuntary, incompetent and retrogressive but is in fact meant to achieve an affect otherwise unobtainable and that advances the artform in some way.
I see. Yeah, I really think "shoddy" is just the wrong word for this. It too strongly connotes indifference to effect.
I tend to really like art best when the hand of the artist is undeniable present. I mean, this all started with your assertion that work like this is somehow objectively an "artistic failure" and it seems to me even you don't believe that is the case. I mean, the definition above basically describes most modern masterpieces in film, fiction, theatre, music, and fine art!
I also love Laura’s secret diary and Q2’s Northwest Passage fanedit, which removes much of the silliness to focus on the Palmers’ tragedy.
Gah! This is a tangent for sure, but oh my god I hate that fanedit. It just so completely lacks elegance. I'm not inherently opposed to fanedits or anything--they can even be interesting exercises in reappropriation--but this one just hurts me both as a Twin Peaks fan and possibly even more as an editor. The idea that anyone sees this in lieu of the actual series makes me weep!
I haven’t engaged with your responses to examples of The Return’s “shoddiness” because even if you are right every time, nobody (I think) will persuade me this series isn’t “shoddy”, as defined above, and it’s hard to imagine any other lens through which it will appear at all admirable. Round these parts, it’s “shoddiness”/anti-narrative + convincing explanation(s) for same + these making the “shoddiness” worth it, or bust.
Fair enough! Given the above definition, "shoddy" is no insult and requires no rationale!
Obviously I’m immersed in The Return as a work of art – I wouldn’t still be here otherwise – but my strong preference is for suspension of disbelief in the characters, story and world to come first and then for immersion in the more artistic elements to follow. You clearly have the sophistication that allows these to happen together. I, for better or worse, do not.
I hope I'm not implying that my taste is somehow more sophisticated than yours, or anyone's who isn't into TPTR. I honestly don't think of it that way! Like I said: a work of art turns you on or it doesn't. I enjoy looking back afterwards and discussing why
something does or doesn't grab me--trying to articulate something so deeply subjective and weird and slippery is great fun for me--but that initial, gut reaction comes first and can be neither right nor wrong, in my opinion.
Maybe because my work hours are spent behind the scenes pulling texts apart, childlike suspension of disbelief in the story is not that easy to achieve
How unfortunate! I, too, spend my days pulling narratives apart and putting them back together and I believe that my ability to retain that very childlike suspension of disbelief you describe is key
to doing it well. If I lost that, I think I'd have to quit and find some other way to make a living.
This will be a beheading offence around here, probably, but IMO the Club Silencio ‘revelation’ in MD of the singer’s miming is boring and jejune, real art school late night weed session stuff.
Ah, but I would argue that it is not a revelation at all. That's the entire point! Why else would we get all that preamble?
The point of Del Rio fainting is not to reveal that the song has been a recording (we know
that if we've been paying attention), it's that that is the moment when the performance ends. The fainting is real. Her exhaustion, due to endless performance, is real. Her fellow performers rushing the stage to first tend to her and then drag her off as the recording viciously continues--all that is real.
Look at Betty. This isn't a shocking revelation to her. It is sad. It is disappointing. But it is not a revelation. It is, instead, a confirmation
of what she has long suspected by this point. It's the nail in the coffin of her dying dream. Watch her face. It's all there. This moment is the death of Betty and the birth of Diane. The death of the dream of love and stardom and living the life of an artist.
But what I find most jejune is not any single breaking of the fourth wall but The Return’s systematic refusal to build it in the first place.
[I'm skipping the emperor's new clothes snooze-fest (no offense I hope--it's just an argument that this board has seen again and again and it goes nowhere and it isn't about the art anyway so it does nothing for me), but I will stop a second here.]
Well, I guess I'd ask how much experimental film/video you watch. Lynch's aesthetic approach here is much
more in the tradition of works that complicate the act of viewing and require your willingness to meet them on their own terms and then
assess what you're seeing than it is in the tradition of works that meet you where you live by conforming to the "rules" of commercial narrative filmmaking. I'm used to this and, what's more, I quite like
it, and I think it opens up all kids of wonderful possibilities. As much as I love classical narrative filmmaking when it's done well, it is only one
way to approach the medium. And, I swear, I'm not saying that Lynch is by default a genius
to approach narrative filmmaking with experimental sensibilities (he's not the first, by any means). It's just one aspect of what makes TPTR what it is. It is one aspect, however, that dismissing will basically rob you of even the hope of getting much out of it.
I’d like this to be the case, and your inside-out characterisation proposal may well be the key to my and the wider audience’s understanding of what L&F are up to, in the same way that back in the days of the Chase Lounge the poster ‘richie aprile’ cracked the mystery of The Sopranos’ “shoddy” ending with that beautiful dissection of the POVs and edits in the final scene.
I don't know what this "richie aprile" proposed, but if he was one of those folks trying to "prove" that Tony is assassinated in the final scene of The Sopranos, I couldn't disagree more. The profound truth of that final scene of The Sopranos is that this is a normal
day for Tony. Tony's life is defined by the fact of his hyper-awareness that every mundane moment--with (at best) its little, mundane joys--might very well be his last. The final scene is a microcosm of Tony's entire life
. Eventually, one of these mundane moments with its (hopefully) mundane joys may very will end in annihilating silence. Any one of them might. That Tony can feel these small moments of joy anyway is the point. What choice does he have? What choice do any of us have? We live until we don't. That's what the final scene of The Sopranos is about. It's a beautiful thing.