Tom Goulter - Nigerian Lottery Winner, Christchurch

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Leaves Of Arse

Firstly, and belatedly, I think it's very likely that Christopher Reeve deserved every bit of adulation and respect that he was given in life. However, I'd like to place a moratorium right now on anyone who's thinking of eulogising the man by lamenting how very much the world needs Superman at a time like this. (Picking the world's most obvious headline is bad enough).
Seguing tenuously, Superman's father (and fellow recently departed person), Marlon Brando, has written himself a book. Described as the story of "a swashbuckling sailor in the South China Sea who meets up with a Chinese woman pirate", said book would not, on first glance, seem full of promise. (Granted, it includes pirates, one of the cornerstones of any solid narrative; but pirates alone do not Curse Of The Black Pearl make. No, for that you need pirates and zombies). Anyway, by all accounts it's not in the same league as the horribly misunderstood Night Travels Of The Elven Vampire, whose advertising speaks for itself, but the fact remains that Marlon Brando is about to have a novel published. Not six months after his death.
Putting aside the dubious ethics of waiting till someone is dead in order to plunder their artistic corpse, this is a Good Idea. Because if Marlon Brando's book tanks, and Marlon Brando's publisher goes into Chapter 11, and Marlon Brando goes down in history as an amazing actor and a powerfully individual human being and an astoundingly terrible author, there's not a Goddamn thing Marlon Brando can do about it, because Marlon Brando is dead.
Someone who is not dead is Anne Rice. She made this clear to the world in her proactive, grassroots, amazingly stupid actions in the aftermath of the release of her latest book, the excrutiatingly-titled Canticle Of Blood. Canticle, which was set to delight airport shoppers worldwide with its further merging of Rice's Vampire Chronicles with her less-followed and mercifully less-numerous Mayfair saga, drew such anguished criticism from disappointed Rice fans that many Amazon reviews, in listing the litany of really really bad things about it, speculated that this could not actually be a book written by Anne Rice.
(These reviews ignored the fact that the Vampire Chronicles alone had, long ago, made the main character sing; become a movie; relocated countless times; incorporated special guests from the Mayfair books whenever possible; made countless dubious additions to the core cast; become another movie with a different actor in the main role; dredged up maudlin musings on puberty wherever possible; and, not content with having so many character pairings perform clumsy metaphorical sexual acts on each other that the entire idea of Rice slash should be entirely redundant, went out of their way - way out of their way - to provide plot twists that would allow Rice to write real actual bona-fide sex scenes. With so many glaring examples of shark-jumping having gone before, and the title of the latest book being Canticle Of Blood, what's surprising isn't that the book wasn't well recieved, it's that there was a time when people thought it might not be terrible).
Blood Canticle chronicles - I gather from reading the reviews - Rice's protagonist, Lestat, as he attempts to become a saint. In what I'm choosing to call life imitating art, Blood Canticle also gave Rice the opportunity to make a bid for the position of patron saint of arrogant misguided self-important artists everywhere: by reviewing her own book, explaining that the "sheer outrageous stupidity" of some of the reviews, as well as touching Rice's "proletarian and Democratic soul", have - famously - "taxed [her] Dickensian principles to the max". (Not just taxed - taxed to the max! That's enough to make a feller forget Poland).
What I'm thinking here is that Rice thought she was justified; that she was just being like Walt Whitman, who, when his epic of formative American poetry, Leaves Of Grass, wasn't setting the world alight, set to reviewing it himself - you know, so that America could "cease shamming and be what we really are", now that "self-reliant, with haughty eyes, assuming to himself all the attributes of his country, steps Walt Whitman into literature, talking like a man unaware that there was ever hitherto such a production as a book, or such a being as a writer".
I mean, exactly. And with that kind of carry-on as accepted precedent, who could blame Mrs. Rice for public expression of the max to which her Dickensian principles have been stretched? After all, she was dealing with people who "have used this site as if it were a public urinal to publish falsehood and lies", let's remember.
And, to return in closing to things that Marlon Brando is avoiding by not publishing until he is dead: Marlon Brando, by not publishing until he is dead, can also never be George Lucas. Luckily, I myself have always been somewhat warmly ambivalent toward Star Wars, and as such, I've never been tempted to sink to the level of the fascists and Communists and agents of the Evil Empire who resent Mr. Lucas changing his movies every few years. But, on principle, is there any chance that one day, another movie will be released that is big, and popular, and has artistry and passion, and of which there is one definitive version? Because that would be nice.
To my knowledge, there's only ever been one cut of Superman released.