My cold lingers, leaving me lethargic and dull headed. I mostly read, slumped over in the corner of my couch, or sit at my desk and watch films I have downloaded. Occasionally I arise to head upstairs for food, but for the most part it’s books and films, interspersed with web browsing as I listlessly read about the conflict in Gaza and Obama’s first few days.
My bedroom has been overrun by small ants. They were everywhere until I put down drops of poisoned sugar water, and now they congregate in rough rings around this lethal ambrosia, thirty or forty of them grouped at the base of computer tower, or at the corner where my closet door meets wall. Already today their number has diminished. No longer ubiquitous, I scan the stone floor for signs of their previous ubiquity, and fail to find them.
I’m about halfway through Antwerp, and it’s leaving me cold. The writing is effective, at times sharp, and the dialogue is convincing. The characters are enigmatic, elusive, but portrayed with enough sober distance as to make them seem real. The setting is intriguing, and the plot seems to revolve around a burgeoning serial killer and the various strangers whom are pulled into his gravitational well.
But it’s not really working for me. I’d had high hopes for Nicholas Royle’s novel, and there’s room yet for it to snag me, but on the whole I find myself not really caring. He switches too often between character viewpoints, and I don’t find any of the characters outside potentially the killer himself of any real interest. Or, more accurately, I am interested in an abstract manner, but am not invested in anybody. Royle seems too concerned with depicting seedy Antwerp and drawing a web of perfidy and callous modern ennui to spend much time worrying about whether his readers are connecting with any of it.
Also saw Burn After Reading, and while there were some enjoyable moments, along with the standard set of quirky character studies by the Cohen Brothers and a slew of talented actors, I found the plot not only too implausible but again lacked anybody with whom to sympathize with. If anything I sympathized with the CIA head who sits back looking befuddled and bemused as his underling continuously keeps him appraised of the development of events. Everytime something new occurs, he raises his eyebrows and seems to ask, “What? Really? Okay, keep an eye on things until they make sense, I guess. And why, exactly, are you bothering me with this?”
In the end Burn After Reading falls short of farce, but strains to hard to be a genuine comedy. It feels like the Cohen Brothers are simply being clever, flashing their talent idly to create a cast of characters without heart, caught up in a plot without purpose, in a film that spins frantically in circles but ultimately goes nowhere.
However, it’s worth watching just to see Brad Pitt play a spazzed out gym instructor, so.
What else? Ah yes–I finished Invisible Frontier, the nonfiction account of a pre-9/11 urban exploration group’s exploits in NYC. It was a quick read, and recounted their adventures in locales as diverse as the chthonic Croton Aqueduct to the United Nations and the roof of Grand Central Station. Its authors were erudite and clever, and charmingly presented their often silly antics with wit and faux-gravitas.
However, I think I came to this book with impossibly high expectations; I had an idea of what actually existed beneath New York City, but was hoping that this group’s explorations would reveal a whole underworld beneath the city. Other than abandoned subway stations, the old Amtrak Tunnel that runs at great length along the West side of Manhattan beneath Riverside Park, and the Croton Aqueduct tunnel that connects the Bronx to Manhattan, there was little else revealed.
Also, they simply weren’t as hard core as I had hoped. They were eccentric kids going where they shouldn’t, having a blast and recounting their exploits, but they were easily dissuaded from plumbing the depths of their exploration sites. For example, after a couple of hours worth of following the Croton Aqueduct south toward Manhattan, they are stymied by a room filled with waist deep water. Not wishing to endanger their camera equipment, they turn back. When they set out to explore the abandoned City Hall subway station, they never manage to do more than ride past it in an empty subway car. While exploring the tunnels beneath Grand Central (rumored to have twelve subterranean layers), they only manage to scope out one path for about 15 minutes before being sighted and bolting for the surface. Common sense prevails, and I don’t falt them for not wishing to be arrested or hurt, but well–this is a book that promises to reveal the hidden corners of the city, to expose the secrets to the light of day, and often at best manages to only show glimpses of what lies below.
I plan to watch Let The Right One In tonight, and have high hopes for it. Also, there is yet room for Antwerp to turn a corner, and so I’ll update later and let you guys know how things turn out.
All right. Off to break open another Toblerone bar and get back to work.