Thursday, September 14, 2006

Nathalie Baye, Bruce Wagner, Miranda July

Two more short pieces in Time Out New York:

• an interview with Nathalie Baye, an actress I like a lot more now than in her ’80s prime. She currently stars in Xavier Beauvois' excellent Le Petit lieutenant, and proved to be a smart, articulate interview subject.

• a quick review of Bruce Wagner's Memorial. I'm a bit surprised by the rash of reviews that say that Wagner has mellowed out, that he likes his characters more and that his tone isn't as misanthropic as it used to be. This misreading is based on the fact that Memorial isn't a Hollywood-industry novel. Most Hollywood novels are assumed to be cynical, even though they usually aren't; since Wagner directed his spotlight somewhere else, critics interpreted the change of focus as corresponding to some sort of renewed faith in humanity. Wrong! Most of the characters aren't obnoxious, true—they are weak, deceiving, pathetic. Wagner puts the elderly Marjorie through a 2006 SoCal version of the stations of the cross, which escalates until the old woman loses everything (including, most humiliatingly, control over her bowels). Marjorie's son is a location scout who develops an addiction to painkillers after being punked by a so-called friend. Her daughter is an architect who can't seem to get anything built and ends up getting impregnated by the tycoon whose memorial job she'd been courting. Through it all, Wagner's command of language sends me in an envy-fueled funk. What I wouldn't give to be able to be able to come up with his chapter on Zaha Hadid!

In other reading news, I was actually able to finish a short story in The New Yorker. After music, video, performance art and film, Miranda July has turned to fiction. Set in—where else?—Portland, Oregon, her effort, "Something That Needs Nothing," reads like an anomie-laden version of something from an early-’90s riot grrrl zine crossed with an Adrian Tomine comic; it's greatly effective because July knows teenage girls' hearts.

1 comment:

Larry Slade said...

It looks like I'm really alone in disliking the whole thing. But I get some encouragement from a friend who happened to come by while I was writing my thing. She said she had abandoned a previous Wagner work part way through.
I don't know, Maybe I was just having a bad week, but I thought he was pretty mean to his people and it just made me sad.