Earlier last week I was at Tea Factory in Nuwara Eliya, with me fam. The town is full of races and the Colombo elite summering like proper colonials… and I wasn’t there. Tea Factory is way up in the hills somewhere, Kandapopo or something. It’s actually chilly and you can wear long sleeves, a blazer even. I spent most of my time reading books in an effort to stave off travel-induced anxiety. These are my impressions of two of the bigger ones, ‘A Cause Untrue’ and ‘American Psycho’. We had to return to Colombo for a grand-uncle’s funeral, which were just as well cause I’d run out of books.
A Cause Untrue
This book is a well-written thriller in need of some editing. The start is riveting, and the action is well-paced, but after about the 8th terrorist attack I lost track of what was going on. The narrative is initially centered around one Army character, but it then splinters into multiple stories with different centers. I found it a bit jarring, but maybe that’s me. I think the thing would make an excellent film if they could whittle it down to maybe three terrorist incidents, with higher emotional import. As is, the author has the LTTE going on an international post 9-11 spree, basically attacking Canada without any real consequences. I also find the portrayal of Sri Lankan Intelligence as competent a bit baffling, but I’m no expert. Anyways, it’s all very good, it just lacks the satisfying thread-tie of a good thriller. Most thrillers I’ve read have one binding hero and one objective that gets accomplished. It’s an ancient model, and functional. A Cause Untrue, on the other hand, reads like a series of vignettes that could’ve been stitched together into something that makes more sense. Well worth the read though, very entertaining. Most ruminations on the war are hand-wringing, but this a more of the neck-wringing variety. I should repeat that I think this is much needed. It is about time for a kick-ass book to come out of this mess.
I’ve read this before, I just bought it at Barefoot and it’s still pretty fucked up and good. Bret Easton Ellis’s thing is wrapping a veneer of commercial name-dropping over absolutely depraved violence and sex. It’s stylized text, Tarantinoesque, covering a sorta modern ennui that ends not in the destruction of the self but of everything decent and human. The book reads like a bloody GQ, literally.
I like Ellis’s style and I once went through his whole Opus Dei at the library. ‘Less Than Zero’ has some distinguishing features, but even there he seems to be playing the same card â€“ pristine and psychopathic prose. ‘Glamorama’ is, as far as I can tell, the same book as ‘American Psycho’. The style is (was?) shocking and new, but it gets old. Anyways, I digress.
American Psycho is an interesting book, and a good movie. What is curious is that Jason Bateman’s flatness of effect is reflected in the prose itself, meaning that the book has almost no emotional impact of its own. The prose itself is psychopatic. As Bateman says,
There wasn’t a clear, identifiable emotion within me, except for greed and, possibly, total disgust. I had all the characteristics of a human being â€“ flesh, blood, skin, hair â€“ but my depersonalization was so intense, had gone so deep, that the normal ability had been eradicated, the victim of a slow, purposeful erasure. I was simply imitating reality, a rough resemblance of a human being, with only a dim corner of my mind functioning. Something horrible was happening and yet I couldn’t figure out why â€“ I couldn’t put my finger on it. The only thing that calmed me was the satisfying sound of ice being dropped into a glass of J&B. Eventually I drowned the chow, which Evelyn didn’t miss; she didn’t even notice its absence, not even when I threw it in the walk-in freezer, wrapped in one of her sweaters from Bergdorf Goodman.
You could say as much about the book. It is literally a dead puppy wrapped in a designer sweater. As such, it’s a very interesting experience, especially in that it makes you feel the same detachment as its characters. For example, the scenes of women being tortured with a nail-gun are almost indistinguishable in style from the obsessive machinations on getting dressed or eating out. What you, as a reader, feel in these situations is a vestigal revulsion, but there are no emotional cues contained within the book. There is no narrative ‘Voice of God’, and the absence makes you wonder if he exists.
I find American Psycho disturbing because they spend literally all of their time looking for booze or food. When I find myself doing the same things I feel strangely guilty now. Anyways, all these books should be available at Barefoot. I think I may order some other stuff from Amazon. Reading seems a more wholesome procrastination than TV.
View From Tea Factory