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Mandy, Charlie & Mary-Jane: A Novel (Success…

Mandy, Charlie & Mary-Jane: A Novel (Success and Failure) (vuoden 2013 painos)

– tekijä: Stewart Home

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioKeskustelut
1211,304,390 (3.63)-
Charlie Templeton, his wife Mandy, and student mistress Mary-Jane Millford survived the London terrorist bombings of 7/7, but history has yet to be made. To save the future of western civilisation, Charlie, a schizoid cultural studies lecturer with a penchant for horror films and necrophilia, must fight the zombies of university bureaucracy and summon the will to become the last in a long line of mad prophets announcing the end of art.… (lisätietoja)
Teoksen nimi:Mandy, Charlie & Mary-Jane: A Novel (Success and Failure)
Kirjailijat:Stewart Home
Info:Penny-Ante Editions (2013), Paperback, 252 pages
Kokoelmat:Oma kirjasto
Arvio (tähdet):*****

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Mandy, Charlie & Mary-Jane: A Novel (Success and Failure) (tekijä: Stewart Home)


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Have you seen the movie Man Bites Dog? It's a 1992 Belgian mockumentary that begins humorously and then about two-thirds of the way through morphs into one of the most disturbing movies I've ever seen. The premise is that a documentary film crew is following a serial killer making his rounds and eventually they begin helping him to commit his crimes so that they can continue shooting the story. The tone initially is quite humorous and tongue-in-cheek, seemingly a dark satire of the media with implications around how media acts to sensationalize violence and popularize war. But then when the tone abruptly shifts to presenting the violence of the serial killer more clearly and horrifyingly, suddenly the viewer is sickened by her/his own complicity. At least, I was. By the fact that we considered the situation light-hearted in any fashion and worthy of humor initially. Although it was a "trick" by the director and writers, it is a valuable reminder. Who among us hasn't at some point enjoyed an "action movie"—a James Bond film, a Quentin Tarantino film, a horror movie, something that leverages violence for entertainment. Has our society become desensitized so much to violence that it contributes to the ease with which we accept the invasion of another country such as Iraq? And how easy is it to look the other way when it comes to civilian casualties?

The main character in Mandy, Charlie, and Mary-Jane, the eponymous Charlie, is a huge movie buff, and at one point he mentions Man Bites Dog and how he "loved it." There is a clear sickness in this character in his "love" for that movie. Man Bites Dog isn't a movie one should love. It's like saying you loved the Nuremberg Trials. Man Bites Dog is a valuable wake-up call for our own complacency in the face of violence, but it is a terribly painful movie. Charlie is psychotic and enjoys viewing pain in others, hence he could "love" this movie. Man Bites Dog is also relevant to MCaM in that both blend together disparate styles to create something unique and cross-genre, and both are satirical, disturbing, and comment on violence in society.

There are so many thematic facets to this book that innumerable theses could be written on the subject. Let me begin by reiterating something I mentioned in a previous review of a book by Stewart Home. He has no interest in realism. In fact, he seems opposed to it in that it reinforces the idea of a centered subject, an "I" an "ego," that has some concrete nature. In Home’s books, dialogue is often unnatural or posed, plot events contrived or exaggerated, and digressions frequent. I see Home as creating a symbolic model of the world rather than a realistic narrative story. He is an experimentalist in the best sense of the word.

The main character of MCaM is not realistic whatsoever rather he acts as an element of symbolic storytelling. MCaM doesn't fit any genre conveniently although you could call it postmodern. This book follows a style Home established in 69 Things to Do with a Dead Princess but takes further. It is a mash-up, a genre collision more than anything else. 69 Things was a bit more cut and dried in the styles and in the cut-up technique; in this case we have more narrative elements that tend to cause greater ambiguity. But in general what we find here is a collage of: academic culture, right wing politics, cultural and film critique, horror movie/torture porn and drugsploitation-style shenanigans.

Our main character, Charlie, a cultural studies professor at a small country university in England, is decentered from the get-go. At times, he forgets his name. At times he forgets what he’s doing or the point of his lecture. At times he forgets that he is married. At one point he calls himself “an amorphous mass of nothingness.” This could be said of the character as well as our selves. As in Man Bites Dog, you may at first find his obsession with classic horror movies (particularly of the Italian splatter variety) to be quite humorous and over-the-top along with his desire to shoot his own film “…tentatively titled Zombie Sex Freaks." But soon enough, if you are paying attention, you will find his interest in horror movies is a violence-and-rape fetish excused by the application of cultural criticism. It is an obvious indictment of our culture’s use of violence as entertainment, but it also acts to indict critical theory and much of postmodernism (ironic, eh?) that permeates academia as being detached and without real-world application. Home seems to be implying the same critique against academia (and critical theory) that Hannah Arendt applies to philosophy in general. Arendt posits that Western philosophy is too focused on the “contemplative life” rather than “active life” and this leads to philosophical ideas not being relevant to real life. She argues that more philosophers need to engage in everyday political action or praxis, which she sees as the true realization of human freedom.

And I agree. My own experience in graduate school was that it was invented to make it very difficult to get a job as a professor. It helped create an exclusive theoretical language that prevents outsiders from publishing in theoretical journals. Most published academic works are critiques of other academic works. Without theory and jargon, anyone could get a job as a professor!

Our main character embodies much that is wrong with the world. He is what you would call a scumbag. He is sexist and arrogant, intellectual in a fashion that is utterly detached from human consequences, selfish and hypocritical, and only out for himself. Other individuals are pawns in advancing his desires. He’s like a right-wing think tank pundit. Another relevant touchpoint is American Psycho. I have not read American Psycho, but I get the premise. MCaM discusses torture, but (as I understand it) doesn’t enact it in the same way that AP does. It’s not rendered in details, and it is primarily referenced through movies. While this book is more sophisticated, there similarities in the way Charlie digresses for pages and pages on music and workout routines just as the killer in AP digresses on music and fashion and brands. It demonstrates a shallowness in the content of our society, how we chatter away about things that seem so important…while Rome burns (global warming.) The repeated focus on fitness also seems to fit with a social Darwinist critique.

A few of the additional charges Home levels against academia include: the rightward shift of degree programs (it’s where the money is), and the grim question of what college prepares you for these days...given how expensive it is and how few jobs there are. Moving back home with the parents, much? Other themes that bubble up include: art as a business, the alienation of technology, and the dark force of nationalism. I found this to be an interesting quote: “When technology completely alienates us from our fellows, the most overprivileged people from the overdeveloped world are instantly transformed into the most vicious savages of all time.”

The story kind of collapsed into occultist weirdness at the end that didn’t quite fit into the threads from earlier in the story, but that’s okay. Even when Home is off, he’s on. Somehow a story that collapses at the end without a logical conclusion sounds to me like what is going to happen to our civilization. Call it a sacrifice for art. ( )
1 ääni David_David_Katzman | Nov 26, 2013 |
ei arvosteluja | lisää arvostelu
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia


Charlie Templeton, his wife Mandy, and student mistress Mary-Jane Millford survived the London terrorist bombings of 7/7, but history has yet to be made. To save the future of western civilisation, Charlie, a schizoid cultural studies lecturer with a penchant for horror films and necrophilia, must fight the zombies of university bureaucracy and summon the will to become the last in a long line of mad prophets announcing the end of art.

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