King Solomon’s Carpet – Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell)

Random House
1991

I picked up my first Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell novel for two reasons;
the story was centered around the London Underground and because I had seen the TV adaptation of Dark Adapted Eye. I have to say I’m slightly disappointed, even though sticking with the book to the end. Halfway through this convoluted tale, filled with strange variations of loser characters, I did not know the plot. There’s a large former schoolhouse in London that is let out by the landlord Jarvis. This includes Alice, a woman escaping both a dull husband and her newborn child; Tom, a busker who scrapes by and takes up with Alice; Jed, who keeps a falcon; Tina, a freewheeling spirit with two children, one of which is Jasper a rough 10-year-old who thrill seeking is undertaken by riding the roofs of underground trains. There’s also a dark-clad figure, Axel, and his companion who dresses up in a bear suit and terrorizes passengers with confrontational theater.
Jasper, Jed, Jarvis: three “J” males. Try keeping these straight as the narrative jumps between them. There’s also Tina’s mother Cecilia, who lives elsewhere and who had unmentionable, suppressed Sapphic longing for her longtime friend Daphne.
I kinda expected all these lives to intertwine in strange, unexpected ways, but so many of them are loners and socially inept that, despite renting rooms in one big house, they don’t. Of a main plot, there is the one of Alice, escaping a controlling marriage and finding a controlling relationship with Tom, until being seduced by the dark charisma of Axel, who, I don’t think it would be ruining anything seeings I guessed it in the earlier chapters, is a mad bomber. I finished the book, and I’m relieved.
Though mentioned as a book about the underground, the author shows no affection for the system–the tube is portrayed as dark, polluted, and full of strange, pleblike people. Oh well.

Ruthless People

Dirs: Jim Abrahams and David Zucker
1986
I got the urge to see “Ruthless People” again after Jessica’s last business trip,
where she caught it (for the first time) on her hotel TV.
Things I had forgotten about the film: Bill Pullman plays the dumb guy, sporting a seriously bad dye-job; the parade of awful awful awful ’80s furniture and fashion (Helen Slater’s character Sandy’s fashions looks like a selection of clown suits); it has a collection of similarly foul songs, including career nadirs from both Mick Jagger (the title track) and Billy Joel (the deluded and patronizing “Modern Woman”).
Things still the same: Danny DeVito’s gleefully evil performance. Yes, I know he plays this character in nearly every film, but this is probably the best incarnation, from hoping his new Doberman will eat his wife’s poodle to his casual and offensive dismissal of a wrong number.
Tightly written plot, courtesy of Dale Launer, by way of O. Henry. And a nice performance by Judge Reinhold, who talks about being bloodthirsty and ruthless while carefully scooping up a spider and placing it outside.
The film should be taught in economics course as an example of perceived vs. absolute value, with the rich man’s wife as the commodity.

Music for Oblique Strategies about Films

Brian Eno about films as experiments:

If I go to a cinema and I look at a film, what I do is take part in a kind of role-playing. I first of all watch a world being constructed, and if the film is any good I understand what the conditions and rules of that world are, and then I watch a few people who represent certain sets and bundles of characteristics, and I see what they do and how they relate to the world. Essentially what I’m watching is a kind of experiment that’s been set up. I’m watching what would it be like if the world was like this, and what would it be like if this kind of person met that kind of person in that kind of context.

From an excellent essay by Paul Morley on the release of the next three Eno Remasters.

Say howdy to Shannon


Well, begosh and indeed begorrah, as my best friend Scott and his wife Kat now have a bouncin’ baby boy called Shannon. After much labor, he dropped like a big fat funky fresh hiphop album sometime around 3 a.m. this morning. I’m told he weighs 8 lbs., which is like a small racehorse or something. Wow! And look at the photo: eyes open already! Blimey.