Tag Archives: American literature

RIP Joan Didion (1934 – 2021)

Joan Didion was an American writer.

Miami (1987) by Joan Didion

I don’t quite know what to think of Didion’s writing and whether I would like to read it.

She seems similar to contemporary Susan Sontag, however, Didion seems strictly non-philosophical.

Something did catch my eye, however, it is Philosophy and Vulnerability: Catherine Breillat, Joan Didion, and Audre Lorde (2019) by Matthew R. McLennan, a book in which Catherine Breillat, Joan Didion and Audre Lorde are called rigorous “nonphilosophers”.

Update 24/12: I was wrong. I came to that conclusion after delving into the White Album (1979) book, which seems to be an interesting portrait of 1960s counterculture. But not only that, she gave the world a beautiful nobrow analysis. In the book The White Album (1979)there is a passage where she writes about her habit of watching outlaw biker movies and she says:

“I suppose I kept going to these movies because there on the screen was some news I was not getting from The New York Times. I began to think I was seeing ideograms of the future.”

RIP bell hooks (1952 – 2021)

bell hooks was an American author and social activist, working in the intersectionality of race, capitalism, and gender.

bell hooks interviewed by Charlie Rose in 1995

She is perhaps best known for Ain’t I a Woman?(1981).

I first came into contact with her work by way of Angry Women (1991), a book in the RE/Search series.

She also wrote on Paris Is Burning (1990) in a vocabulary typical of her corpus:

“Within white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy the experience of men dressing as women, appearing in drag, has always been regarded by the dominant heterosexist cultural gaze as a sign that one is symbolically crossing over from a realm of power into a realm of powerlessness.”

bell hooks on Paris is Burning in a piece published in Black Hooks (1992)

Each of these words, white, supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal, hetero-sexist sounds as meaningful and portentous as vacuous and meaningless. It is a description of a state of affairs that betrays a desire for change. The form of this change, however, is not spelled out. Would bell hooks prefer communism instead of capitalism?

Nevertheless, looking at old interviews on Charlie Rose, bell hooks comes across as a gentle, well-read and smart woman.

RIP Anne Rice (1941 – 2021)

“And what about the erotic stuff?” “You mean the pornography?”–Anne Rice interview (1993) by Charlie Rose

Anne Rice was an American writer known for her gothic fiction and erotic literature.

Vampirism as a metaphor for sex

I only read one of her books, her debut Interview with a Vampire (1976), probably when I traveled Indonesia or when I lived in China, I cannot remember.

It was the first vampire story that I read. Later I became interested in lesbian vampires. When I researched exploitation films I came to realize that female vampires preying on other vampires is a metaphor for lesbianism. Five minutes later I came to realize that that vampirism is a metaphor for sex tout court.

The road to sadomasochism …

And then obviously, the road from vampirism and sex to sadomasochism is short.

And by googling Anne Rice + sadomasochism, I stumbled upon the book Anne Rice Reader in which the interviewer asks:

In your novel Exit to Eden you talk about there being a racial memory of …

And her answer is:

“If we look for a cause, we would have to think about something like racial memory – something encoded in the genes, some way in which after thousands of years, we’ve turned experiences of violence and violation into something erotic.”

And then, googling again for Anne Rice and “racial memory” I land on my own site where I’ve started to wikify  the book The Biology of Horror.

Racial memory is a sort of vestigial memory a cell memory that contains all of the experiences of our species.

Lateral connections

In that same book The Biology of Horror there are (and I will not pursue the racial memory strain) some beautiful quotations by Rice:

A person unwilling to die is described as “the vampire of time which has sucked on it for years on end”.

And the book also mentions Anne Rice’s appreciation for a line of poetry by Yeats. She cites “I must lie down where all ladders start, / In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart” from “The Circus Animals Desertion”.

She seemed very intelligent and reminds me in some ways of Stephen King.

RIP William F. Nolan (1928 – 2021)

William F. Nolan was an American author best known for co-writing Logan’s Run, a dystopian novel which shows similarities to Blade Runner.

Trailer for Logan’s Run

Logan (the protagonist from Logan’s Run) is Rick Deckard (the protagonist from Blade Runner). Both chase renegades, rebels from the system. Logan is a sandman (a cop chasing people who refuse to be euthanized) and Deckard is a blade runner (a cop who chases robots who refuse to be put out of circulation).

Both change sides during the story, becoming renegades and rebels themselves.

For interesting thoughts on these similarities, check Hollywood Utopia: Ecology in Contemporary American Cinema (2005) and Blade Runner 2049 and Philosophy: This Breaks the World (2019).

RIP Ned “squeal like a pig” Beatty (1937 – 2021)

Ned Beatty was an American actor known for his parts in Deliverance (1972) and Network (1976).

Deliverance is known for its “dueling banjos” scene, its degenerate hillbilly trope and its brutal male-on-male rape, in which Ned Beatty is ordered to “squeal like a pig” while being anally raped.

In Network Beatty plays an executive who gives a speech on the nature of capitalism.

Epigraph page to Deliverance

This is also a good time to call to mind that in the novel Deliverance on which the film of the same name is based, the dictum “there exists at the basis of human life a principle of insufficiency” by Georges Bataille, is used as epigraph in the original French.