Total Oblivion

"A fast-paced, suspenseful dystopian picaresque, part Huck Finn and part bizarro-world Swiss Family Robinson..."



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Skinny Dipping

Long-listed for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and finalist for the Crawford Award. Title short story listed for the 2000 O. Henry award.

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Futures, Options, and Swaps (the weblog of Alan DeNiro)

John from Cincinnati

“I’m just saying give me the weight. That’s all I’m saying. I’m here. Let me take it.” -Mitch, episode 10

One of the best shows I’ve ever seen, even though the last few truncated episodes (out of only ten) definitely have the echoes of the HBO executives screaming off screen: “Pencils DOWN! Pencils DOWN! Uh…You are weird and unprofitable!”

And, despite the weirdness, it’s not about esoterica but rather is an exploration of the exoteric. John (from Cincinnati, kind of, depends on what you believe the city of Cincinatus) appears in Imperial Beach and sets about letting, and showing, everyone that the end is near. It is. John is the end, and also the beginning. He shows that the need for community is plain and simple, and the signs and wonders that bring the disparate characters together Love your enemies, even if they’re the fuckers who you think have ruined your life. John’s foibles and miracles creep upon the Yost family, broken beyond almost any recognition. But they heal. The show does an amazing job of letting the fantastic elements (the levitations and resurrections) work asymetrically-you think that the characters don’t realize what the heck is going on, until they start postulating on the nature of the supernatural events. For all of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez-like surfing-town antics, this isn’t a work of magic realism. It’s much more of a Dantean allegory. The Yosts start at the bottom, but hope rises with each episode. Hope becomes incarnate. I don’t know, it’s hard to describe. Many reviewers of the show decried the fact of this allegory:

In “John,” you get the feeling that Milch is using the characters as hooks on a pegboard, on which to hang his philosophical wares. The writing in the series just has no pleasure in it, not as it hits the ear or in terms of getting us any closer to these people and their problems, mundane or existential. (source)

A matter of taste is one thing, but to say that the language of this show doesn’t “hit the ear” is that mainstream trick of ignoring all types of non-realism that don’t fit your definition of appropriate, well-measured non-realism. It’s also fucking daft:

“Bill: Sweet enough look to his mug, “I got my eye on you”. [What John constantly tells Bill, a retired cop, played by Ed O'Neill] When he restrains himself from running his mouth. (Bill has an apple, he motions to Zippy to keep it a secret from the other birds) Far as him being stabbed, I’m not doubting it could have been a hoax, I don’t subscribe it definitely was … (He’s slicing up the apple) being I and a bird of my acquaintance know a boy who survived fatal injury, following the bird’s own resurrection. Sole change from what I said to you previous, Zip: Last overlap between me and the Yosts, Butchie asking my help with that search. A P.S., my assistance. An end to the concluding chapter, and final completion and finish. (He’s handing some apple slices to Zippy. Suddenly he reacts to something he has “heard” coming from Zippy) That is senseless and offensive. I deal with that shitbird only to put him in bracelets. And I’m surprised you’d need me to say so. (We see Zippy bobbing on his perch, then squawks)

Is what you envision, relative to those people, I balance the Hawaiian’s bad influence? Well that, Zip, would outstrip by a full triple-somersault every previous unlikely set of circumstances. (He turns, grabs his jacket and leaves)”

Likely makes no sense, I realize, if you haven’t seen the show, but perhaps the greatest conversation between man and bird ever. (Seriously, Zippy the parrot is a wonderful character.)

Same review, different day, in other words.

And so what are we left with? A little less than 10 hours of an uphill climb to redemption. A warning and a promise. Big waves on a border town that humble all surfers, even the ones that manage to catch them. Maybe especially so. Derelicts and criminals and prostitutes building bonds, aware of these times of desperation, and willing to come together to do something about it in the spirit of prophetic imagination.

Oh, and Luke Perry.

Fri, June 5 2009 » Movies/TV, Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead

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