Friday, June 06, 2008

Good, Bad, and Ugly

The good: I finally finished reading Joseph O'Connor's fabulous novel Redemption Falls a couple of nights ago; I took a hiatus from the book to work on my house. This book took so long for me to get through in part because the writing is so gorgeous I found myself reading some paragraphs three or four times. For example:

There is a place to which he goes when the dread bubbles up. A Republic that exists in the air. A realm of queenly women encountered by lakes, Drovers and cowboys. Redcoats and pikesmen. King John the Conquerer and the Old Woman of Ireland. The Jesus of the hymns, and shipwrecked sailors, and the wild colonial boys. And he wanters this country of inherited song, lifting its rocks of rhyme. Here is the Holy Virgin, sweet Star of the Sea, spinning gold with Black-Eyed Susan. Cotton-Eye Joe strumming a lute for the Trickster, their faces grave as gravestones. John the Baptist in the Jordan, singing "Revenge for Skibbereen"--and he ast his gal for water, but she gev him kerosene.

The novel is set up as a narrative interspersed with primary source documents. The central characters are Irish-Americans, displaced from Ireland, then displaced by the American Civil War. Redemption Falls is a dump of a town in the "Mountain Territory," and a few of the characters find some sort of redemption at the end of the book. The main themes of the book, however, are tragic love, death, war, and belonging. There's also a search for a blood relative that hits a bit close to home.

The bad: DW and I watched CBS's Swingtown last night to see if it was as bad as we thought it would be. The show is in the so-bad-it's-good category, so we may tune in next week out of curiosity. After one commercial block, our screen went black. DW asked whether the show was so bad that it had already been cancelled. The conceit of the series is that a middle-class suburban family in 1976 moves to a wealthier neighborhood, across the street from a couple who happen to be swingers. The parents from the family that just moved in go to a party at the swingers' house and decide to pop quaaludes and swap partners. I've never swung, but I suspect that most people wouldn't engage in swinging just because their new neighbors ask them to. The show reminded me of what a former coworker said about baby boomers: They did too many drugs in the 60s and ruined recreational drug use; had too much sex in the 70s, got too many STDs, and ruined recreational sex; drank too much in the 80s and ruined drunkenness; and made too much money in the 90s and ruined greed--what's left for us?

I was 13 years old in 1976, so bits and pieces of the show wrang true. In one scene, two teenage boys get caught looking at porn, and the dad tells his son just don't let his mother catch him with that. When I was 12 or 13, I found my dad's tiny porn stash behind some bullets in his closet (funny juxtaposition, that) and converted it for my, um, use. I mentioned that to my mom a few years ago, and she said, "so that's what happened to it." It struck me as hilarious that my parents had a son in puberty and didn't think to check my room for the missing stash of naughty stuff.

The ugly: The 1970s clothing on Swingtown. Ew.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

whether the show was so bad that it had already been canceled

That is a great line!