Monday, May 2, 2016


I was afraid the conceit would overwhelm the tale and it did to some extent. Nevertheless, I watched all of "Look Who's Back," a German comedy/commentary movie in which Adolf Hitler comes back to life in 2014. A friend sent along the recommendation and I followed it. The humor took the edge off the didactic caterwauling that might have arisen from recreating a Hitler, but the template, without being too insistent, was interesting, given the rise of Donald Trump et al... the Hitler in all of us.

Likewise, I followed a recommendation from another friend who touted a novel called "Beatlebone" by Kevin Barry. Like the movie, the recommendation came a couple of years after its extolled popularity. It seems that I am always behind the cultural curve, a fact that allows some of the confetti of popularity to dissipate or find a less excited context. "Beatlebone" is an imagining of Beatle John Lennon's travels while trying to get his head screwed on straight. Reviews crowed about the writing and concept and ... well, I always liked John Lennon's quirky writing style, but this author-in-between remove from the man and his vision, leaves me satisfied with the authors whose approach to magic I prefer: early Thornton Wilder; Willa Cather; Isak Dinesen; and even Tolstoy all come to mind ... in which the magic grows out of the mundane -- natural as a dandelion. The self-referential focus of "Beatlebone" presumes I might be interested in the voice that speaks from the page. And I am ... but only vaguely. Tres sixties. I doubt if I can or will finish the book.

 Recommendations seem to hold out the promise of being or becoming better friends -- the recommend-er and the recommended-to drawing nearer based on something for which both feel affection. I sometimes feel somehow guilty that I cannot hold up my end of the bargain. It reminds me of a time when I was wildly enthusiastic about Zen Buddhist practice and a woman's asking me what it was like to chant as part of the ritual. This came to that and I ended up chanting the whole of The Heart Sutra for her as we sat in a car. She listened to the whole thing and then said, "It sounds like you're reading from a Chinese restaurant menu ... you know, column A and column B."

Which makes me think that recommendations are more about thinking what already exists through and reshaping it a bit. "Beatlebone" doesn't make me think so much of "Beatlebone" as it does, perhaps, "A Spaniard in the Works" or some other inventive, fictional jolt. The idea that my recommendation could or would be swallowed wholesale and create two people more kindred in spirit ... what sort of reality is that?

I don't believe I'd recommend it ... though I wish I could. Kinship is an odd commodity. Trying to convince anyone else is pretty odd as well, whatever the social imperative and longing might be.

1 comment:

  1. Considering the national pride movement that brought him to prominence is again growing, maybe the populace needs to be reminded of the reality. A lot of young folks don't know much about him. I can recommend remembering and learning our history. But i've never been a huge optimist, it seems to repeat for a reason.