Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things By Gilbert Sorrentino, 1971
One of the more accomplished of a certain style of post-modern writing whose influence is still felt, even if those who share its tricks are unaware of Sorrentino’s existence, Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things starts in a stronger place than where it ends, but the ride to that end is so delightful in its bitchiness that its hard to hold what feels like a tossed off conclusion against it. It doesn’t hurt that the author never stops reminding you of how artificial the construct of fiction can be, stopping in the middle of the narrative to address that the characters he’s created aren’t real or interesting, so he’s going to blind one of them, and isn’t that kind of overdoing it, anyway?
It’s that bitchiness that keeps the pages turning, really. Sorrentino has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of contemptuous remarks to deliver about the people that surrounded “him” in the late 50’s, and they’re never repetitive and rarely unfunny. He’s mean to people who probably deserve it, both because they’re ridiculous and because they’re probably doing the same to him. Hungrily sexual—this is a book with a lot of ass eating—Sorrentino’s “friends” can’t keep their hands off each other, and their drunk fucking makes for plenty of over-the-top drama. It takes a good couple of pages to catch up with what Sorrentino is doing with his writing—lists and rejoinders, author as narrator as author speaking directly to reader, and it’ll certainly help to have your Joyce references up to date—but the work is worth it in the end, if only so that you can wash off some more of the stink that comes from believing in the intellectual salons of the past.
Last Days By Brian Evenson
"I’ve beat the system, he thought. and then thought, no. This was simply a sign that he’d already stopped being human and wasn’t planning on coming back."
A gory detective novel where the protagonist spends the whole book trying as hard as he can not to take the case (and ends up solving it purely on accident before the halfway point), Last Days is the book that cemented my affection for the writer to such a degree that I plan to parcel out what else of his work remains slowly, so that hopes of new Evenson always dance forever in the horizon. There’s a delightful pointlessness to Last Days—its a book that is almost surly in its rejection of easy acceptance being far too violent for the literary fiction crowd and way too weird for the murder mystery club. Its reminiscence of things is a mirage, something that fades when you actually try to shelve it alongside Ben Wheatley’s Kill List or the works of Raymond Chandler. It’s vague acknowledgement of the nastier, dustier, bloodier splinters of the Bible are where its furious pace most often lets up; it’s those sentences, Christian sentences, when Evenson is most willing to allow a pregnancy of attention. What you see is invariably unpleasant, but hey: so is the Bible, right?
The Literary Conference By César Aira, Translated by Katherine Silver, 2006
A ninety page piece of perfection, The Literary Conference reads less like a novella and more like the transcript of a really great joke that just happens to be a bit longer than most jokes. While there’s definite similarities in terms of tone to other pieces of writing—seasonal moments in Camus, the way Thomas Mann describes clothes—Aira is the real deal, a singular, demanding voice. Translating the work must be pure alchemy, Aira’s sentences feel so dependent on another. (I thought about pulling one in for quotation, but it’s impossible to find one that could feel comfortable removing from those that surround it—it would just be cruel.) A newly rich mad scientist goes to a literary conference: enjoy!
Here is part one of six of the first Travis Bickle on the Riviera video essay series, Tarantino Goes West.
This episode features the voices of Tucker Stone, Morgan Jeske, and David Brothers.
The videos in this series will cover Tarantino's latest film, The Hateful Eight, as well as it's cinematic, literary, and historical precedents. Ranging from cowboy novels of the turn of the 20th century to the horror films of the 70s. The series will try to contextualize Tarantino's film in the history of the western and how the film argues that the western is a narrative that has been built on some spectacularly vile and racist ideas.
This second episode begins a two-part exploration of the cast of the film, with the roots of the characters Major Marquis Warren, John Ruth the Hangman, General Sandy Smithers, and Sheriff Chris Mannix. Our next section will focus on the members of the Jody Do Min Gray Gang. Some of the topics covered here include John Wayne, John Carpenter, John Sturges, the Shaft series, Walter Hill, Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci, black westerns, William Quantrill, the buddy cop movie, the James / Younger Gang, Mel Brooks, Lee Van Cleef, Samuel L Jackson, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, Clint Eastwood, and the KKK.
This is something I've wanted to do with the show for a while and it is only now possible thanks to the support of our Patreon backers. This first series will be made available to them a little early in thanks for their support. We hope to continue making videos like this and we hope you enjoy this project and you can support us at the new level to make more of these happen. Prospective topics for future series include: Suspiria, Django Unchained, Death Proof, Kathryn Bigelow, and the early films of David Cronenberg.
- Sean Witzke
References used in creating this episode:
The Hateful Eight: A Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino
10,000 Ways To Die by Alex Cox
They Live (Deep Focus) by Jonathan Lethem
John Carpenter: The Prince of Darkness by Gilles Boulenger
From Shane To Kill Bill: Rethinking The Western, by Patrick McGee
Big Trouble In Little China(1986), dir. John Carpenter
Death Proof (2007), dir. Quentin Tarantino
High Plains Drifter(1973), dir. Clint Eastwood
Pale Rider(1985), dir. Clint Eastwood
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), dir. Clint Eastwood
The Thing (1982), dir. John Carpenter
The Thing From Another World (1951), dir. Christian Nyby & Howard Hawks
The Magnificent Seven (1960), dir. John Sturges)
Ice Station Zebra (1968), dir. John Sturges
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), dir. John Sturges
Red River (1948), dir. Howard Hawks
The Searchers (1956), dir. John Ford
Rio Bravo (1959), dir. Howard Hawks
Taxi Driver (1976), dir. Martin Scorsese
True Grit(1969), dir. Henry Hathaway
True Grit (2010), dir. The Coen Brothers
Wild Bill(1995), dir. Walter Hill
Calamity Jane(1953), dir. David Butler
Deadwoodepisode 1 (2004), dir. Walter Hill
Kill Bill vol. 2 (2004), dir. Quentin Tarantino
Crimson Tide (1995), dir. Tony Scott
The Trip (1967), dir. Roger Corman
Marnie (1964), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Laredo episode (1965)
The Cowboys(1972), dir. Mark Rydell
Family Plot(1976), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Last Man Standing(1996), dir. Walter Hill
The Driver (1978), dir. Walter Hill
Posse(1975), dir. Kirk Douglas
The Oxbow Incident (1943), dir. William A Wellman
The Hellbenders (1967), dir. Sergio Corbucci
George Wallace from ABC news
Jesse James as the Outlaw(1921), dir. Franklin B Coates
The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (2007), dir. Andrew Dominik
The Long Riders (1980), dir. Walter Hill
Merrill’s Marauders (1962), dir. Samuel Fuller
The Great Silence (1968), dir. Sergio Corbucci
Blazing Saddles (1974), dir. Mel Brooks
Head of State (2003), dir. Chris Rock
Red Rock West (1993), dir. John Dael
Have Gun Will Travel - “Brotherhood”
Kill Bill vol. 1 (2003), dir. Quentin Tarantino
48 Hrs (1982), dir. Walter Hill
Inglourious Basterds (2009), dir. Quentin Tarantino
Lethal Weapon (1987), dir. Richard Donner
The Defiant Ones (1958), dir. Stanley Kramer
Skin Game (1971), dir. Paul Bogart
100 Rifles (1969), dir. Tom Gries
Black Mama, White Mama (1973), dir. Eddie Romero
Night of the Living Dead(1968), dir. George Romero
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), dir. John Carpenter
Dawn of the Dead (1978), dir. George Romero
They Live (1988), dir. John Carpenter
“Osservator Osservati” by Ennio Morricone from For a Few Dollars More.
“Padre Ramirez”, “Il Deserto” & “Il Tramanto” by Ennio Morricone from The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.
“Minacciosamente Lontano” “Attessa Del Nulla” & “I Crudeli (The Widow)” by Ennio Morricone from The Hellbenders.
“Orientation” by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth from Escape From New York.
“Roll Away” by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth from They Live.
“Town of Silence” & “Fango Giallo” by Luis Bacalov from Django.
“No Name Bar” by Isaac Hayes from Shaft.
“Escape From Northfield” & “Better Things to Think About” by Ry Cooder from The Long Riders.
“Blue Suede” by Vince Staples.
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You can download episodes directly from itunes and rss. For a quick look at who has been on the show before and what movies have been discussed in each episode, look at our one-page episode guide. This is a Patreon-supported podcast, subscribing to the show can give you access to monthly criticism from Sean, Tucker, and Morgan. You can watch Sean's Travis Bickle video essays atvimeo.
You can follow the show on twitter, tumblr,letterboxd, and facebook. If you like this show, please check out Tucker’s other podcast Comic Books Are Burning In Hell (also located at TFO and here), TFO's music podcast Beat Connection with Marty Brown and Nate Patrin (at TFO and here), and Katie Skelly & Sarah Horrock’s Trash Twins (located here and here), which Sean edits.