weeknight sound track
Monday 1am-3am

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It's 1am. Late. You really should go to bed.

But not yet. Should check your email.


No email.


Well, since you're here, might as well check E2.......




"Lost in the Funhouse" - Prickly

The New Pornographers - "The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism"

"Disseminated" - Soul Coughing

Promise Ring - "B is for Bethlehem"

"Teen Death" - Syrup USA

The Breeders - "Huffer"

"The Operation" - Thinking Fellers Union Local 282

Heavenly - "Nous Ne Sommes Des Anges"

"Only in the Movies" - Plumtree

Dolly Mixture - "Side Street Walker"

"By The Way" - Built To Spill

Dear Nora - "Everyone's The Same"

"The Way You Look" - Damien Jurado and Gathered in Song

Jale - "Ali"

"Cars and Parties" - Edith Frost

Gillian Welch - "Elvis Presley Blues"


You rub your eyes. You watch as the minute hand nestles itself between the 1 and the 2. It's gotten later. You'll just finish the writeup you're reading. Then bed.

"Losing End" - Fuzzy

Broadcast - "Message From Home"

"Amelia Earhart Vs. The Dancing Bear" - The Handsome Family

Barbara Manning - "Stain on the Sun"

"Sermon of the 12 Acknowledgements" - The Badger King

Sissy Bar - "Mello 73"

"Girl in a Box" - Blake Babies

Papas Fritas - "People Say"

"Wedding Day" - Rosie Thomas

Jason Loewenstein - "Let Yr Guard Down"

"Off You" - The Breeders

Amoebic Ensemble - "UubU"

"My Dreamgirl Don't Exist" - Neutral Milk Hotel

Yo La Tengo - "Autumn Sweater"

"The Piston and the Shaft" - Thinking Fellers Union Local 282

The Verlaines - "Death and the Maiden"


Holy monkey's bottom. It's 3. How did that happen? You blinkingly stand. Gaze at the screen. Turn the computer off. Shuffle off to bed.


Sleep.

Lost in the Funhouse is a collection of short stories by noted author John Barth. It is surreal, postmodern and absolutely absurd, at the same time as it is down-to-earth, realistic and steeped in mythology.

A blurb on the back cover of my edition summarizes the majority of the stories very nicely. It (the Washington Post, no less) says basically that Barth elevates daily life to the level of mythology and brings mythology down to the level of daily life. A cursory glance at the table of contents:

  1. Frame-Tale
  2. Night-Sea Journey
  3. Ambrose His Mark
  4. Autobiography
  5. Water-Message
  6. Petition
  7. Lost in the Funhouse
  8. Echo
  9. Two Meditations
  10. Title
  11. Glossolalia
  12. Life-Story
  13. Menelaiad
  14. Anonymiad

"Frame-Tale" is just that--a story which, along with a few others, forms the backbone of the stories (they are mostly unrelated otherwise). Though this is not explicit or obvious, Barth seems to be presenting the stories as being told within the context of the Frame-Tale.

These stories deal with unusual concepts; it is hard to give examples without compromising plot. The strangest thing about the collection is that it is designed as a sort of cyborg audiobook. Barth, in his foreword, explains that some of these stories are best listened to on tape as reenactments, some best conveyed by a "Read by the author" style, and some best read directly from the page. He has a good point--the auditory "imagery" here is very strong, especially in (unsurprisingly) "Glossolalia."

A very interesting collection; I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the roots of postmodernism (before it became a lifeless, soulless shell).

Node Your Homework!

John Barth's short story 'Lost in the Funhouse' attempts to be a perfect marriage of style, form, and content. Using the structure of a funhouse or a labyrinth as its guide, it constructs and reflects the mind of a precocious adolescent.

When the story starts, the path is clearly marked. The characters are sitting in a car, making a journey they have often made. Everybody knows where they are going; the interjection in the story of facts about punctuation, grammar, and the like serves to illustrate this fact. But as the story winds on, it attempts to create a constant mood, a sense of confinement, of no resolution. Every possible resolution, every possible climax or story, leads nowhere. Ambrose can't just die, can't just switch off his life. There is no blind Negro girl, no easy moral or simple solution. There is just his thoughts winding in on themselves like that funhouse, a constant maze.

This spiraling, maze-like structure is achieved through the use of third-person limited omnicient POV. We are not sure if we are seeing through Ambrose's POV within the funhouse, through the author's eyes, or through the eyes of an adult Ambrose who has somehow escaped the funhouse (this could be the author).

The third-person POV, whoever it represents, creates an extraordinary sense of claustrophobia, as every event, association, and thought is seen through this precocious mind. This is a mind that revisits thoughts ('As James Joyce once wrote', 'she was very well-developed for her age', Peter's constant teasing of Magda) in new configurations, using them like the funhouse mirror itself and making it hard to see anything outside Ocean City, Magda, Peter, and Ambrose's own feelings of inadequacy. The story is successful in this regard because it traps us like Ambrose may or may not be trapped in that funhouse; every statement leads to an ambiguity, or a correction. At certain points, the internal reality of the story breaks down:

'Naturally he didn't have nerve enough to ask Magda to go through the funhouse with him. With incredible nerve and to everyone's surprise he invited Magda, quietly and politely, to go through the funhouse with him'. (pg 90) Moments like these serve several functions. By calling into doubt the reality of the story, they serve the metaphor of the funhouse, a place where things are changed and mutated. They also reinforce the questions of narrator and authorship that wind through the story: is this a story being written and constantly revised by John Barth? Are these Ambrose's ramblings as he sits, dying 'telling stories to himself in the dark' (pg 95)? How much of the story is 'true' in any sense?

These questions illustrate that the story is, as Barth hints in the last sentence, an elaborate structural creation more then a coherent narrative. If we take the last sentence of the story: 'Therefore he will construct funhouses for others and be their secret operator-- though he would rather be among the lovers for whom funhouses are designed' as a statement of authorial intent, then every time we question the truth of the narrator and the narrative we are demonstrating how successful Barth is in his purpose. It is noteworthy that the few specific funhouse attractions he mentions are means of upending and disturbing balance and vision: the mirrors, the revolving drum, the spinning disks.

All this formal invention is put towards answering Barth's own question (or is it a quotation?): 'Is anything more tiresome, in fiction, then the problems of sensitive adolescents?' It is here that the reason for Barth's continual evocation of James Joyce becomes relevant. Like Joyce did in 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' and several chapters of 'Ulysses', Barth rescues this moribund genre through original formal invention. By placing us firmly in the eyes and mind of an ultimate 'sensitive adolescent', somebody who is too bound up with metaphors, stories, and other literary devices to enjoy the simple fun of a funhouse, an older brother, and a girl ('His brother was a happy go lucky youngster who'd've been better off with a regular brother of his own'), Barth magnifies all his problems and thoughts a thousandfold. Little things gain significance, and the thought of one girl becomes almost everything.

That is not to say the story is without humor, but like Fat May's laugh it is a mocking humor, a self-reflexive humor. Ambrose's dreams of a life with Magda are stiflinglu bourgeoisie, complete with pipe and sweater. He is also pedantic to a fault, and as he realizes, 'nobody likes a pedant'. Still, the novelty of the story's form and its complete structural continuity (there is nothing in it that does not reflect the idea of the funhouse) invite some sympathy with Ambrose, and the palpable sense of fear and confinement as the reader realizes there is no escape from the story is masterful.

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