Monday, August 28, 2006


I. James Wolcott on Entourage
... It’s quite a dinky show, its lead character and meal ticket played by a zero-charisma, slim-talent pretty boy—Adrian Grenier—whose curls camouflage the emptiness within. I have to remind myself that Grenier was the male star of Toback’s Harvard Man, he made such a void onscreen, and I gather he created a similar nonimpression in his boyfriend role in The Devil Wears Prada. The notion that an actor who looks more a Greek shepherd boy could be cast as punk geek Joey Ramone strains credulity even for the toothless satire of Entourage, and his parasitic posse of likable lugs are equally retrograde material. As Drama, Kevin Dillon struts around as if he swallowed Viagra and it engorged his neck rather than his prick, and his grease-monkey line readings are just this side of the Fonz. ... And, this may sound tellibly, tellibly snobby of me, but life’s too short to care whether or not a hanger-on named Turtle scores the exclusive premium sneakers he covets.


Having read all the raves for Entourage, I was surprised and yet not surprised at the low level of its satirical sophistication. Larry Sanders did a much better job at capturing vanity and career anxiety on the fly, and the self-loathing that collects after so many years of doing lucrative crap. Well, Entourage does have Jeremy Piven working it as the agent Ari, and some episodes that’s all it has, Piven's snazzy moves and smarmy attack making Vince and his crew look like four garden gnomes dressed for a big day at the mall.
II. Michiko Kakutani on Jonathan Franzen's new memoir, The Discomfort Zone

This severely negative critique may be the funniest book review I've ever read.

Jonathan Franzen is a sad case. I liked The Corrections, but think that people who saw it as an important work by a major new writer fooled themselves. Jonathan Safran Foer has the same problem. Foer and Franzen are both talented writers who produced a good novel and drowned in a sea of hype and overexposure.

I think the problem is that a lot of people, including me, are sort of desperate to find a novelist under 40 who they can love. Britain doesn't seem to have any shortage of strong young writers -- David Mitchell and Zadie Smith, for example -- but the U.S. is struggling. Every so often a Foer or a Franzen, or a Freudenberger or a Haslett or a Kunkel or a Langer, bubbles up and becomes a source of hope. Unfortunately, instead of giving them room to grow and build, their talents are overpraised too early. A backlash follows, and the follow-up is labeled disappointing.

I soured on Franzen after I read his essay collection How to Be Alone. At 47, he's decided to publish a memoir, and Michiko Kakutani is displeased:
... In his new memoir, “The Discomfort Zone,” Mr. Franzen turns his unforgiving eye on himself and succeeds in giving us an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass: petulant, pompous, obsessive, selfish and overwhelmingly self-absorbed. He tells us that as a child he was “a small glutton for attention, forever turning conversations to the subject of myself.” He tells us that he felt put upon by public entreaties to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. (“Why should I pony up for this particular disaster?”) And he tells us that he used to find it difficult to enjoy nature’s beauty: a hike up to a spectacular summit was never enough; instead he would imagine himself “in a movie with this vista in the background and various girls I’d known in high school and college watching the movie and being impressed with me.”
Mr. Franzen writes that he and his wife “lived on our own little planet,” spending “superhuman amounts of time by ourselves.” He fills his journals with transcripts of fights they’ve had, and writes that they both “reacted to minor fights at breakfast by lying facedown on the floor of our respective rooms for hours at a time, waiting for acknowledgment of our pain.” “I wrote poisonous jeremiads to family members who I felt had slighted my wife,” he adds, while “she presented me with handwritten fifteen-and twenty page analyses of our condition; I was putting away a bottle of Maalox every week.”

1 comment:

Flop said...

All we need is Keith Jackson and a 70s soundtrack and we can make our own Haterade commercial.

Incidentally, all of what Wolcott said about Entourage is true, and yet I still watch.

And, strangely enough, U.S. male novelists are apparently like U.S. men's tennis players.