Byrdseyevue: books, opinion, media, perspective

December 6, 2007

Mind Clutter

Filed under: fiction,media — byrdseyevue @ 8:52 pm
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I stopped watching network news ten, maybe fifteen years ago, when I realized it really wasn’t covering hard news so much as highlighting so-called lifestyle puff stories. This was when cable news was synonymous with CNN, a hard news network that focused on foreign affairs. The kind of network a man could watch a war on. And watch a war I did. Me and Saddam. In our respective bunkers. IRAQ: take one, marked the advent of voyeournews. Needless to say, it was downhill from there. If you’ve ever held a remote you know what I’m saying.

Which left me with newspapers. And a new problem. For example, the New York Times, a loyal morning friend, now reports the Democratic primary as if it’s a done deal two person race. Not in so many words, of course, but like the rest of the media it keeps events relatively simple. And exciting. For a twelve year old. Two points of view and maybe a gratuitous sentence or two of a minority opinion so it can maintain its “intellectual” bona fides. Forget the news weeklies, the internet has rendered them superfluous. It’s actually embarrassing every few years when I look at one of them as it continues to flail about, searching madly for an identity, like a boated fish spending its last moments bemoaning its color and scale pattern.

The New York Review of Books is about the only periodical that provides perspective, but I continue to read the Times and a local rag and I know that none of the other so-called major papers are gonna be any different. There are the alternative weeklies, but you know in advance just what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it. Just read a first paragraph and you can feel the outrage piggyback onto your own. Why go any further? Other than the personal ads at the back.

What’s a person to do? Funny I should ask. First, get yourself a copy of Denis Johnson’s new book, Tree of Smoke. Thought you didn’t need another book about Vietnam? Think again. Powerful and dark, CIA in the vein of Mailer’s 1991 Harlot’s Ghost. Speaking of Vietnam- perhaps the best unknown and certainly underrated novel about the Vietnam war from the perspective of foot soldiers is the 1982 novel, The 13th Valley by John M. Del Veccio. This book is what Platoon should have been. The pseudo-philosophy from the pov of one character doesn’t quite work but you can skim it if you like.

Why did I jump from the New York Times to Vietnam war fiction. Fiction is a tried and true technique to minimize mind clutter and gain a better understanding of reality, that’s why.

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