|This is a shot of a cameraman
who was recording a peace
demonstration in Washington
Square, Greenwich Village,
Reading Part V I foused on the brief glimpse of Charlie Wainwright. A lot of the things that we've been reading about are all of a sudden coming together. Wainwright works in the Fred F. French building that Klara Sax talked about in 1974. His ad agency wants to deal with weapons (relating both to J.Edgar Hoover in the Prologue and to Matt Shay in 1974) and, go figure, he has the baseball from 1951.
Like the rest of the characters (Nick, Matt, Klara), Charlie doesn't seem entirely happy with his job, but he does it. He thinks about the numerous people he fired ("He fired a pregnant woman once. He fired a man related to the Dutch royal family. He fired a Catholic, a Protestant and a Jew in fairly close succession.") but doesn't feel sorry for or about these individuals. He has affairs with secretaries and clerks in the office, but recognizes the "lovely sex with his wife in an antique bed with carved oak posts." And, for some reason, he, too, is "obsessed" with a baseball that may or may not be the ball Bobby Thompson hit back in 1951.
"He wanted his son to have it, for better or worse, love or money, real or fake . . . I could fall down dead passing the stuffed mushrooms at dinner and this is the one thing I want you to take and keep and care for."
While searching the web for some information pertaining to J. Edgar Hoover I came across the following website which is titled The Growth of the Anti-Communist Network. The web-site discusses the rise of anti-communism and it's network as rooted in what historians refer to as the nation's "countersubversive tradition". McCarthyism and it's respective viewpoints are explained or are accounted for as products of their times. The deep seeded anxieties about individual autonomy, gender identity, and the percieved loss of community result in national and individual fears and insecurities. "McCarthyism is the mid-twentieth-century manifestation of a contributing backlash against the modern, secular world."
I thought this may help clarify some of the characters and their behavior in DeLillo's Underworld. Hoover is described as an "obsessive" anti-communist. His vision however of endangerment extended beyond the Communist party to almost "any group that challenged the established social, economic, or racial order". We are told he dedicates his extensive career to "combatting the menace". "Because of his enormous success in building up his own power and that of the FBI , Hoover was able to transmit his own heavily ideological brand of anti-communism to the rest of the country."
From the above information I would now guess that DeLillo incorporates Hoover into his text to show how one's private life streamlines into public affairs and individuals lifes. The personal beliefs of Hoover were publicized and many American adopted his way of thinking. Perhaps Nick, Matt, or even the Texas Highway Killer found something in Hoover's way of thinking. Did the Texas Highway Killer shoot these people because the were of a different breed than him. Nick's obsessiveness in finding the perfect word(s) to descibe that which surrounds him could be a direct result of Hoover's obsessiveness in Anti-communism.
Also at the end of the website is a link titled 50's HOME. It also contains some useful information in our overall study. Kennedy, Vietnam, the Cold War, protests even the Beats are mentioned among frequently mentioned words like discontent, paranoia, nonconformists, and the end of ideology. There are some photos, posters, and other materials that we could post on our website. Particularly the photos of protests and protesters at civil rights demonstrations (Columbia University) which is discussed in detail in Chapter 5.
"Everything is real estate. You're a product of your geography. If you're a Catholic from New York, you're a Jew. If you're a Jew from Butte, Montana, you're a totally goyish concoction."
This quote from Bruce (pg. 544) reminded me of Wakefield's qutoe from "Lions & Cubs on Morningside Heights."
"I said something rueful and self-deprecating that he especially appreciated. It made him laugh, and he stopped walking and put his arm around my shoulder with brotherly affection. 'Wakefield,' he said, 'you're a Jew.' I smiled, feeling proud and elated. The illumination from a streetlight on one side and the glow from the plate glass window of a Rikers late-night restaurant on the other made a pool of light where we stood in the middle of the sidewalk. There was a warmth about the moment, a festive aura. I felt, at last, I had graduated."
Both of these quotes seem to emphasize that culture doesn't necessarily come from your specific family background, but the environment you grew up and/or live in. This seems to relate to many of the groups we've looked at this semester. Certainly, the members of Andy Warhol's Factory came from a number of backgrounds, but they have a shared culture, a shared identity, because of their environment. Culture has no limits and can come from a variety of experiences or areas.
"Then she told him she wanted to get married. She wanted to marry him and live with him, anywhere, wherever he wanted, and not have kids and not have friends and never go to dinner with her parents. There was a silence at the other end that she could not read. A telephone silence can be hard to read, grim and deep and sometimes unsettling. You don't have the softening aspect of the eyes or even the lookaway glance while he ponders. There's nothing in the silence but the deep distance between you."
"Max and I learned all the things that you can't learn about someone online, what they feel like, smell like, make love like. Physical chemistry can't be accurately gauged online. What is behind those words? Is he loud or quiet? There's so little sound in cyberspace."
Although these aren't exactly related, I think both quotes reflect a concern about technology. The first quote from "Underworld" takes place in the 1960's and the second is from "Cyberville" in the 1990's. Whereas the telephone was the main "modern" form of communication in the 60's, the Internet is now a more modern form. Both can be immediate ways of talking to - but not easily gauging the thoughts of - another person, or group of individuals. Human emotions - a smile, a tear - cannot be conveyed over these phone wires.
"They saw the lounge lizard with bedroom eyes. They saw and heard the frisky kid with the adenoidal voice, the boy who wants to make his mother laugh. They heard the frantic talker who chases after his own discontinuous ideas. They saw the zonked layabout, all lassitude and spent attention span. They heard the crusader for dirty words, the social philospher, the self-styled lawyer, the self-critical Jew, the Christiam moralizer and the commentator on race."
In the above quote from chapter 5 it became evident to me that Delillo uses Lenny Bruce because he serves to speak for all people. He is society's representative. He is the voice of the masses, however different they may be he can do them all (the black preacher, the Italian, the Jew, the Christian). Lenny is all races, classes, genders, ethnicities, etc, in his act. For these differences are no longer the main concern. The bomb and a possible war are what's on people's minds. "There was no context for the line except the one that Lenny took with him everywhere. The culture and it's loaded words." The content of his act covers these very issues and other larger societal issues and concerns that government and it's leaders were not willing to discuss with the everyday person. The state of the nation and the state of individuals was kept behind closed doors. Lenny however opened these doors in his act and felt almost obliged to speak about them. His act is straught with paranoia and fear the very things every American was feeling at the time. In this sense he is a unifying agent, he brings all people together. This is further evidenced bby the wide spectrum of people that attend Lenny's stand up. The audience can be compared in terms of the "melting pot" notion we discussed earlier in the semester.
As for the Playboy issue.,.. I thought of the DeLillo book where it talks about Jayne Mansfield versus Marilyn Monroe (both of whom we saw in the Playboy magazine). I just remember the insteresting comment in the book which said something like Marilyn wasn't interested in being Marilyn Monroe, but Jayne Mansfield was. Did Jayne Mansfield attempt to be like Marilyn? Could this apply to our take on recycling? Was Jayne trying to recycle Marilyn's image and reshape it? I dunno. Just a though.
To continue with the idea of Lenny Bruce verbalizing the ideas which nobody else ventured to do, I feel as if this man, in a time of great conformity, made himself into a rebel. Just like the beat poets, Warhol, and all of the Greenwich community, not to mention Solonis, Bruce took it upon himself to have no fear and tell it like it was. There was a statement in Underworld which basically said that Bruce's audience "waited for him to tell them what they thought." This idea relates to the fact that Bruce was a leader in a time of confusion. With McCarthyism, the A-bomb, and mass production, the country needed these people (like Bruce and the Beats) to open the airways and allow for new ideas to pour through.
Throughout this course we have discussed and examined the role of father figures in the lives of many of the people we have investigated. Delillo offered us a new approach or stance in our study. All of the fathers in his novel with the exception of Bronzini and Wainright are absent in their children's lives. Some physically others mentally. Under these circumstances mothers emerge (particularly Ms. Martin---Cotter's mother) as the leader of the family, offering guidance, strength, and a much needed will of determination.
What about mother's and their roles? The question has just now surfaced at the end of the semester. Just found the following website which contains an article, sort of an obituary, about Lenny Bruce's mother. The article is from Houston Chronicle and illustrates Lenny Bruce's mother played an instrumental role in her son's life and in his career as a comedian. Mrs. Bruce was also a comedian and a talent agent and Lenny began his career by "imitating his mother's act". Thought this article further raises the above question. Also mentions that Lenny Bruce's life story was made into a film titled Lenny which stars Dustin Hoffman as Bruce.
When we were watching the Jonas Mekas home videos in class the other day, he reminded me of the Albert Bronzini character from Underworld. Mekas asks the camera "what am I doing here?" and states that he will never forget his European childhood. I connected this to the time when Bronzini was playing chess with the old, Italian men. The men would speak in their native language and that took Bronzini back to his Italian childhood: "and odd how Albert, barely nearing forty, could feel his old-manness within him, here in particular, as the voices took him back to earliest memory . . . English was the sound of the present and Italian took him backwards."
Two things struck me in my reading of the 1968 section from "Our Times" as relevant to our course study. The first was the remark made by Andy Warhol after waking up in the hospital several days after Valerie Solanas attempted to take his life. Warhol upon turning on the television and seeing clips on Robert Kennedy's funeral remarked that he thought the funeral was his own. From his statement we can sense the importance and influence of public events on private lifes. In this case even a public figure was affected, Warhol confused his own staged assasination with Kennedy's. The event has a place in everyone's life.
Secondly, the emerging idea of "kitsch as collectibles". After a Mickey Mouse watch which sold for $2.98 in 1932 was sold for $100.00, people began saving everything from beer cans, razor blades, and match boxes hoping these items too would later be worth something. This idea reminded me of Delillo's discussion even arguement that everyday, common place objects are part of history. Even though most people consider these items garbage, Delillo recycles their meaning. He believes their stories are a crucial part of history that is hidden beneath the surface waiting to be investigated and told. The pop art of this period, especially those pieces done by Andy Warhol, are representative of these ideas. Beginning around this time we see the incorporation of mass produced items like the Campbell's soup can brought into art. Perhaps Warhol recognized the significance of these everyday widely available objects far before Delillo. Furthermore maybe Delillo attempts to acknowledge this in the scene at the Harry Trompote Black and White Ball where Warhol is present. Warhol comes to the ball wearing a mask that is exactly like his face. Is this Delillo's way of saying Warhol was transparent, he could look at an object and realize it's importance and/or significance far before others. Or did I just wake up a little too early this morning and make something out of nothing?
The one thing I was surprised that DeLillo never really mentioned was the Civil Rights Movement. There were brief glimpses of it (Rosie Martin, Marian listening to the riot) but nothing major. The CRM was a major force in a lot of what happened in post-1960's America and yet it plays little-to-no role in "Underworld". It would seem to me that the CRM would be a large place where different characters could coincidentally come together, however briefly. For example, the "Our Times" piece discusses a march that happned in NYC in April. Think of the characters that could've been involved with that.
I just found it pretty interesting that there wasn't a lot with the CRM. Maybe if we had seen what had become of Cotter in that time period, it would have been interesting, too, since he doesn't really remain a part of the story after Manx gets the ball.
DeLillo discusses many of these historical events in his section on the fifties and sixties (part 5). He writes about the Russian missiles into Cuba, Black demonstrators in a freedom march on Lynch Street, Matt's involvement in Vietnam, President Kennedy's speeches, nuclear strike capability, and satellites in orbit.
DeLillo also refers to a "Greenwich Village" atmosphere. For instance, Erica's artistic ability of creating dinner out of Jell-O is truly a unique talent. Also we can't forget the Truman Capote Black and White Ball in 1966 in which garbage guerillas, rebels, and revolutionists who want "power to shake the world" perform uninvitedly at the Ball. And lastly, Andy Warhol and Klara Sax's appearance at the Ball combine a nice replication of the political and social realms of the 50s and 60s.
The Troubadour, West Hollywood: Lenny Bruce, 1962
Lenny loves the postexistential bent of this line. In his giddy shriek the audience can hear the obliteration of the idea of uniqueness and free choice. They can hear the replacement of human isolation by massive and unvaried ruin. His closest friends laugh the loudest. Their fan-fed vanity is gratified. They're included in Lenny's own incineration. All the Lennies. The persecuted junkie. The antihypocrite. The satirist and nose picker. Lenny the hipster fink. Lenny the ass mechanic, girl-spotting in hotel lobbies. Lenny the vengeance of the Lord.
Basin Street West, San Francisco, 1962: Lenny Bruce
Lenny did the voices, the accents. He was not technically sound but mixed in whole cultures and geographies and cross-references to convey the layers of impersonation involved.
There was a beatnik elemnt in the audience, several postbeats in old checked lumberjackets vintage 1950, men with a kind of distance in their gazes but still alert to marvels astir in the universe....
.....The whole beat landscape was bpmb-shadowed. It always had been. The beats didn't need a missile crisis to make them think about the bomb. The bomb was their handiest reference to the moral squalor of America, the guilty place of smokestacks and robot corporations, Time-magazined and J. Edgar Hoovered...things Lenny made fun of. Lenny was showbiz, he was suited and groomed and cool and corrupt, the mortician comic, and the bomb was part of a scary ad campaign that had gotten out of hand.
Chicago: Mister Kelly's, 1962--Lenny Bruce
Lenny switched abruptly to ad lib bits. Whatever zoomed across his brainpan. He did bits he got bored with five seconds in. He did pscyhoanalysis, personal reminiscence, he did voices and accents, grandmotherly groans, scenes from prisin movies, and he finally closed the show with a monologue that had a kind of abridged syntax, a thing without connectives, he was cooking free form, closer to music than speech, doing a spoken jazz in which a slang term generates a matching argot, like musicians trading fours, the road band, the sideman's inner riff, and when the crowd dispensed they took this rap mosaic with them into the strip joints and bars and late night diners, the places where nighthawks congregate, and it was Lenny's own hard bop, his speeches to the people that rode the broad Chicago night.
Carnegie Hall, New York City, 1962: Lenny Bruce
Lenny just can't stop, he looks up from the proscenium arch and sees the ornamented ceiling, and the gilded rows of boxes and he knows this is the temple of Casals and Heifetz andToscanini and it gives him a mainline jolt....
They saw the lounge lizard with bedroom eyes. They saw and heard the frisky kid with the adenoidal voice, the boy who wants to make his mother laugh. They heard the frantic talker who chases after his own discontinuous ideas. They saw the zonked layabout, all lassitude and spent attention span. They heard the crusader for dirty words, the social philosopher, the self-styled lawyer, the self-critical Jew, the Christian moralizer and the commentator on race.
NYU: Martin Scorsese (Mary Pat Kelly)
During the last years of the 1960s, the Vietnam War dominated the national scene and was the focus of energy on the university campuses...
In May of 1970, at Kent State University in Ohio, state troopers fired on students demonstrating against the escalation of the war through the bombing of Cambodia. Four students died....
A series of spontaneous student protests began. At NYU, construction workers building the new library came down from the girders and attacked the marchers....
During that same summer of 1970, Scorsese was appointed to select programs for Lincoln Center's "Movies in the Park" series. Giant portable movie screens rose up in Central Park, Prospect Park, and Riverside Park as part of the city's attempt to diffuse the anger on the streets....
The audiences stretched out on the grass to watch the works by students, experimental filmmakers, and animators that flickered under the stars. One night, at the other end of Central Park, The Band, on their own after years with Bob Dylan, played "I Shall Be Released."
Oliver Stone on the NYU Film School(Mary Pat Kelly)
I had just come out of Vietnam, and I had a lot of personal problems dealing with reintegrating into society after leaving that very hostile area of the world. Being able to go to NYU on the G.I. Bill, and then accidentally running into a teacher like Scorsese in Filmmaking 101, is about as lucky as you can get. And not only was he a great teacher; he was inspirational. He loved movies, and that's what he conveyed to us--his love of movies.
It was exactly what I needed at the time, somebody who believed, who had a soul for something. Because I believed in nothing at that point. I was burned out. And I was very alienated from the American experience, and I didn't believe anybody who had anything to do with government, I didn't believe family, I didn't believe any of the old values I had been raised with....
Marty gave me some criticism once, he just said, "You've got to do something you really feel, something that's personal to you." So I went home and I did this story about what it was like for me to come back to New York City and be alone, and I think some truth got out in the movie. It was a very crude picture, very crude sound. I had a French sound track, with readings from Celine's "Journey to the End of Night." I had some Russian music--Borodin's "In the Steppes of Central Asia"--on the soundtrack, and mixed it crudely. But it had some heart, some feeling.