Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Coming of age in the monoculture

After reading the mostly completed screenplay that I worked on in June, my sister recommended I see "Superbad" for its very strong parallels, allegorizing a bildungsroman story through the search for prohibited substances that turn out to reveal and destabilize assumptions as they offer entry into "adult" dangers and involvement. It is "universal" insofar as the story of adolescence is the story of going from the anxious outsider to the anxious insider. Like "Knocked Up", which has paved the way in terms of marketing and theme (both films derive from similar impulses in like-minded --ie the same-- people), the comedy is essentially mitigated because growing up means dealing with other people. Both stories move from a pornographic mindset into a social one and both feature male protagonists fondly/bitterly parting from mono-gendered viewpoints into more complicated, sexual one. As Joshua Clover pointed out very accurately in his recent blog about adulthood and Adam Sandler, the films equivocate between taking the new adult world as an improvement or a necessary evil towards perpetuating the Way Things Are. In other words, you were right to be afraid because now the only reason you aren't afraid anymore is because you've lost. Which is not exactly satisfying.

Here I am, for instance, back in Massachusetts and passing along quite quietly not in the city. I've been continuing to explore Stephanie Young's excellent anthology Bay Poetics which makes me lonesome in a different way for the West Coast, if not old Brooklyn where I'll be within the week, I think. The anthology has a certain grab bag quality (the poets are presented in a mysterious, neither alphabetical nor thematic order) that accentuates a feeling of embarrassment of riches, which feels fairly accurate to the history and centrality of the area poetically, given that what we're talking about is somewhere between academic principality and willy-nilly subculture. I guess what it comes down to is that the people really, really matter. There is an energy in Oakland/Berkeley/San Francisco, or in Brooklyn for that matter, that is weirdly thinner up here in the Boston area, save for a few counterexamples holding down the fort. Or maybe I'm just insatiable.

Maybe that's why today I'm so excited about Laynie Browne's Daily Sonnets, one of which, a poem presenting itself literally in the context of vibrant literary community of readers and readings, appears in the Bay Area collection. I picked up Browne's book on the same visit and love what feels like a celebration of the capacious in this thickish series of poems. Browne uses elastic, punctuationless lines that flit between a sense of performed or lived experience and a more formal, visitation style. Its stutters are satisfying and continuous. The last two lines of the poem from the Bay anthology, "Sonnet while Listening to Kit Robinson Read," are

There is a surface you prepare
And a surface everyone sees

which kind of cuts to the heart of this question of public/private/preparation, doesn't it? Welcome to the world as seen through everyone else's eyes, except not.

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