Decadent Lens For An Age of Excess

Here’s something odd that I keep stumbling over: the narrative landscape of today is paved over with realism and naturalism.

What the Hell-Fire-Club happened to decadent literature and its exotic palaces of artifice, perverseness, art-for-art’s sake, sensuality, degeneration, maximalism, and the love of the sublime and surreal?

The fiction landscape now is littered with hovels (novels) filled with their solid and real narratives, their dependable little puppets that hold up their mirrors so that we can look more closely at ourselves and see the truth, whatever that is.

Which strikes me as even more perverse and strange than fin de siecle fiction.

Right now we are living in a time when wars are televised, commodity has become a bacchanalian god, the Web has raped us of any imagination, and the media manipulates us like perverse slaves. So why this pious offering of the real and the solid?

What ever happened to the decadents who dropped their trousers to the world to show off their creative wit, daring, and artifice to the face of the real artificer itself: the material world?

Vanities and insanities surround us — from religious zealots to the banalities of politics to the hedonism of the Web to the drug of celebrity to the ecstasy of violence. We are already living in a hyper-reality, sucking, injecting, spewing, vomiting, engulfing, and gorging on excess.

The orgiastic road goes ever on and on, down from the door of waste, excess, and sensation….

Our bodies are infected with high living (think obsession with celebrity and wealth and God bless everyone last one of us who is a born-again star), the capitalist dream (think recession, the detox symptoms of a society addicted to debt) the greed (think the Gulf disaster and the corporate scandals, and, well, just about anything that hits the media fan).

I want to find a book (or write one myself) that burns with the heat of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, the sensual macabre of Patrick Suskind’s Perfume, the grand debauchery of a grotesque spirit in Comte de Lautréamont’s Maldoror, the effervescence and bizarre heaviness of JK Huysmans’ Against Nature, the surreal and manic energy of KJ Bishop’s The Etched City, the effete and diabolical splendor of Moorcock’s Elric tales, the unsettling and comic romp of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces,  the excessive pomp and pageantry and sexy brio of any Angela Carter, the nefarious mischief and glut for the fantastical of Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume, the Baroque mastery and succulent purple prose of Mervyn Peake, and all the other grand narratives that transform, unsettle, transfix, shock, and make us crack out of clay molds and explore the juicy bits.

Stopped Reading

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. I just couldn’t keep hitting my imaginative head against this wall of realism. The book began to get claustrophobic, like Franzen’s legs were strapped around my neck, his hard male voice rammed down my throat. I couldn’t get past the nausea of the suburban life that Gary Lambert and his wife and kids are living, it drove me to sulk before the weird section of my books. And I know it’s supposed to be satire with all the trappings of postmodern verbal capers, an avant-garde robustness for plot with all the high-stakes, roll-of-the-dice character development and a comic-tragic masterpiece to boot, but what the fuck, it was stinking up my habitat. And if it’s good advice to not shit where you eat, then the same should apply to novelists.

Listening To

Jeff Buckley’s Grace. Now here was a decadent singer. Jesus. Talk about your Romantic who lives too fast and died to young. Every time I hear “Lilac Wine” or  “Corpus Christi Carol” I want to weep, and when I hear “So Real” and “Last Goodbye” I want to drink some Green Fairy.

Tim Buckley’s The Dream Belongs to Me. Well, once you listen to the son, you have to listen to the father, right? This is a fantastic album that shows Buckley to be a musician well ahead of his times. It’s like a heady mix of broken wine bottles and silk bedclothes; you are tugged, tugged, tugged to believe and then disbelieve.


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