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    RUGBY: “Life wears you down, it fucks you up. Life is a big cartoon fist aimed squarely at your nose, and no matter how frantically you scrape or paw or scratch, it’s going to hit the mark (blammmo! little cartoon birdies flapping around your noble, dazed, orange head!) These two works by Nathanael West—a novella from 1933, a novel from 1939—are set in New York and Hollywood, respectively, thereby definitely proving that a perfect climate does not lead to emotional and psychic happiness. Miss Lonelyhearts is a slim, nasty little number about an advice columnist suddenly overburdened by the terrible moral funk of the world (some of the Christian shit gets a bit heavy-handed, but I couldn’t tell if it was sarcastic or whatnot—some of the smartest people can turn out to be Christians, you’ve got to be very fucking careful). The Day of the Locust is a love-triangle story (or some other shape, maybe a rhombus—more horny corners, but all of them focused on one young lady). Our hero here is a sort of set designer/scene painter in L.A. named Tod Hackett. He—along with several other wannabe Lotharios—is obsessed with a horridly pretentious struggling actress named Faye Greener. (“Being with her was like being backstage during an amateurish, ridiculous play. From in front, the stupid lines and grotesque situations would have made him squirm with annoyance, but because he saw the tawdry summerhouse with its tangle of paper flowers, he accepted everything and was anxious for it to succeed.”) Other people eager to paw Ms. Greener silly: An Aspberger-y cowboy; a man unable to control his hands, named Homer Simpson (no relation); a Mexican hombre with ambitions in the D.I.Y. cockfighting scene (not a euphemism).

    A lotta shit happens, including some nicely anarchic house parties, and a chase scene through the fictitious postmodern hell of Hollywood’s back lots. Tod Hackett keeps conjuring ideas for a painting called The Burning of Los Angeles, which makes me think that a bro named Ed Ruscha must’ve read this book before painting his depiction of LACMA in flames.

    In any case, it’s all bleak, with a chuckle. Here’s a description of the masses of L.A. residents who’ve gathered to go wild during a film premiere:

    Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize that they’ve been tricked and burn with resentment. Every day of their lives they read the newspapers and went to the movies. Both fed them on lynchings, murder, sex crimes, explosions, wrecks, love nests, fires, miracles, revolutions, wars. This daily diet made sophisticates of them. The sun is a joke. Oranges don’t titillate their jaded palates. Nothing can ever be violent enough to make taut their slack minds and bodies. They have been cheated and betrayed. They have slaved and saved for nothing.

    Mr. West, Mr. West, pass the fucking cyanide! For a second you probably thought I’d accidentally inserted a paragraph from The Coming Insurrection. But rest assured: All this dooming and glooming is tempered by a nice dose of farce (including one irate midget who likes to kick people in the balls). These books are old as shit, but they still ring with a real contemporary relevance, exhaustingly so.

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  2. UNI: “Everyone was asking us, like, Where were you girls during the entire month of January? You weren’t in the windowsill, you weren’t on Skype, we thought you were dead, jesus christ don’t scare us like that again. Sorry for the alarm! What happened is that we ‘discovered’ Evelyn Waugh for the first time, and basically fall into a deep and delicious Waugh-Hole that we’ve only recently climbed out of. Here’s the embarrassing fact: Initially we had somehow confused dear Evelyn with Edith Wharton, due to the shared initials…so when we thought of what a typical Waugh novel might be like, we pictured posh people with starched shirts, being all snooty and shit, fornicating with the help in big, bloodless mansions, which is probably not even what happens in a goddamn Edith Wharton novel, but we occasionally like to generalize in a highly ignorant manner. We had no idea that Evelyn Waugh was actually responsible for some of the most unbe-fucking-lievably dark satires ever penned in the 20th century, especially Handful of Dust, which is basically a sick comedy about cuckolding that ends with a poor bastard kidnapped and marooned in a sort of horror-movie scenario involving the collected works of Charles Dickens. Long story short: Our little four-pawed existences have been enlivened and forever changed by this manically creative motherfucker, who is unfortunately very dead by now, so we can’t interview him.”

     


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    Chloe: “We started this book because Scott came home and was talking about Matthew Barney’s new art-shiza film, River of Fundament, some sort of scatological riff on Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings. The general consensus on that novel is that it’s an unreadable garbage-barge, so we decided to try our luck with The Executioner’s Song instead. (Plus it was a good value, basically $2/pound). This is the story of Gary Gilmore, a dirtbag who gets out of prison and has a hard time acclimating to straight life; he falls in love with a teenage space cadet and then, when she breaks up with him, decides to go murder a few people for no reason whatsoever. For the first 300 pages or so we were swiftly pawing away, oddly drawn to the book without knowing why—the prose style is kinda limp and flat (although it goes down easy, like Bud Light). Imagine if Tao Lin wrote a true crime novel, maybe. In any case, after Gilmore is arrested and is definitely going to be executed (the publishers include photos of his electric chair in the first third of the tome, which is like, SPOILER ALERT, people) we lost interest very quickly. It’s atmospheric and has a certain laid-back, cool-hick charm about it, but The Executioner’s Song isn’t one we’ll be singing again any time soon.”

     


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    Chloe: “Sparse, weird, and poetic in a non-obnoxious way, Prosperous Friends is a fucking great book about how love suffers, wilts, and dies. It also reflects, angrily but without untoward bitterness, about the uneven playing field of gender (i.e. how a good-looking 70-something painterman can happily undress, seduce, and fondle women half his age 'cuz it just isn't a big deal, while his female peers unhappily settle into hard-angled, spotty-haired insignificance.) But really the most delightful thing about Schutt’s novel is the language, so I’m just going to quote some of it for you. Here she is taking sentences and turning them inside out a bit, making them seem wrong at first before you realize how right they are:

    The knock on the door was the loose door itself in the wind, and Isabel kept her eyes shut and her face in the sun. The door in the wind, in the wind and the pitched light of late afternoon in the backyard, she saw where she was and, too, for an instant, a not so tall man stretched out on the bulkhead: Ned of the slender ankles, shapely leg. Too handsome. His story always started with I was invited to this …

    Here’s her being pretty funny despite all the wilting-dying-love stuff:

    Was it too early to drink? There was only the sun to go by, and the sun said, Fine! Go ahead! You must be thirsty!

    Here’s the aforementioned 70-something painterman reflecting on his current status quo (doting, loving, age-appropriate wife; endless buffet of delectable, mistress-y options on the side, like so much greenbeans or mashed potato):

    The advantages of an old wife, Clive thinks, are too often overlooked in the market economy. A sensible old man is wise to hold on to a sensible old wife. The younger woman does not know that drama is wasted on an old man with cold mad eyes. He is careless of last names, often can’t pronounce them; nevertheless, the young woman thinks she is known—why? She is, they all are, a fungible creature with the same small disasters—sometimes a story. Isabel, in New York, months ago, dining at King Arthur’s Court, said, ‘I know a lot of what I do isn’t interesting but every day has its scene or two.’ How he had liked her for that and her flattering appreciation of his work , of course, her appreciation of him and for such slight returns—Christ. All young women should ask for more. If he had a granddaughter that is what he would tell her. He does have a granddaughter! He forgets about Wisia all the time.

    There you have it: the Hefnerian old goat posing as a P.S.A. against men just like him, intellectual gropers in their twilight years. Somehow we think nothing is going to change. Never give in to an ancient cat with a paintbrush, a twinkle in his eye, an assurance that he just wants to capture the way that the light tickles your fur out in the barnyard. You’re better than that, and smarter by far. 

     


  5. Chloe: “The Last Kind Words is a real solid hardboiled murder mystery-type novel. ‘Hardboiled’ means the sentences are little squealching fists, raw bomblets of English. Like this:

    My head was full of the dead. I sat at the bar in the Elbow Room with the photocopied files and ordered a Jack and Coke….The place was a dive….The whores worked the losers a little more brazenly….At least you didn’t waste time or get your heart chipped away when you realized the girl with the cool blue eyes and the slow smiles wasn’t really turning it on because you might be Mr. Right. You knew at the start you were wrong, and so was she.

    Hard. Boiled. The story itself is decent, with some solid plot twists centered around a family of goodhearted scumbag thieves. It’s moody and atmospheric, with tragic lost loves, black sheep, booze-sodden regret, and by the time somebody gets climactically stabbed you’ll be like No waaaaay, it was him all along? At the very least it’s something to while away the time until they upload another goddamn episode of Law & Order: SVU onto Hulu.”

     


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    UNI & CHLOE: “Hoooooooly Jebus. We knew New York was ‘rough,’ and ‘wild,’ and that ‘sometimes crazy shit went down,’ but we never knew the extent of the carnage until we started reading John O’Hara and Hubert Selby, Jr. We’re no prudes, but the level of vice out there—whiskey-sodden adultery, sons selling their mom’s televisions for dope money—made us puke up a whole handful of Purina Catnip-Zonkers Treats (which we really like.) We never watched the film version of Requiem for a Dream because cats were always, like, ‘It’s brilliant, but it’ll definitely make you want to kill yourself,” which isn’t exactly the most ringing endorsement. The shocker w/r/t Selby’s novel, though, is how didactic it is, sorta a hard-boiled P.S.A. about why you shouldn’t become a junkie loser (SPOILER ALERT: Nothing ends well.) The sin-addled protagonists in O’Hara at least get off a bit easier…those were simpler times…”

     


  7. Uni & Chloe: “Okay, we’re pretty sure James Franco hates us. But that’s okay, he’s a good sport—he pussified himself for the self-portrait above, after all! Our catty convo with the young Renaissance man is now up on Bullett’s website.” 

     


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    AN OPEN LETTER TO SINEAD O’CONNOR AND MILEY CYRUS
    FROM UNI AND CHLOE ZOLA VOLCANO

    Guys, we read your correspondence over the past few days, as did the rest of the world; we read when Amanda Palmer wrote an open letter in response to Sinead’s open letter, and we read when Miley tweeted about how hilarious it was that Sinead once had a nervous breakdown and tried to kill herself on Twitter, and we even read Barack Obama’s open letter to Bashar al-Assad about Miley Cyrus’s tweets about Sinead O’Connor’s open letter. This shit is getting so complicated that it’s like a bunch of people are standing in a closet shooting guns at each other, except the guns don’t shoot bullets, they shoot dog poop and Silly String ™.

    Sinead: Your original viewpoint is that Miley Cyrus should respect herself more and not let herself be turned into a total whorebag by her male handlers, who are basically enormous penises wearing suits, with money coming out of the top of their dickheads, just an avalanche of cash shooting out of whatever that little penis-hole is called. Miley, in your opinion, was worth more than that. But then Miley responded by being all, “Calm down grandma, and maybe shoot some Prozac into your eyeballs before you pull a Sylvia Plath while singing ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ ” and suddenly you were mad because Miley Cyrus is a total whorebag who can’t sit still for two seconds without licking a sledgehammer or pretending to stick her nose between some African-American woman’s ass cheeks.

    Take it from us, two pussies baring all on the Internet: This shit just isn’t worth it. Sinead O’Connor, you are not going to sue Miley Cyrus for retweeting your tweets. Miley Cyrus, no one is going to care about you in about two years. All you are doing is making Facebook even more insufferable than it normally is. It’s like the fucking 9/11 anniversary on there right now, but instead of posting reverent reflections on an American tragedy, every fucking person is talking about whether you, Miley Cyrus, are a whore, or a feminist, or a whore and a feminist, or just a 20-year old kid whose right it is to giggle and jiggle and hump things in public; and they’re talking about you, Sinead O’Connor, and whether or not you’re washed up or a hypocrite, since you at one point in time showed your boobs to some people, too, and ripped up a picture of the Pope on television, and now can’t stop electronically ranting about mental illness and kids who were diddled by priests.    

    Just fucking relax and admit it: The Internet was built to disseminate photos of cats, information about cats, and cute blogs relating to cats in some way, shape, or form. No one made the Internet as a forum for sad people to accuse each other of being sluts, or slut-shamers, or shameful slut-mongers, or whatever. All we really care about is that Miley Cyrus stops doing that shit she does with her tongue, because it’s horrific, and it’s preventing us from taking proper cat naps, because we’re stuck with it in our kittenbrains, this leering protrusion of mouthmess, and it reminds us of nothing more than some guests Scott maybe had over the apartment once, the sort of people who’ve done so much cocaine that they’re basically ready to unhinge their own jaws and start cleaning their eyelashes with their tongues, that sort of thing. So really: Quit it with the tongue.

    Yours, in eager anticipation of your open replies to this open letter,

    Uni and Chloe Zola Volcano 

     


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    Chloe: "Okay, so we actually haven’t read Ayn Rand, not that we can remember. And it’s been ages since we paged through Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. But damn, The Circle—the new Dave Eggers novel out later this month—reminds us of the idea of those books, except instead of bloody unhinged free-market capitalism or the importance of meat safety inspection laws, Eggers is getting on a soapbox of prose in order to deliver a lecture on personal privacy in an age of oversharing. We still haven’t figured out if this makes the novel an obnoxiously pedantic disaster or a fascinating, rousingly topical tale. Maybe both, at the same time? The basic plot involves a young lady who gets a job with a company that’s sort of a nightmarish amalgam of Google and Facebook—free vegan food in the cafeteria, yoga classes, a hoodie-wearing semi-autistic founder, etceteras. This company (the Circle) is intent on being a one-size-fits-all social network, and the young lady’s job involves being as connected as possible, to the point where she can barely take a shit if she doesn’t immediately tweet it. The novel becomes an epic battle of ideas, an ideological war between those who think the future means a secret-free utopia of 24/7 access, and those who think that such a future is actually a rotten, quasi-fascist nightmare. Dave Eggers is lucky though, since this book is coming out in the wake of the NSA scandals, in which President Obama was illicitly reading drunken sexts that humans were sending to each other within a 50 mile radius of Washington, D.C. This gives book critics a ‘peg’ to hang their reviews on, and The Circle certainly seems ripped from the headlines, as they say, but we can’t help thinking that it’s a bit too wooden: The corpse of a novel, trotted around, Weekend at Bernie’s-style, in order to enact a really powerful essay that was bouncing around in Mr. Eggers’s head.”

     


  10. Chloe: “Oh puleeeze. As if we were jealous or something when we saw this sourfaced downerpussy hogging the latest cover of New York magazine, complete with a story about Ben Lashes, the Magical Meme Manager who has turned Grumpy Cat into a whorishly commercialized bit of consumer detritus. Let me tell you something about Ben Lashes that I learned from this article: He wears a fedora. Nothing good has ever come from a man wearing a fedora. And as for the cat in question, I’m sorry: You can sell Grumpy Cat condoms, Grumpy Cat debit cards, Grumpy Cat marijuana lollipops, but true empires are not built on the accidentally humorous facial expressions of animals who probably haven’t read a book in the past six months.”