Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"So some guy gave you a few bucks to give him a blow job, and you thought that was a career path."

That is the restaurant owner talking about one of his waiters, who he likes.

The restaurant owner has a gruff self-presentation and a heart with quite a bit of gold in it.

The waiter is likeable and doesn't think ahead a lot, or at all.

The waiter is Achilles's, he has an aimlessness that isn't unusual in offspring of the famous great.

Part-time waiter, part-time stripper, always interested in having fun. He had had sex with everyone there was for him to have sex with on the island he grew up on. So he went to the city. There was lots to do.

The book squashes together some stories of the Trojan War and the United States in the 1970's and 1980's and basically it works well.

The only part that takes stretching is the Greeks in general at the time of the Trojan War were positive in many ways about sex between men. They often idealized and romanticized it. People in the United States at that time were not positive about sex between men. The book's world taks on that attitude and gay men who have to deal with that attitude.

Achilles is dead at the time the book is happening, but the Trojan War is going on, and on.

Achilles's sonisn't thinking about the war. He knows about it, but he is focussed on other things.

But he is still Achilles's son. So someone from the war shows up looking for him at his job as an exotic dancer where he dances by the bar and guys throw money. A staff guy from the war comes and tries to get him to go to the war, because wily, clever Odysseus thinks his status as Achilles's son might be used to break the stalemate that is the war in a good direction--what Odysseus thinks is a good directions, with the ending of the siege of Troy and the destruction of Troy.

"Time's Arrow" by Mark Merlis is the book. Mark Merlis loves the Greek stories. Mark Merlis loves many people who died of AIDS. Mark Merlis makes an amazing combined US/ancient Greek world that works because his love wants it to.

I read a performer once who said you have five minutes with an audience to get their trust and if you get their trust in that first five minutes, you can do anything.

I would say that one way that you get that trust is that you are the type of person who deserves. And that the enterprise you are created is an enterprise that deserves that trust.

In "Time's Arrow," Mark Merlis earns and deserves a lot of trust from the reader and gives richly in return.

He doesn't dot all the eyes and cross every t in making this world both the late twentieth century US and ancient Greece. He doesn't make it work by doing some kind of double entry book keeping thing. He makes it work because he can see it. He believes. He tells and retells old stories, and tells a new story in the process.

The young guy, the son of the hero, who is our hero in the book is not living thoughtfully when the representitive of Odysseus shows up to offer him another career path--helping the attackers of Troy win. Odysseus doesn't care at all about this guy as a person. The superstitions of the troops might make the presence of Achilles' son, however non-martial, helpful in the fighting.

Since Achilles' son doesn't have much will, he goes for it. Why not?

This book and "Fraud" by Anita Brookner remind me of each other, partly because the main characters are opposites on some continuum. No friend of the main character in "Fraud" says, "So your mother needed someone to keep her company, and you thought that was a career path." That's what happened though. They had money; neither needed to work; the daughter spent decades up to her mother's death keeping her mother company, knowing fewer and fewer other people, isolating.

In theory, and less and less in practice, the daughter was doing research on the great salons of France, which was pretty funny, in that the salons were run by women who were living the opposite of her life, meeting lots of important people every week, instead of seeing fewer and fewer people every year.

The nice thing about the theoretical salon research is it gave her a reason to go to Paris every year, but it surely wasn't the thing to rip into after her mother died.

"Fraud" and "Time's Arrow" remind me of each other because of the opposite-ness--too much activity and too little, too many contacts and too few. They also remind me of each other because each has an ending that is much more positive than you'd expect, given the basic set-up.

Another similarity is that I want the authors' to say more about the better outcome, what it's like, how exactly it was worked to, and how it worked out.

I think the endings are plausible, as well as being encouraging, in and out of the book. The authors clearly and bravely intend to be encouraging. But it's like the general gloom of much serious writing makes them rush the endings. Which makes them harder to believe, and I want to believe.

Take your time. You're changing the world. The world is changable; it changes all the time. Work out the details. Let the details work out themselves.

"Time's Arrow" is a terrific book. If you think you'd like it, you would. Sexual situations pervade, but that's the base line of this guy's life.

Now I'm going to talk about the ending of "Time's Arrow" by Mark Merlis. If you think you might reading and don't like hearing endings, you are excused and blessed.

Young people taken from a place where it seems like not much is happening because the same familiar things keep happening over and over again into a war might go for the first time to a city.

If they live, if they aren't permanently hurt, body or soul, going to a city can be a transforming experience for them. So many things are happening, not just the familiar ones like at home. So many kinds of people.

While people are sometimes transformed in a good way by being taken to a city on the way to a war, a lot of times the basic larger work of the war is to destroy cities.

It feels like Achilles son goes from a fifties/early sixties USsuburb on a Mediterrean island to San Francisco, which is fairly close.