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John Holbo - Editor
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Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
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Past Valve Book Events

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cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

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cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Pazuzu and Inexplicable Taste

Posted by Jonathan Goodwin on 05/28/05 at 05:14 PM

Most of you probably watched Exorcist II: The Heretic on AMC last night and got interested in the demon Pazuzu. I know I did. So while researching this entity in lieu of more pressing matters, I happened to discover that Pauline Kael, in her 5001 Nights at the Movies, prefers the film to the original (228-29).

I’m more or less sure that she’s the only person who’s ever held that opinion, and I immediately suspected the hand of Pazuzu in it. There is, of course, much Teilhard de Chardin in the film, and the use of the synchrotron combined with Pazuzu’s sphere of influence over the air led me to wonder if anyone had contemplated the potential demonic origin of much contemporary media theory. Videodrome certainly takes some steps down this path.

What other, preferably obscure, examples of inexplicable critical taste can you think of?


Comments

Hmmmm, all I can think of is Tolstoy on how “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is better than “King Lear” (wasn’t that it?) But that’s rather a well-known case, the stated reasons straightforward. Make what you will. (Why can’t I think of more cases?) If memory serves my own very first published work of criticism was a long, indignant letter to an editor, defending “Robocop II” against an unjustly critical review. But I did not say the sequel was better than the original.

By John Holbo on 05/29/05 at 11:08 AM | Permanent link to this comment

You must, of course, recreate that from memory and post it here at full length. It could then be the subject of our next symposium.

By Jonathan on 05/29/05 at 11:40 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Modesty may forbid, Jonathan. But I also vaguely remember meeting, at a party, the son of Irvin Kershner, the director (or maybe it was the son of Phil Tippett, the effects guy) and said I had defended his father’s honor by writing a letter defending the virtues of “Robocop II”. The son gave me a black look; obviously he assumed I was insulting him by mocking his father’s work by alleging I had praised it in a manifestly implausible way.

One thing I’ve never been able to understand is why Anthony Michael Hall’s best work, “A Gnome Named Gnorm", did not inspire a sequel: “Agnother Gnome Named Gnorm”. Writes itself, really.

By John Holbo on 05/29/05 at 12:13 PM | Permanent link to this comment

The novelist John Gardner (the one who wrote “Grendel”, I should say - not the one who wrote “No Deals, Mr. Bond") cites the burned-out post-"Finnegans Wake” James Joyce as preferring Tolstoy’s late fable “How Much Land Does A Man Need?” to his acknowledged classics. (SPOILER ALERT:  The answer is: “Not as much as he thinks")

By on 05/30/05 at 10:47 AM | Permanent link to this comment

And with all due respect to Kael and Holbo, I’ve seen both “Exorcist II: The Heretic” and “Robocop 2” and they both sucked - being arguable career low points for director John Boorman and comics legend Frank Miller respectively.

By on 05/30/05 at 10:54 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I’m not sure if an artist’s opinion of his own work should count here. But judging from one of his responses to the Proust Questionnaire, Gore Vidal appears to consider “Duluth” his chef d’oeuvre - surely a minority opinion.

Even less relevant - but too tasty to pass up - is Francis Ford Coppola’s pre-release prediction for his effectively career-ending folly “One From The Heart”: “People will line up to see it wherever it’s playing.”

By on 05/30/05 at 11:21 AM | Permanent link to this comment

A man [sic] of genius makes no mistakes; his [sic] lapses in taste are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

Ask James Joyce for reading recommendations immediately after writing Finnegans Wake and you’ll get back what seems most germane to Finnegans Wake. Shouldn’t we know better than to ask? Most working writers don’t have time to spare on assembling our Five Foot Shelves for us. A lot of them don’t have time to read any fiction at all.

By Ray Davis on 05/30/05 at 11:30 AM | Permanent link to this comment

That’s Stephen, Ray, and there might also be a gender-conscious irony that would anticipate the sics.

By Jonathan on 05/30/05 at 11:49 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Not quite Stephen, either, Jonathan—there’s one “sic” missing to go along with the two too many.

By Ray Davis on 05/30/05 at 12:18 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean.

The phrase you quoted is Stephen Dedalus talking about Shakespeare; Joyce is mocking his romantic temper.

By Jonathan on 05/30/05 at 01:15 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Ray’s referring to the fact that he slightly misquoted S.D., I’m assuming.

By jacob on 06/01/05 at 01:15 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Wasn’t he also implicitly pumping himself up to leave the Church? As JJ had to do in real life.

By pierre on 06/01/05 at 01:52 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Exorcist II: Heretic is the best of the trilogy. Most surreal and interesting. The score by Ennio Morricone is excellent.

By andrewCryptic on 07/11/05 at 09:47 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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