Is That Crack Showing On Purpose?

(Soundtrack: New Model Army — Impurity)

Once again, an interesting discussion generated within the blogo-dynamo is preempting my Spider-blogging, my exploration of Benchleyan anarcho-didacticism, and my (projected) post on the Marx Brothers’ films at Paramount and at MGM (“Two House-styles–both invite indignity…”)

What’s goin on? And who’s doing the talking? I guess you could start with Sean Collins’ response here to Johnny Bacardi’s review of Demo #6, then move on back to Johnny’s rebuttal–in the comments-thread of which many folks, including myself, Rose Curtin & Steven Berg of Peiratikos, and the author himself, saw fit to express their opinions on the matter in question. And what matter, pray tell, is that? Enter The Forager, the blogo-Diderot himself, to “clarify” the distinction between intentional ambiguity and just plain “messiness”.

Here’s the last paragraph of J.W.’s post:

Finally, messiness is something different from both ambiguity and meandering. While a story might deliberately make use of an ambiguous and meandering narrative in order to evoke the messiness of real life, a messy story is simply one whose components never really gel together—structurally, emotionally, and/or thematically. Sometimes this is just a question of incompetence, but those cases aren’t very interesting. However, even skilled/talented/experienced storytellers can get into trouble when they tackle a subject that is too big for them or too personal. In these cases, the story’s messiness is a result of a failure to keep things in perspective. Filmmakers are especially prone to making messes of things because the size and scope of the endeavor makes it easier for things to spin out of control. Genuine messiness is never deliberate, despite what some apologists have said in defense of certain writers and filmmakers. I have a lot of tolerance for messy stories, especially when it seems like the story has been done in by its author’s crazed ambitions. Frank Miller’s comics are almost always messy, or at least the good ones are, but they’re still among my favorites.

As I’ve stated before, my favourite works of art are almost always hardcore botch-jobs in the best sense of the term–The Blithedale Romance, Pierre; or, the Ambiguities, It’s A Wonderful Life, Meet John Doe (any Capra film from 1932 to 1946, really), Animal Man–all of them seem to go crazy near the end (Melville is an exception–he goes crazy about one-fifth of the way in!), and that structural instability is what you get when a powerful artist tries and fails to make sense of a world they have swallowed whole and then attempted to reproduce in speech…

Does Demo #6 fall into this category?

I would say not–but, thanks to Johnny’s discussion thread–I’ve decided that there’s a great deal more to the problem posed by the use of the framing device than I had originally thought.

I’ve gotta go now, but I thought I’d wind this up with a cut-and-paste job on my comments from that thread, since I have no clue how many of you actually follow them out to the end!


I generally agree that it’s best for a writer to leave everything up in the air (it’s essential to Demo #5, for instance), but I was kind of disappointed that Wood gave the readers no tools at all with which to create our own bridge between that mass murder and the wedding trip.

(and after)

I agree that Brian’s participation in this thread is a wonderful thing–and also that there’s no point in subjecting a finished work to the “creative workshop” treatment (this is what I decry in TCJ all of the time)…

However– and this is just me y’unnerstand–I’m just not drawn toward “vindication” stories, and, because of the way in which the work is structured, Demo #6 is exactly that (Demo #5, on the other hand, is the reverse–it’s a beautiful deconstruction of the impossible human drive toward “personal integration”).

Coming to the realization that you’re making a horrible mistake is great–but, once you’ve already killed a bunch of people, isn’t that question rather academic? The character that interested me most is the wife–what the hell would she do if she actually found out about this? Are there times when “learning to deal with past mistakes” becomes indistinguishable from a psychopathic condition?

Anyway, now that I’ve written this, I’m reconsidering my earlier comment (“post in haste, repent at leisure!”)… The work is the work, and there’s always a way to connect any two points within a story’s structure. In my case, I’ve concluded that Ken is more dangerous in the frame than he ever was as a child… Now I’m thinking that I might try to work up a post juxtaposing this story with The Strange Love of Martha Ivers?, a great flashback-laden noir which derives a whole lot of narrative momentum out of a murder in retaliation for the murder of a beloved cat.

Are you lovin’ this Larry?

Wish I had more time!

Good Afternoon Friends!



  1. Well, it sure beats reading about how horrified everyone is that Joss Whedon put the friggin’ X-Men back into their costumes. 🙂

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