Last night I watched True Detective and then I had a nightmare. Based on Twitter data, and the fact that time is a beer can Matthew McConaghey mutilates over and over, this was a popular phenomenon. I cannot think of another act of television, another natural disaster of enlightened entertainment, with a casualty rate so high. Right when you thought nothing cld move Netflix from its dominant news-cycle so quickly, HBO takes our heads clean off; True Detective is proof that the Grey Lady of television quality can still get it. If they had any premonition of how shareable the horror would be, no wonder the show wasn’t designed to last. At least in this iteration, it is nearly too brainsick to watch.
Love As Outrage And Hallucination
Rust Cohle speaks of gumline recession and paraphilic love maps, his voice a bucket of rain, his head a bucket of blood. ‘People incapable of guilt’, he says, ‘usually have a good time’. He himself seems guilty of never having had a good time. Rust Cohle being a Matthew McConaghey character, all his past movie selves, many of them shirtless and grinning, bottle a beautiful fever in which you do not know who he is or who you even are and the image swims like a steak in grease. He hollows out the character and fits it over himself and then just stares out, horribly hooded like a hawk.
Marty Hart is the Lionel Barrymore to Rust’s John, a functional man in a functional room whose deep talent is for most resembling that room’s sturdiest stick of furniture. ‘Myopia’, he says, ‘blows investigations’. Marty Hart being a Woody Harrelson character, he is a semi-ravenous lunk whose midlife acting-out, even, seems vanilla and trite and kind of sad. Handcuffs would be Woody Harrelson’s idea of kink. I use them every day! It’s so easy! He kisses the wrists of any woman he uses them on, after, apologizing. Woody Harrelson is the sweetest douche.
Apart from the remarkable visual jar of watching two white men interrogated by two black men, one door of True Detective opens on these two famous actors, looking back on themselves. The 19-year timeline covers one melancholy murder, two fractured families, and movies like Play It To The Bone and The Wedding Planner. Harrelson performed an infamous AMA in 2012 and faced questions abt teenage rape in another, presumably former life. McConaghey used to be a beefcake! The King in Yellow is all fun and games until the RomCom King shows up. You cld argue that these are A-listers with B-list pathologies and that is why they’re on the level they’re on—particularly McConaghey, who is ‘literally everything in screen acting rn’.
Marty assesses himself and his bad domestic debts in the following way: ‘Past a certain point, he says, ‘there is a futility in responsibility’. But he contradicts himself when he assesses Rust: ‘Past a certain age’, he says, ‘a man without a family can be a bad thing.’ Only one can be True Detective.
Isolated images from True Detective’s hell-colored paradise include a Green-eyed Spaghetti Monster and The King In Yellow which are taken, if not adapted, from old writings in the Weird Fiction genre. I enjoyed these references much more before I knew them as such, before the gnatty cloud of inevitable nerds settled on True Detective’s egg-shaped surface. My favorite practitioners of ‘weird fiction’ are Franz Kafka and John Barth, neither of whom cld ever be mistaken for Robert W. Chambers or H.P. Lovecraft.
Weird Fiction is fundamentally TrueAlt™, bringing the conversation around to necrophilia and Primus if not to nipple piercings and Aleister Crowley; as I, like Glenn Gould, lack the constitution to be a true rebel, black Dickies repel me. However, writing as repetition and writers as filthy thieves of each other is a symphony of unregret I will fondly wear tails to, black or white. If the creepy legends of True Detective are reconstituted, they’re no less inscrutable or psyche-damaging. I just wish the kinds of people known in recap culture as ‘eagle-eyed’ would lay off a little.
Ending Listicle—Other Material[s] True Detective Reminds Me Of
1. Joe Meek, I Hear A New World
Recorded in 1959 and subtitled ‘an outer space music fantasy’, this Rodia-like collection of found sounds was reissued last year to much fanfare among vinylheads. Collector’s value aside, it plays like a dream of a clothesline on the moon. Meek allegedly left tape recorders in graveyards and in 1967 killed himself and his landlord, not necessarily in that order.
2. The early novels of Dennis Lehane
Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro are ex-lovers and investigative partners on the mean streets of Boston; they looked spiffy on the big screen directed by Ben Affleck. A claret-like flow of desolation and depravity keeps the pages moving from Kenzie’s office in an abandoned vestry to the horrific anticipation of murder[s]. Kenzie’s favorite actor is Kevin Spacey.
3. THE USUAL SUSPECTS(1995]/SEVEN(1995)
1995 is the year True Detective begins. For anti-sleep agents, Keyser Soze belongs on the same shortlist as The Green-eyed Spaghetti Monster and The King In Yellow. In terms of promise-to-payoff ratio, the latter two still have skullfucking to do. But the looks on the faces of the usual sus, McManus Fenster et al, and the marvelous way their body language rearranges at the first @mention of Keyser Soze echoes forward to the misery in Rust’s face when the ‘yella king [disambiguation]’ is re-referenced.
In addition to being the best film of the 1990s, SEVEN did not bother to credit one of the iciest killers in movie history. It cld have been anyone.
4. The War Of The Worlds
Like the hairline king Soze, The Green-eyed Spaghetti Monster is given life by a sketch. The artwork in Wells’ original WotW, or at least w/e version I checked out of the library, rendered the martians as giant meatballs of goo that infested my childhood sleeps like spaghetti: ‘Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance…the Gorgon groups of tentacles.’
5. This track.
At the end of the essay on Walser, Sebald recalls Nabokov’s account, in Speak, Memory, of a children’s book in which a group of friends, whose number includes a dwarf, goes for a ride in an airship. “At the immense altitude to which the ship reached, the aeronauts huddled together for warmth,” Nabokov writes. The dwarf, meanwhile, who had been provided with his own, miniature balloon, “drifted into an abyss of frost and stars — alone.”
Excerpt from Brigitte Bardot Shopping In Shorts, Wayne Koestenbaum
- BB: We pretend to pursue the visual, but really we are creatures of the word.
- KK: And yet it is visual beauty, not language, that brought you fame.
- BB: We needn't divide the goods of the world into two shopping carts, LANGUAGE and BEAUTY
- KK: So you were shopping for beauty?
- BB: No. I was shopping for language. My cart was already filled with beauty.
- KK: And did I give you language?
- BB: No. You gave me more beauty.
- KK: And that's why you came to speak to me today.
- BB: To wrest some language out of you.
- KK: To force me to reward you with language, after extended deprivation.
- BB: Language is the Popsicle you mentioned earlier.
- KK: The long interlude of ice?
- BB: And beauty is the blowtorch that causes it to melt.