I’m headed to Austin later this week, and was just sitting here, spit-shining my best cowboy boots, listening to Redheaded Stranger, and wondering how far my native Texan status goes toward excusing this transformation into a SXSW-bound-Brooklyite cliché, when Amanda Marcotte spontaneously showed up at Jewcy to grant me home girl status. (She & Jonathan Ames are this week’s Movable Snipe team.)
No telling what’ll happen now that I’ve gotten the go-ahead. As my granny always said, “Some folks are all right — till they get two pairs of britches.”
In anticipation of the trip (or, as I like to call it, “Project: Eventually Move to Austin and Become James Hynes‘ Fishing Buddy“), I convinced Mr. Maud to read Kings of Infinite Space, a hilarious and fantastical work of fiction set in the Texan capital.
I’ve already put in a good word for the book — and its predecessor, Publish and Perish — so many times, it’s embarrassing. But now Mr. Maud is singing its praises, too. He’s also telling me I really need to read The Time Machine, which I have a vague memory of enjoying in my mid-teens but remember nothing about. “You’ll like it,” he says. “It’s really atmospheric. And clearly a huge influence on Hynes.”
The man is onto something. From Hynes’ Cubicle Gothic:
[Kings of Infinite Space] also includes a heaping helping of pastiche, with elements inspired by H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine and The Island of Dr. Moreau, the fairy tale “The Shoemaker and the Elves,” Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, and the old Hammer film Plague of the Zombies. Wells in particular was my guide as I walked the line between serious and sensational. In The Time Machine, Wells the social philosopher clearly intends the Eloi and the Morlocks to stand for the split between consumers and producers, but at the same time Wells the entertainer delivers the goods, as the Time Traveler battles the bloodthirsty Morlocks in the dark. Even a lurid old film like Plague of the Zombies has a not-so-subtextual element of allegory, as a corrupt English aristocrat turns villagers into zombies so he can work them to death in his mines. In my book, the strange, pale men shadowing Paul have several possible allegorical uses, but I decided early on not to push it. It’s all a matter of emphasis, of course, and I chose to concentrate on the story and let the subtext fend for itself.
There’s an argument in defense of the fantastic that references great writers who have used it — Poe and Kafka, op. cit., as well as Hawthorne, James, Wharton, Borges, Marquez, Rushdie, John Crowley, etc. — but literary influence is more complicated than that. My sensibility has been shaped as much by movies and television and pop music as it has by books. My idea of satire is equally indebted to Twain and Randy Newman, my faith in the absurd to Kafka and Monty Python, my fascination with the gothic to Poe and Joss Whedon, the auteur of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
We’re meeting Hynes while in town. I’m guessing there will be lots of excited talk about Rupert Thomson’s forthcoming Death of a Murderer.
Image found here.