Thursday, April 23, 1998

A Crackup at the Race Riots, by Harmony Korine

A review of A Crackup at the Race Riots, by Harmony Korine

Originally published in The Minnesota Daily’s A&E Magazine,
April 23rd, 1998

By Harmony Korine
Doubleday, $14.95

From folks like Pier Paulo Pasolini and Woody Allen to Ally Sheedy and Ethan Hawke, film people love to write books, and that’s not always such a good idea. Granted, Pasolini’s a genius, but when you’re faced with a book of Leonard Nimoy’s love poems or Charlton Heston’s manly aphorisms, you know that something’s wrong with the publishing business. A Crackup at the Race Riots, the new “novel” by filmmaker Harmony Korine (Gummo), seems to fulfill all the best and worst expectations for such an undertaking.

At its best, A Crackup at the Race Riots is a hilarious jumble of half-baked scenes and ideas. And that’s what it is at its worst, too. Tossing together jokes, rumors, lists, vignettes, drawings, and suicide notes, Korine seems out to annoy rather than entertain or move the reader. The suicide notes can be pretty amazing, though, and some of the rumors are downright ingenious (e.g. Jerry Garcia tongue-kissed his older sister on his deathbed), but mostly it’s just silly and juvenile. Pretentious too—he’s constantly making references to folks like Proust and Walter Benjamin, as if he’s really read them. And there’s one section that’s plagiarized word-for-word from Donald Barthelme’s story “Conversations with Goethe.” But if we call it “sampling,” (the ultimate postmodern form), I guess we can let him get away with it. Or better yet, skip the book and go rent Gummo.

—David Wiley

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