In Minneapolis, there’s this great bookstore called Uncle Hugo’s and right across the street is the sister store, Uncle Edgar’s. Hugo’s sold new, used and rare science fiction and fantasy. Edgar’s sold mystery. In those stores, I stumbled on Micheal Moorcock, H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake), and Robert Anton Wilson. It was RAW who got me in all the trouble.
Years after reading The Illuminatus Trilogy, I was raving about it to the desk-clerk and he suggested I pick up something he thought I might appreciate.
Now, this is the early ’80’s. I’m still in high school, still enamored with a particular young woman, my best friend had just joined the Army, and I was stunned by RAW’s revelation that “reality” was not a singular noun, but a plural verb.
(That one, I still haven’t recovered from.)
I was questioning everything, getting in all sorts of trouble in school (I was an A student), pulling pranks wherever I went, and danced on this side of getting arrested every weekend. Not for drugs or alcohol. No, siree. My kind of trouble was far more cerebral.
Inspired by the cosmic jester (that’s RAW again), I embraced everything Discordian. I wanted to smash the world in the face with all of its own preconceived notions. But not the kind of crap the Jackass morons pull. Chaos is nothing without meaning. A prank has to hit people in the gut, but it also has to make them think about the pain even after the pain is gone.
So, there I am, in Uncle Hugo’s, talking about Wilson like a fan boy, and the guy behind the counter tells me he’s got a book for me to read. He pulls it out, puts it on the desk, right there. I look at it.
“You’re kidding me, right?” I ask the guy.
He shakes his head. “No joke. This is right up your alley.”
I looked at the author’s name. Looked at the title. There was no way this was for me. I turned the book over, read the back jacket.
And every word I read brought me closer to understanding exactly why the guy on the other side of the desk knew exactly what he was talking about.
I dropped the cash and brought the book home, spending the entire weekend reading it. Front to back.
Of course, I loaned the book to a friend and never saw it again. Two years later, the book’s more rare than a Hannibal Lector steak. And I never got to read it again.
Jump ahead twenty years.
The movie rights get bought up. An adaption is made. The book is back in print. I go to the bookstore and snatch it up, reading it again before I go see the movie.
Of course, I should mention, this is also the first movie I saw alone in seven years. The first movie I saw without my wife. The first movie I saw after I moved out of the apartment.
It’s mean. It’s cold. And it’s about how alone each and every one of us are with our past. It’s about regret and pain and selfishness. How we are all so damn selfish. We’re so concerned with what we want, we never see what we have.
Of the five Greatest Movies Ever Made, this one is #5.