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The Last Western by Thomas S. Klise txt online look spanish ios

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Book description

“The Last Western” is a challenging book to review: easy to talk about thematically, yet hard to excuse stylistically. Klise seems to employ a pretty standard Pynchonian template, with characters such as Harvey L. Cooter, and Archbishop Looshagger (which breaks down to toilet ****** when you think about it.) These characters are cartoonishly drawn: with the capitalist being evil, the Generals being slavish, and the addicts being lunatic. But just as a Bugs Bunny cartoon can impart universal messages of perseverance, friendship, and karma through outlandish, stock situations, so can “The Last Western” (TLW) espouse a desperately needed call for love in a world that relishes ennui, cynicism, and security-system sarcasm. Ask yourself: When was the last time you saw authentic earnestness in public, or better yet: when was the last time you saw the other cheek turned? Of course, these themes are simplistic, simple, repetitive, aesthetically-challenged and – some would say – clichéd. But they’re also deep, bone-marrow truths. And while Klise’s structure of style may be suspect, the foundation of theme is intransigent and immovable. His novel aspires to more than disturbing the comforted, and comforting the disturbed (as the famous phrase goes): it motivates towards love. Toward a brand of agape that’s undeniable, contagious, radical. In many ways TLW is the most Christian book I have ever read, slicing through Millennia of accreted human religion toward the divine core of what makes faith special: love as self-sacrifice, love as celebration of life, and - the most difficult of all: love as social justice. Klise’s novel surpasses the Anglican theodicy of Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” And Willie’s internal stichomythic dialogue between his reason and his faith late in the novel, reads like a transposed Screwtape Letter, only better. Willie’s basic message is like Kierkegaard without the angst – faith as its own numinous reward. And Willie’s simplicity seems to be the key that smoothly tumblers and turns the lock of human purpose. No matter the situation, the answer is always more love.In this essay I will be mostly ignoring the plot because in many ways the plot is ancillary. But a few points are in order. The protagonist is named Willie (no last name) his ethnicity is a blend of Irish, Native-American, Chinese, and African-American – a true everyman, racially and otherwise. He is born in a city named Sandstorm that is eventually destroyed by a sandstorm. His father dies when he is a boy and Willie’s epitaph for his father is a Pepsi jingle which was one of his father’s favorite tunes to sing. He is raised by his mother and grandmother, Cool Dawn, in a futuristic Houston, TX (2000-2020?) where the birds are mechanical and the plants are plastic (like a Radiohead song come true). His best friend is Clio Russell, who flirts with militant ideology despite Willie’s best efforts to convince him of their futility. At one point Cool Dawn tells both boys the parable of the Eagle King and his attempts to get two warring tribes to love each other more. Of course the tribes see his attempts as far-fetched and foolish and as a result his death is inevitable. This parable could be excerpted and published as a distillation of all that’s important in TLW. And while the story is never directly mentioned again, it acts as a guiding light for Willie as he grows older and tries against all odds, and in the face of constant failure and manipulation, to get people to love just a little bit more. Along the way he is used by monomaniacal CEO’s, stultified Catholic fathers, and a Mugabe-ish dictator who sacrifices his countrymen at the altar of self-sufficiency. And despite being exploited by entrenched interests, Willie becomes something of a folk-hero, starting with his miracle baseball pitch which he develops as a high-schooler – a rising fastball that skips up about ten feet from the batter, and allows Willie to throw a string of perfect games. This pitch, while giving the book a Naturalish feel for the first 100 pgs or so, also portends some of Willies other miraculous doings later in the novel: from the Lazarus-like recovery of Herman Felder, to the soothing of riotous crowds through words alone.It’s quite a feat that I’ve got this far into the review without mentioning “Infinite Jest” (IJ). “The Last Western” which was published in 1974 precedes IJ by two decades. And yet the parallels are undeniable and damn near mystical. For starters both books contain a mythical film which is created by a substance-dependent filmmaker with a knack for optical engineering (Herman Felder and James O. Incandenza). Both create their own equipment to arrive at their desired effects, with these effects being integral to the films singularity. Both films also give the novel their name (while Felder initially named his film “Cowboys and Indians”, it is pretty clear that the name of the film is going to be changed to “The Last Western”). Outside of this, Willie as a character is similar to Mario Incandenza, as both characters arrive at wisdom through simplicity (Gately also fits this mold to some extent). And even the worlds the characters inhabit seem shockingly similar. The most powerful entity in IJ is the Organization of North American Nations (or ONAN, a mastubatory pun), TLW has Japan, Europe, Russia, China, United States (or JERCUS, another pun on manual self-stimulation). IJ has a group of outcasts and misfits who embrace their aesthetic challenges and don the veil. They call themselves U.H.I.D. or Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed. TLW counters with The Silent Servants of the Used Abused and Utterly Screwed Up the group to which Willie, Herman Felder, and Thatcher Greyson, amongst others belong. The groups activities include “substitutions” in which they trade places with a currently incarcerated group of people (which was made legal at some point), with their goal being an extreme realization of the ideals presented in the New Testament – or put simply: Living an idea despite consequence. As a result most in the group are poor and in possession of next to nothing, save an unshakeable belief in love. This group mostly communicates in sign language, a communicative quirk that’s mirrored in IJ’s Wheelchair Assassin’s Quebequois. But the most compelling mirroring of all is between the story within the novel, and the story of the novel itself.TLW was published in 1974 by Argus Communications (which some have said is a vanity press or something very close to it) and at some point it was released in paperback. The book seems to have received a few reviews but never caught the attention of the national literary consciousness. But this, of course, would have been exactly what the Silent Servants would have wanted. At one point in the novel, the Servants hold a convention in Florida. When only two people show up (Thatcher Greyson, Willie’s eventual baseball coach, and Herman Felder, the conference organizer) Felder is thoroughly satisfied with the attendance, stating to the press, “it was a success in that no one showed up”. And this was part of the strength of the Servants: the twin pillars of silence and anonymity topped by the capstone of apathy toward recognition. And seeing as biographical information on Klise is scant (the only info I found was that he was in a monastery, and that the book is dedicated to his wife and children), I can only make inferences to how he felt about his books lack of attention. But that the talent was there and he refused to change his theme to one that is more commercially viable speaks to what priorities took precedence. The 1970’s was the fat juicy center of postmodern hijinx and tomfoolery and yet Klise places at the center of this a radical theme of pacifism, altruistim, and true agape Love. Not love as limerance which sells romance novels, but love as trial, love in the face of hate, love in the face of failure. This message was important enough to Klise that he didn’t change his theme despite what must have been numerous rejections from mainstream publishers. His style is easily proficient enough for publication, but his theme was challenging, threatening and emotionally pornographic, and most of all it was necessary. I’m sure Klise realized that his audience would be limited and that the allure of the surface only belied the true raison d’être of the novel. Willie’s rapid ascent to his platform within the novel is really a fantasy. Because his brand of love is radical - in the true etymological sense of returning to the roots of Christ and his teachings - mass acceptance would seem magnetically opposed. Its lack of impetus for power and platform, seems integral to maintaining the authenticity of its message. Yearning for position rarely contains true selflessness or to put it in a familiar lyric: ambition makes you look pretty ugly. This is the ultimate paradox of the message and the reason its success seems so unlikely, why it always exists on the fringe. Christianity never became widespread until Constantine gave it the official force of the Roman Empire, yet with this comes all the trappings and habiliments of power: political back-biting, self-survival, forced confessions in the name of faith – all things that completely eradicate the original message of unconditional love. Thus, Klise’s message in remaining unconditional, remained marginal, at least in terms of popularity. But this allowed Klise a purity of theme that could strike a handful of readers in a much deeper way than mass popularity could: Three swimmers in the deep-end versus a crowd in the baby pool. And the water in the deep-end is transformative: a baptism by logos. David Foster Wallace writing twenty years later had a very similar modus operandi: postmodernism wrapping raw humanity. And Wallace excelled because his prose stylings are much more antic and accessible, more televisual. Much of Klise’s style is straight from Pynchon, Barth and others, and while Wallace had similar forebears, he amplified this styling: called postmodernism’s technical talent and raised them true fictional purpose. And while Klise did this first, Wallace did it better. Yet, Klise’s novel seems riskier than Wallace’s, if only because his raw humanity is not buried like Wallace’s is, but rather is constantly referenced. Wallace slowly seduces you, making you think you are reading a hilarious romp through addiction and tennis and then – WHAM! you’re reading a book about millennial sadness, about the empty default setting as Wallace would go on to call it. And this is truly occluded in IJ, not fully emerged until a second or third reading as the conflicting plot points had blinded you like neon red herrings. But Klise avoided this all and just merged his postmodernism with his message of ‘loving just a little bit more’, of sacrificing yourself for the betterment of others, or even just the chance to better others. Klise’s novel is purer and much less convoluted in what it wants to be, and sadly that hindered its chance at popularity. But somehow his novel lives on, on message boards, blogs, and resale book sites (where the book is inordinately expensive, something Willie would have frowned upon). There is a wonderful blog post about it on Infinite Summer by Maria Bustillos, where she writes of her exchanging notes with Wallace about The Last Western. And in the strangest part of this whole thing, apparently Wallace never read TLW despite all the literary affinities between it and his IJ. At some point Maria gave Wallace a copy and later on a fan ascertained that it was getting close to the top of his to-read pile. I like to imagine that in the midst of a bad day, Wallace would reach over, grab this strange magnetic masterpiece and begin reading. And that Willie and his intense belief that love was all that was needed to solve any problem, would reinstill his faith in life, if just for a few hours, until the black sail, lifted anchor and sailed again.

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