Sunday, April 15, 2007


We are all institutionalized, some of us are just products of lesser institutions than others. Institutionalized by Joe Schmoe and Fred Smith ("les noms de clavier" of Noel Guinane and Cassandra Helm) brings home the terrible awareness of this state to those who might otherwise be blithely unaware of it (unfortunately for many of us the horrible weight of the many institutions that have imposed themselves upon our person and psyche since a tender age cannot be forgotten even for a moment). The corporate culture satire has apparently become a sort of genre fiction (something that I wasn’t to aware of) and they seem to be mocking this phenomenon one could put it into the lesser category of parody but as it seems to contain many more direct attacks upon the phenomenon of corporate culture itself (and many of these attacks are hysterically funny) anyway people tell me that I don’t quite understand that sort of stuff so I’d say if it is parody it’s doing what satire should (inspiring scorn and contempt for its subject) do better than most satires and if it’s genre fiction it’s genre fiction that’s doing what what is called literature is now incapable of doing and as such its excesses can be if not forgiven at least justified.
These excesses are so frequent and excessive that they seem to have been calculated to give the effect of a grand guignolesque theater of cruelty played out in the boardrooms (one made up as the tent that one of the Napoleons [it’s not quite clear which one] took on a campaign somewhere [but hey didn’t those Napoleons invent that bivouac that’s how they won the battle of Plzen or Ceske Budevicke or something]) and offices (whose rundown state might seem to be the product of neglect but is actually calculated to have a certain psychological impact upon the employees). These hapless individuals are encouraged by a lack of air conditioning to drink more antidepressant dosed water that stretches their faces into a frightening rictus. Personality now being a product of analysis and modification is reduced to nothing more than stereotyped behaviors a series of tics and tocs but programmed tics and tocs that are designed to solicit certain responses. A slightly more human individual is introduced into this environment, Lance, who explains himself thusly:
"Yeah,……principles. Like it don’t matter if you own the laundromat or you’re just a pizza delivery guy. It don’t even matter if you’re president of the United States. You work hard. That’s the first. The second is that you ain’t gonna get nowhere if you don’t believe that you can. And like my old man said, there ain’t no reason not to. All you gotta do is look at some o’ the crazy people who made it in this world, like Fats on the corner right? He was dumber than dumb and now he’s got millions playin’ bad guys in movies….."
I imagine (or at least hope) that the author understands that within this very sort of hokey home spun folk wisdom, the naive optimism more simplistic than anything that might be presented in a film for national socialism or soviet Marxism were the seeds of the chaos that is now being unleashed. Ultimately this personage comes off as a sort of Jimmy Stewart of the ghetto come to midtown Manhattan. What the situation seems to be calling for is some sort of exterminating angel perhaps Charles Manson released from Corcoran prison after completing an on line MBA from the university of Phoenix. "You can’t sell SELL. You can’t buy BUY". They could let Squeaky out to be human resources director.
The protagonists are finally nothing but human resources being directed by an indifferent authority. There are often whole paragraphs filled with descriptions of their futile jests and wasted movements. Such a minute attention to detail becomes a bit like watching a film script written in the head of the person who is being placed before us. One comes across similar paragraphs in lots of recent fiction but where in other works it for the most part distracting here in "Institutionalized" it often serves to transmit the wretched desperation of the protagonists sisphysitc existences. Nowadays one meets so many people who seem to playing themselves in the movie of their life that is soon to be made that this style of would maybe be a close approximation of their thoughts, all of us just bit players in a formulaic film whose major roles are occupied by perverse cult adepts. There are so many books written to be made into screenplays (da vinci code for example) or written by people who’d probably rather be writing a screenplay that this style sort of imposes itself. The author of "Institutionalized" though obviously didn’t have this intention the book doesn’t follow the "rules" and the ridiculing of corporate cult think/speak might hit to close to home for some producers anyway there’s no spunky young career girl who just might change the world and find herself a nice husband.
Basically it’s becoming impossible to express anything that doesn’t conform to the Hollywood or Manhattan vision of the world (the two are more or less the same thing) and if you did no one would want to listen. Perhaps this is where America and its language has been heading since its inception. And it’s not just a condemnation of Americans but of humanity itself. I’m not saying that in each of the rest of you there’s a little American waiting to get out but that if you were subjected to the terrible force of such a system would you be capable of resisting? Anyway "Institutionalized" will help you to put your institutional ways behind you and strike back at your oppressors.