David James Keaton was probably one of those weird ass punk kids who was furiously masturbating to 1980s movies. Which might explain a lot. At least when it comes to a book like The Last Projector and its countless movie and music references. And lets be real here, the 1980s were shit. Period. A decade where a question of The Thing vs E.T. was up for a serious debate is hard, nay impossible, to take seriously. However, as Keaton writes,
“Music, movies, and books followed you forward and back. Time was broken when it came to media objects. Occasionally, time could break when it came to music. But time would always be broken when it came to movies.”
Which is one of the many indicators that time and memories are slippery when wet in The Last Projector and memories or anything really cannot be trusted. I even second guessed my own memory while reading about what I was just reading.
Keaton fooled me once, and he fooled me twice. I read a chapter about a character, then a name drop, a situation referenced towards the end, and nope, I was reading about a completely different character as I thought I did. How Keaton himself didn´t get lost in this insanity of a novel I am not sure of, but he managed to stay ahead of the game where everything, like really freaking everything is something to play ´catch me if you can´ with. Coz timeline? Nobody needs no stinking timeline. DMX next to Peter Gabriel and Model T theme parks and drive in movie theaters? Why not?
And that´s the thing, Keaton wants you to get lost. Memories, identities, timelines, everything is played with fast and loose. Questioning everything isn´t even an option but mandatory. And how do you know who you are, really, when you can´t trust your own memories anymore? When what makes us, the core of our existence, our self, is up for questions, and unreliable? Those are the questions one has to ask, even more so the further the story progresses with Larry and Jackie and Toni. And with his multiple identity changes, loose timelines and memories Keaton creates the perfect set up for it, where Larry and his porn shooting is merely an ignitor for a timebomb to explode.
The core of the story is rather simple, really; an unhinged rapist raping car crash victims for two decades now while former paramedic Jack turned porn director Larry has an unhealthy obsession with it and trying to solve the mystery while shooting porn while shooting a serious film on the side with his porn crew while retelling and reliving what happened when he was still working as a paramedic while loosing his mind since tattoos destroy the porn industry. You´re still with me? Which leads to some absurd situations when a porn actor named Joe Fuck under his birth name Joe Luck plays the porn director Larry, who was the paramedic Jack, making a film about the former paramedic Jack turned porn director Larry. Obviously directed by Jack turned Larry. It makes sense when you see it.
Plus a subplot, or more like a side-by-side plot, about Billy and Bully, two juvenile wanna be natural born killers/terrorists - and their cheesy love story a la Pynchon ("They are in love. Fuck the war.") who chase after a cop and his dog with bombs and fake bombs and fake bombs turned real bombs.
Also there are a plenty of dogs, not only dogs but doppelgangerdogs too. Doppeldoggies? Who knows at this point? There are approximately 1783 pages of dialogue between Billy and Bully - ok, the number might be slightly exaggerated but not by much - but I wouldn´t want to miss any of it. Those are fun, as the whole book is hilarious and I haven´t laughed so much and so hard in a long while. Since Jed Ayres´ Peckerwood to be exact, and that was almost a year ago.
Strange despite the gritty and nasty topic, maybe?, but not really. Keaton has just a knack for writing the most marvelous and absolutely hilarious sentences while never straying away from the topic at hand, even he does let the characters like Big Mike and Little Mike and Larry and their conversations stray away from the main narratives, as much as the dialogues are going their own way in a non-linear fashion. Getting off-topic in a microcosm of their own making at every turn of the page is the real art in The Last Projector, and I am sure sometimes with a wink Keaton is asking himself if he is going too crazy, while it also plays on a meta level where the author himself becomes obsolete, and even as much the book I am reading.
"You ever read a story where they list too much stuff too early and you start skimming?"
The mix of fun and serious is what makes the book tick, and work and like a helluva blast to read. It is as challenging as it is entertaining as it is demanding, and even I took my time with it, it was worth every minute, every single sentence of the book itself. The thing is, Keaton didn´t create a world to play in, but a whole freaking universe. An alien? Yeah, that too but it could come from Larry´s psychedelic worm-infested brain easily.
And of course there is Jacki, and her daughter Toni, who survived a car crash years ago, and somehow is tied without really knowing to Jack turned Larry. Jack was the paramedic who rescued her, and noticed the signs of rape. And then everything goes downhill from there. While Jack tries to do the right thing, three minutes and it never happened, he is also incredibly misguided in his attempt to save her integrity. That´s the part where I wanted to punch Jack in the face and justly so coz he deserved it, well-intended as might have been but not cool. He might have been unhinged himself already at the time, but dealing with his, and everyone´s, male insecurities by and large... nope nope nope, just nope.
I´m reasonably sure The Last Projector broke something in my brain, not that there is a lot to break in the first place (some people would approve of this statement) but yeah. I simply love this freaking book. Was I confused? A lot and some more, but it´s just perfect and genius in all those imperfect, flawed ways where time and place, memories and identities, cause and effect, of what is happening and why are impossible to tell apart.
Coz you know, The Last Projector is infinite fun, but a jest it ain´t.
However, I still want to know what the Stanislavsky System is, or Stanislavski - depending -, but more on that Catch-22 later.
Much, much later...
Suck it. I take my toys, I´m going hooome.