Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why I won't think about Marlon Brando




I am not reading Brando, the behemoth biography by Peter Manso which I somehow stumbled through (I think) back in 1994. I am not reading it because it is too big. I can't accomodate it in bed, which is where I read. It slides off my lap or collapses on to my knees.





When I don't read a book, which happens quite a lot, it's an interesting process. I guess you can say I connect the dots. I keep coming around to the same parts again and again. By the end of it, I know almost nothing about my subject matter.

Having been a book reviewer for approximately one billion years, I got myself into this habit of Reading Critically. Kind of like fucking critically, when you think about it. I had lost all the pleasure. Wrestling around with this beached whale of a book, NOT reading it, is a guilty gratification.

Nobody cares what I think about it anyway, which is good. Frankly I think Manso could've cut about 850 pages out of it. A judicious little trim.




Of course there are a million stories, many of them pretty unsavory. But my favorite anecdote (and I'm going to have to transcribe this out of the book, which I hate, and I can't even use my little paper-holding frame because it would fall apart from all the weight) concerns itself with Brando hanging upside-down.

"Marlon, in one of his frequent attempts at losing weight, decided to try the current fad of hanging from the ceiling. He had already purchased a rotating hoop-frame device and special hooked boots, but because of his girth, he found that he was unable to flip himself over in the frame. He sent Papke and two other assistants out to the garage for a winch that had been mounted on his truck, then had them bolt it to the ceiling of his bathroom.

After six hours had been spent locating the jousts in the ceiling and
setting up a twelve-volt power supply for an on/off switch, the homemade apparatus was in place and the mounting had been tested.




Soon, using the shoes from the discarded store-bought machine, Marlon was hanging in the air. A new problem quickly became apparent, though. "He was hanging head down," Papke explained, "and because of his weight, the blubber started to roll forward, almost choking him. He was coughing and muttering, unable to speak."

They immediately lowered him to the floor. Brando, however, was determined to stretch, and the solution he proposed was to try to use the winch and frame horizontally. The assistants fixed another heavy screw eye into the wall of the bathroom opposite the doorway, and once again, Marlon readied himself."



For what? Whale-stretching time? Why would anyone that fat want to hang upside-down anyway and how could it possibly help him lose weight? Maybe none of it even happened. The book begins with a long quote by Primo Levi about how most writers are bullshitters, making half the stuff up or whatever. Maybe he stretched way out about a mile thin and then snapped back like an elastic band. Maybe he turned into Rubber Man, or a giant condom, or Gumby. And who's this Papke? Sounds like a Hungarian dish to me, or half of one.

I won't be able to sleep tonight, with this vision of a 380-pound man being dragged up to his bathroom ceiling with a winch.



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