Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill": The True Detective Files

[Note: In the midst of enjoying True Detective on Blu-ray, I compiled some quotes and links to some of the better analyses, sources, and interpretations of cryptic clues related to the show. I especially like writer Nic Pizzolatto's use of philosophy and "weird fiction" to enhance Rust Cohle's delightfully bleak point of view.]

---"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents." --H.P. Lovecraft

---“Behind the scenes of life there is something pernicious that makes a nightmare of our world.” --Thomas Ligotti

---“This world is a veil, and the face you wear is not your own.” --Preacher Joe Theriot

---"As sentient meat, however illusory our identities are, we craft those identities by making value judgements. Everybody judges, all the time. Now, you got a problem with that, you’re living wrong." --Rust Cohle

---”I think True Detective is portraying a world where the weak (physically or economically) are lost, ground under by perfidious wheels that lie somewhere behind the visible, wheels powered by greed, perversity, and irrational belief systems, and these lost souls dwell on an exhausted frontier, a fractured coastline beleaguered by industrial pollution and detritus, slowly sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. There’s a sense here that the apocalypse already happened. And in places like this, where there’s little economy and inadequate education, women and children are the first to suffer, by and large. There’s a line in a Sherlock Holmes story where Holmes explains to Watson that the evils of the city pale in comparison to the horrors of the isolated countryside, where who knows what terrors exist in the lonely farmhouse, cut off from civilization and beholden to no oversight? I always sensed that."   --Nic Pizzolatto

---“You see, we all got what I call a life trap, this gene deep certainty that things will be different, that you’ll move to another city and meet the people that’ll be the friends for the rest of your life, that you’ll fall in love and be fulfilled . . . Nothing’s ever fulfilled. Not until the very end. And closure. No, no, no. Nothing is ever over.” --Rust Cohle

---"Dystopian, Post-Collapse America is marked by a new kind of tribalism and 'niche extremism' that requires both pre-industrial survival skills like bow hunting, as well as modern military training. Rust’s hypersensitivity endows him with the ability to see beyond things, to 'mainline the secret truth of the universe.' His relationship to the 'psychosphere' connects him with the cosmological mappings of a pre-colonial landscape.

It is only through the hallucinogenic lens of PTSD and synesthesia that Rust can clearly read through the cognitive dissonance of corporate brandspeak (The 'Wellspring Initiative') and see it for what it really is in order to track corruption’s 'sprawl.' By using instinct to 'read the signs' across the 'aluminum and ash' bayou where 'nothing grows in the right direction', Rust maintains a 'meta' relationship with social order to subvert and survive it. From his place outside and between, he is uniquely suited to decode the doublespeak of institutional power (The Tuttles, Louisiana State Police Department and the taskforce) and negotiate the terrain of outlaw life (Iron Crusaders, Gas World Express, and drug cartels).

As a silent witness to atrocity, the landscape becomes the voice of the disappeared, which Rust is able to decipher by listening to other sensorial input ignored by Enlightment prejudice toward visible, observed, reality. By hearing color and tasting sound, he takes guidance from cosmological and metaphysical orders to read the signs of the exhausted, poisoned landscape. The landscape reminds us through its accompanying soundtrack of judgment and redemption, what is 'owed by our society for our mutual illusions.'

Louisiana’s not land/not water landscape becomes a shattered mirror to project our disappearing future onto. The landscape speaks sensorially, through a soundtrack of slave songs, indigenous symbols, talisman and rituals–traces of cultures and practices disappeared by genocidal economies of Antebellum South and the Western Expansion. When Rust notices a billboard for missing children that reads 'Who Killed Me?' the voice of our future and our past speaks simultaneously." --Marian St. Laurent

---"And if we’re talking about hard-boiled detectives, too, what could be more hardboiled than the worldview of Ligotti or Cioran? They make the grittiest of crime writers seem like dilettantes. Next to The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, Mickey Spillane seems about as hard-boiled as bubble gum." --Nic Pizzolatto

---"The True Detective sequence is heavily inspired by the look of double exposure photography. Instead of using stills, Clair created 'living photographs' that combine shots from the show’s footage with work from American landscape photographer Richard Misrach. Early on, Clair and his team came across Misrach’s book, Petrochemical America, which documents a stretch of industrial plants on the Gulf Coast called Cancer Alley.'" --Margaret Rhodes

---"I think human consciousness, is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody. Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight - brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal."  --Rust Cohle

---“Rust delivers arias of philosophy, a mash-up of Nietzsche, Lovecraft, and the nihilist horror writer Thomas Ligotti. At first, this buddy pairing seems like a funky dialectic: when Rust rants, Marty rolls his eyes. But, six episodes in, I’ve come to suspect that the show is dead serious about this dude. Rust is a heretic with a heart of gold. He’s our fetish object—the cop who keeps digging when everyone ignores the truth, the action hero who rescues children in the midst of violent chaos, the outsider with painful secrets and harsh truths and nice arms. McConaughey gives an exciting performance (in Grantland, Andy Greenwald aptly called him “a rubber band wrapped tight around a razor blade”), but his rap is premium baloney. And everyone around these cops, male or female, is a dark-drama cliché, from the coked-up dealers and the sinister preachers to that curvy corpse in her antlers. True Detective has some tangy dialogue ('You are the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch') and it can whip up an ominous atmosphere, rippling with hints of psychedelia, but these strengths finally dissipate, because it’s so solipsistically focussed on the phony duet.

Meanwhile, Marty’s wife, Maggie—played by Michelle Monaghan, she is the only prominent female character on the show—is an utter nothing-burger, all fuming prettiness with zero insides.”  --Emily Nussbaum

---"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill."  --Rust Cohle

---"This is where the self-aware aspect of True Detective really kicks in, because Cohle’s criticism of religion doubles—intentionally, I argue—as commentary about pop culture escapism. True Detective’s title — an implicit reference to the pulps — is your first clue that the show is interested in our relationship to stories. The second episode gives us another cool clue: Lange’s diary. But it contains absolutely no factual descriptions of her life, but rather ramblings about a fantasy world called Carcosa, a character called 'The Yellow King,' and poetic lines like 'strange is the night where black stars rise.' The detectives don’t know how to make sense of it … but we do. Because we have the Internet—or we have deep, geeky knowledge—and so we figure out before the characters do that all that fantasy language is pulled from The King In Yellow, a collection of short stories by Robert W. Chambers. Some of the stories make reference to a play, called 'The King In Yellow' — about a ruined city called Carcosa on an alien world ruled by an evil entity named Hastur, the yellow king known by his yellow sign –and anyone who reads the play dies.  Chambers got the setting of 'Carcosa' and the name 'Hastur' from the works of Ambrose Bierce, the author of The Devil’s Dictionary and 'An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge,' a classic example of Unreliable Narrator storytelling. Just as Chambers was inspired by/took from another writer, many writers have been inspired/taken from Chambers, incorporating motifs, imagery and words from The King In Yellow to build their own idiosyncratic fantasy worlds. Most notably, H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos owes a major debt to The King In Yellow." --Jeff Jensen

---"I don't want to know anything anymore. This is a world where nothing is solved. Someone once told me, 'Time is a flat circle.' Everything we've ever done or will do, we're gonna do over and over and over again. And that little boy and that little girl, they're gonna be in that room again and again and again forever."  --Rust Cohle

---"Where I came from a lot of people viewed violence merely as efficient communication.

As for the distress, it’s probably an effect of poverty. In America poverty amps up the usual existential dread we all feel. There, if you’re poor, you die. Or you turn to crime. Most crime in America looks to me like class warfare, the same way WWI just looks like class warfare to me, the upper classes sending the lower classes to slaughter. Once you realize that’s the situation, it makes perfect sense that not everyone is going to follow orders."  --Nic Pizzolatto

---“In the end, both the Divine Comedy and True Detective are getting at the same basic truth, which is that the only way to combat the darkness within ourselves is to form connections with one another.” --La Donna Pietra

---The ontological fallacy of expecting a light at the end of the tunnel, well, that's what the preacher sells, same as a shrink. See, the preacher, he encourages your capacity for illusion. Then he tells you it's a %$&@ing virtue. Always a buck to be had doing that, and it's such a desperate sense of entitlement, isn't it?"  --Rust Cohle

---“a basic quality of the Deep South is that everything here is partially hidden. . . . I’ve found that all weak people share a basic obsession--they fixate on the idea of satisfaction. Anywhere you go men and women are like crows drawn by shiny objects. For some folks, the shiny objects are other people, and you’d be better off developing a drug habit.” --from Nic Pizzolatto's 2010 novel Galveston

---This is what I mean when I'm talkin' about time, and death, and futility. All right there are broader ideas at work, mainly what is owed between us as a society for our mutual illusions. 14 straight hours of staring at DB's, these are the things ya think of. You ever done that? You look in their eyes, even in a picture, doesn't matter if they're dead or alive, you can still read 'em. You know what you see? They welcomed it... not at first, but... right there in the last instant. It's an unmistakable relief. See, cause they were afraid, and now they saw for the very first time how easy it was to just... let go. Yeah, they saw, in that last nanosecond, they saw... what they were. You, yourself, this whole big drama, it was never more than a jerry rig of presumption and dumb will, and you could just let go. To finally know that you didn't have to hold on so tight. To realize that all your life, all your love, all your hate, all your memories, all your pain, it was all the same thing. It was all the same dream, a dream that you had inside a locked room, a dream about being a person. And like a lot of dreams, there's a monster at the end of it."  --Rust Cohle

---"The crimes depicted on the series were enabled by a series of deliberate omissions, elisions, distortions, and outright lies: holes in what should have been honest and transparent stories. . . . The show literalizes the notion of a hole or a gap in a narrative by building it right into its visual scheme. Every episode is filled with holes, spirals, pits, and the like. There’s the spiral pattern glimpsed in everything from tattoos to bird flocks; Rust's hallucination of a black hole in the ceiling of Errol's lair; the busted taillight of Rust's pickup; the thatched nestlike spiral that covers the hole in the tree where Dora Lange's body was found; the long shot of Rust in his hospital bed that makes his bruised and swollen left eye look like a tiny pit; the tiny round eye-size mirror that Rust stares into. And that's the short list." --Matt Zoller Seitz

---If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward then, brother, that person is a piece of $#^. And I'd like to get as many of them out in the open as possible. You gotta get together and tell yourself stories that violate every law of the universe just to get through the goddamn day? What's that say about your reality?"  --Rust Cohle

---"Devil's Nests and Beer-Can Men: The Origins of 13 True Detective Set Pieces" by Denise Martin

---"We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self. A secretion of sensory experience and feeling. Programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when, in fact, nobody is anybody."  --Rust Cohle

---So if there was one overarching theme to True Detective, I would say it was that as human beings, we are nothing but the stories we live and die by — so you'd better be careful what stories you tell yourself.” --Nic Pizzolatto

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