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Further Phoenix
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My Own Private Idaho

Gus Van Sant


Spunky Davis

Kurt Cobain

Felix Arroyo

Wile E. Coyote

Environment, Environmental Concerns, Green, Green Issues

Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
American EnglishEn Français


by Gus Van Sant.
First published in 1997.

ISBN 0-385-48828-9 (Hardback, 260 pages)

Examining our present day, image-obsessed culture, the problems of filmmaking and the untimely deaths of two young people, Gus Van Sant has written this novel from the viewpoint of a character called Spunky Davis, a gay middle-aged man from Sasquatch, Oregon who directs informmercials.

Littered with many other varied characters, the novel revolves around Spunky's encounters with his friends and acquaintances. Reading the book, what quickly becomes apparent is the similarities these characters have to real-life people. With Blake, a rock star who tragically takes his own life, one is reminded very much of Kurt Cobain, for example.

The director also talks very fondly of another friend, a teen idol and presenter of informmercials, a young star called Felix Arroyo.

Here I am, slumped over my desk. A fresh cup of instant coffee is steaming under my favorite picture of Felix Arroyo. It was Felix who had the idea to buy up the Amazon so lumber companies could not cut down the earth's last great forest. Felix said a lot for someone in his early twenties. But he isn't talking much anymore, and it makes me sad.

Felix had gone out one night to Thundermountain with his girlfriend. He had brought his guitar along to play with the house band at the club. Nobody really recognized Felix, because he looked so much different in person than he did on the informmercial screen. He started feeling sick, and his brother and sister took him outside to get some air. And what happened after that was he collapsed outside Thundermountain.

Felix's sister was sitting on Felix's stomach because he had begun to convulse there in the gutter. And she saw the light go out of his eyes.

The title "Pink" refers to the dimensional travel that two of Spunky's friends, Jack and Matt, undertake. Pink is such an alien dimension that it is difficult to describe but apparently it becomes easier to understand once one goes there. There are various dimensional levels of Pink but beyond those there is no more reality. Except that is, for Dimension 7 which the Pink travelers neither understand or travel to.

The author uses a collection of different typefaces to show which character's point of view certain sections of the book are being written from. Also present are a number of Van Sant's sketches of these characters. Furthermore, there are footnotes scattered throughout the novel, like notes scribbled on a film screenplay, written one assumes from the point of view of Van Sant himself. These notes initially help to set the scene, describing characters, relationships and important events for example. Unfortunately, there are nearly sixty of these footnotes in all, and as such become in danger of being a distraction after a while.

One of the inmates is describing something he has thought about in his past. He is near tears. "I cried when I was sitting in front of the television and there was this cartoon... you know, the one with the coyote..." Another inmate speaks up. "Wile E. Coyote," he says. "Yeah, Wile E. Coyote, and he's chasin' this bird, and I'm sitting there and I realized that no matter what happens to this coyote, he's getting mashed with the rock (view of coyote getting mashed with a rock)... shot into space (likewise, the coyote is shot into space). Blown up. Flattened. Hammered... I realize that is me... I am the coyote - and the roadrunner is the drugs. And no matter what happens to me I'll still try and get the drugs, like Wile E. Coyote, and that realization made me cry."

ISBN 0-571-19106-1 (Paperback, 260 Pages)

No one, but no one, it seems, can incite such varied sentiments and contrary responses from River Phoenix fans as Gus Van Sant. Now that the director of My Own Private Idaho has turned his hand to writing, such fan discussions/arguments can only intensify. This adult book contains both strong language and detailed graphical descriptions of sexual encounters between the characters. Thus, the chasm separating Van Sant's admirers from his critics grows ever wider. The reader will either absolutely love every page of the book with a passion, or will absolutely hate it. Any group debating this book will likely find no middle-ground, no common area of mutual agreement. Much as it is with Van Sant's movies, it seems.

Jack puts his hands into Matt's pants, his bell-bottomed pirate pants, here we go. He massages Matt's crotch a bit, then gets impatient with the pants, which are in the way, he pulls the pants down, exposing Matt's white and gracefully formed lower body.

Matt meanwhile is caressing the back of Jack's head, which is going back and forth. He is calling him Felix!

"Felix..." Matt is groaning. They are loving but they are not in love.

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