Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Kind of Marathon Where You Sit on Your Couch

For the last week, I've been marathoning episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus, between two and five a day. This is how I enjoy watching television: on DVD sets, in great vast gulps of hours and hours of the show at a time, galloping through the entire series in a matter of days or weeks. After Matt bought me the seven seasons of The Mary Tyler Moore Show as a gift, I watched all 168 episodes in less than 30 days. I am uncomfortable with public knowledge of this habit (which, YET AGAIN, is why I'm sharing it with the entire damn internet), because I know it seems a little crazy, because I kind of don't want to do anything else but eat and sleep and finish out the next disc while I'm in marathon mode. It's not pretty to witness.

But in every case I've done so far (Star Trek: The Next Generation, MTM, The Sopranos (years ago, didn't get past the 3rd season, that box set has been on my Amazon Wish List for about five years), Firefly, Dead Like Me, others), it is so superior to experience a whole berth of a show this way, without coming up for air. It means that the show hangs together thematically as an entire body of work, and the evolution of the show is crystal-clear in a way you just don't get from gradual consumption. The different moods of the seasons of MTM were fascinating to see. For instance, Mary's responsibilities at her fictional job changed very suddenly in about season 5, and that altered all sorts of things about the structure of the show and how the other characters interacted with her. Whether that was done because of the departure of her two best friends, or because of feminist motivations, I don't know, but it was a big shift. And I think it was only so noticeable because I was watching, on average, two and a half hours of the show per day.

Monty Python is an interesting experience, because sketch shows are by nature uneven. There doesn't seem to be a progression toward better or more interesting or even just different work as the seasons (in England, of course, they're series) move forward. But they refer back to earlier work in a sort of unique way, and watching it all together means I generally have the prior work still hanging around in my neurons, and can realize exactly how funny they're being by referring to it.

I haven't come to any conclusions about the show on the whole by watching them all this way, except that I see now they've got a limited stable of the types of sketches they do. I.e., this is an interview-show sketch; this is an Eric Idle sex-or-language sketch; this is a domestic-hilarity-ensues sketch; this is a sketch so far into the realm of absurdity that it's just Pythonesque and doesn't have a more specific type. Hence, I can generally get my arms around the intentions of the sketch type, if I can identify it. This is more analysis than I've ever been able to accomplish with comedy; I'm not really skilled at it. So that's sort of edifying. Maybe I'll have more to say about the shape of it all when I'm finished. I'm halfway through now.

Speaking of edification, I am over page 400 in Infinite Jest. My ability to advance in it seems to come and go. I've been hovering between 390 and 420 for the last couple of weeks, instead of getting on with a few dozen pages a night as I was doing. But I will finish it, I will. If for no other reason than I really want to get on and read this.

Along with Monty Python, I've worked a great deal in the past week. There's been a lot of work for my copy-edit job, and last week marked the final week of the crazy glut of subbed yoga classes in which I've been drowning since before Christmas. This upcoming week is the first normal one, teaching-wise, in ages. Also, I've had some wonderful readers get back to me about my book, and they were so helpful. That was more work (even if it was great work to do), as I had to get back to them in detail in the hope that they'd further get back to me. I'm still waiting to hear from at least two more folks, but after that I think I'll be ready to edit. I feel pretty confident that I know what I need to do. I'm very concerned about further growth in the word count, but there's really nothing for it. I hope I can slide by on the "fantasy" label, as fantasy novels are generally longer.

And a wholly separate reader got back to me about a new story that I wasn't sure about, so I owed her analysis on her own story and on her analysis of mine. There was further work I did that I didn't even mention, and work I should have done this week and didn't get around to. Plus, I was quite ill on Tuesday. It was a full week. I kind of want a vacation. Monty Python is comforting, but it's really compressing my time. Damned marathoning.

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