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"A Short Film About Disappointment" is the 2018 debut novel by Joshua Mattson. It is an absurdist science-fiction novel, set in a near future that might be called a dystopia. It reminded me of some of Kurt Vonnegut's works, especially 1970s novels like Breakfast of Champions or Slapstick.

The book revolves around a gimmick, of sorts. The protagonist and narrator of the novel, Noah Body, is a movie reviewer for a content aggregator, and each chapter is a movie review. This makes the book easy to read--the chapters are mostly around 2 to 4 pages. Noah Body often describes the movies in paragraphs, and the rest of the chapter is a rant or complaint about his own life, living in what turns out to be a post-apocalyptic Chicago. Someone used a virus to crash the internet, global warming has displaced populations, and the US is ruled(?) by something called The Transit Authority. Bizarre art films seem to be one of society's main pastimes. At least, that seems to be the situation, it is hard to tell because the world building is confined to asides as Noah Body complains about being what is, more or less, a millennial gig worker. The format seems to remind me of another literary precedent: the filmography of James O Incandenza in infinite jest, where a list of absurd movies is used, obliquely, to fill the reader in on backstory to the novel's plot and world.

When I first saw this book at The Dollar Tree, I think during the course of a trip to the bank to get some quarters so I could do my laundry, I thought "This book is for me!". After all, writing reviews that are actually snippets of my own life is kind of my shtick, especially when they show the life of a shiftless gig economy worker. So I liked the premise. My problem with the book is I feel it should have gone more one way or the other. The gimmick of only describing movies is disrupted by descriptions of Noah Body's life, but also, those descriptions are not quite clear enough to follow what is going on, or care about the characters. There are many things mentioned in the book, and it isn't clear whether they are part of the book's plot, social commentary, or just fanciful jokes. So while I thought the premise of the book was engaging and novel, I was not totally sold on the execution.

I don't know if you guys know Dave "Crazy Legs" McGinty, but he is one of the guys at the library who makes movies in his spare time. A couple years ago, he made a film entitled A Short Film About Disappointment. I don't think it is related to the obviously fascinating book discussed in the above discussion group, but it was the most depressing film that I have ever seen in my short, gorgeous life.

They call him "Crazy Legs" because, in the middle of just about anything, his legs will suddenly kick out and do crazy ass shit. In the middle of job interviews. On first dates. Standing at the urinal. No one wants to be involved romantically with a guy like that. People want him dead. Just straight up dead.

As a result, Dave got into making movies with the guys at the library.

The thing is, Dave tends to "wander off" on his own. He can be with a group of geeks, with their sticky-ass candy-eating geek hands, at the Museum of Science, and he'll just wander off and look at different exhibits. And then he gets into trouble. His legs kick out, he knocks over a valuable sculpture, and those hard-ass musuem cops come in and it is one baton blow to the head after another. I think he took a total of thirty-six. He has been walking sideways ever since.

When he wanders off, that is when trouble happens. When he makes movies with the other guys, he does okay, but this time he wandered off on his own and made a movie on his own. That movie was A Short Film About Disappointment.

What happens in this film is that a character named "Barney," who is played by Dave McGinty, gets into social situations, is rejected, and goes home and sits in his living room by himself. This is more stark than it initially sounds, mind you. His living room is stark. There is nothing on the walls. The couch is brown. The sitting chair is old. The carpet is worn. The lone window is dirty and a perverted old man is looking through it with an expression on his face that makes you fairly certain that he is pleasuring himself down below. Objectionable way to live, to say the least.

Dave's first film, mind you, was Mister Littlepants Goes to the Moon, so you know the kind of mind this man has. He's a pretty good fuck, though. He loves reverse cowgirl and knows how to manage the saddle. Meow.

In our first sequence, "Barney" goes to what appears to be a college class. He sits down in a chair and everyone ignores him. Then someone kicks his chair from behind and mutters "faggot." Barney gets up, drops his books, and runs out of the class. What the absolute fuck? Who makes movies like that?

It is hard to watch, honestly. My mouth was agape and I know Barney personally. He goes out to a college party in the next sequence. He is standing against the wall, nervously holding a beer, in his fucking Sunday best, and someone bumps the beer out of his hand. Barney apologizes and is then taken outside and beaten up. He goes home and sits on his raggedy-ass couch again. I mean, what the absolute fuck?

In the third scene, he is for some reason trying to enter a bicycle race. He has a child's mountain bike and they are all riding those Lance Armstrong numbers. They are laughing at him. He tries to assert himself. He is dragged to the side of a cliff by bicycle people and thrown over. He lands about two feet below (there was a shelf), rips his pants, goes home and sits in his stark, lonely living room alone. I just can't deal.

I guess it is sort of like a Woody Allen movie, to be perfectly honest with you. I give it one star out of five. I only give it the one star because I know Dave personally.

Be wary of films made by guys who work at the library. They are a mixed bag.

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