Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Drawing Heat I

I read the first leg of Drawing Heat directly from the computer screen, which freaked out my eyes and necessitated several breaks. So I was already a bit out of sorts when I got to the later chapters. The surreality of Dave's experiences with the bears met with the surreality of looking at life through malfunctioning eyes, and I had a very weird reading experience indeed.

Far from the slick, mafia-esque promoters that open the book, the Wildman, introduced in fairly prosaic terms as a travelling showman and competition to the bigger promoters, gradually grows to an almost mythic status. His particular perception of mind/body duality is not something we expect from someone who is ultimately, we initially assume, a businessman. It's not something I can easily place in any philosophical tradition.

But it's the bears that freak me out the most, and made me wonder aloud, how much of this is bullshit? This guy knows the bears, how to work with them, what they're feeling, issues with their health. Or so it seems: when one of them goes bad, the ensuing tragedy is treated as nothing short of mythic.

Put simply, he never comes off as dumb. A lot of the people we've read about have, to my mind--good at what they were doing, but lacking some foresight and common sense about life in general. Reading Freedman's description of the Wildman, you get the sneaking suspicion that he's smarter than all of us. Or perhaps wiser, for those who like to make such distinctions (D&D players, I'm looking at you.) He's an epic figure, the romantics' noble savage in Canada, and, well, how real can he be? The writer certainly seems to buy into the world he's presented with during his research. I'm eager to see how he deals with it in the rest of the book. And, since Veronica Mars is on in two hours, I should probably get on that.

1 comment:

Sam Ford said...

Peter, you have some great points here, and some that I hope we delve into much further in our discussion on Thursday. First, I find it fascinating the way in which Drawing Heat is positioned between "going native" and outsider status, and Jim Freedman manages to have some of both. Of course, anthropology's positioning itself between social sciences and the humanities is interesting as well.

As for the bears, it is a key part of the Wildman story, but I love the way in which Freedman slowly draws us into the Wildman's shows. We start with the Tunney operation, and Jack Tunney some may remember went on to become President of the WWE on screen, after Vince bought the Toronto office out.

Then there's the great character of Ma Pickles, an interesting comparison point to Chad Dell's piece about female wrestling fandom in the 50s.

Look forward to our discussion on Thursday about these characters and Drawing Heat.