I spent part of last week composing a retrospective for the first full year of YS in my mind, but I could never find the right lede, nor think of what posts I’d want to include, and before I knew it, it was 2008 and I’d missed my chance at both sending off my “malprorpiate valedictions” (the intended title) and having dinner with Chris Dodd. The problem might be that even if my brain is now a computer (as the furious romantic tells me), it doesn’t get internet, and I couldn’t remember all the posts that we’ve published over the year. Also, I was feeling nostalgic, and I’m still confused about whether or not nostalgia is still a good thing in this post-Garcia-Marquez world.

Apparently, I’m not the only one rejecting nostalgia. Treehugger reports on the growing phenomenon of “solastalgia.” Coined a couple of years ago by Glenn Albrech, “solastalgia” is “a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at home.” Specifically, it is:

“.. the distress caused by the lived experience of the transformation of one’s home and sense of belonging and is experienced through the feeling of desolation about its change.” (link)

The term was created as a result of climate change, and has been gaining currency as the actuality of climate change has gained recognition. But even if the term is new, there’s certainly nothing new in the concept. Environmental and urban change has always been a topic of literature where it has been handled in any number of perspectives. Blakes, “And did those feet” concerns a type of solastalgia. The implied narrator wonders how Jerusalem could have been built “among these dark satanic mills” and yearns for a messianic return to the British pastoral, “England’s green and pleasant land.” One could even read it into Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio,” one of the great imaginary places in American literature. In particular, its early chapters, with their religious overtones, could bear such a reading.

“Solastalgia” could probably been seen as the guiding concept of season 2 of The Wire. That season (perhaps the least appreciated) concerned the decline of the American working class, and the struggle over gentrification. There’s a scene where one of the dock workers looks into buying a home only to be blown away at the cost of buying in his increasingly gentrifying neighborhood. His urban life was passing away before his eyes.

I’m not saying we should immediately rush out and start using “solastalgia” in our term papers, though it would hardly be the first environmental term to catch on as a literary term; after all, Derrida structured one of his most entertaining pieces around the word/concept “biodegradable.” Somehow “solastalgia” seems too clumsy to really succeed, but if it does, it may just be 2008’s word of the year.

Catching up with some friends home from abroad, we decided to give “No Country For Old Men” a try. As it has been discussed elsewhere in Yesterday’s Salad, my synopsis will remain brief. The movie was beautifully shot, and accordingly, the portrayal of violence in the film is both sudden and gruesome. That the carnage feels horrible rather than stylized is a distinction that few films can make.

The epicenter of this bloody spectacle is hitman Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), who is unerringly unnerving throughout; apart from his vacant stare and mysterious hair, he punctuates conversations with sudden bursts from his bolt gun or silenced rifle, straight into his interlocutor. However, the grim consistency with which Chigurh dispatches everyone in his path eventually becomes so grating, that you begin half-listening to otherwise innocuous conversations, worrying that any pause might end in gunfire. To the directors’ credit, a scene about a third of the way through this movie plays with our uneasiness to considerable comic effect.

Tommy Lee Jones’ Ed Tom Bell, the local sheriff, couldn’t be farther from Chirgurh, both in terms of characterization and his location throughout the film. While the amoral Chirgurh resembles the Terminator in his vicious hunt, Bell is a fine match in his unrelenting willingness to sit back and see how things turn out, which Bell assures us, will be a bloody, awful mess. Most of this is chalked up to how unbelievably grizzled he is, as in one exchange with his deputy:

Wendell
That's very linear Sheriff.

Bell stares at the fire. 

Bell
Well. Old age flattens a man.

In fact, Bell turns down almost every chance he gets to investigate, saying that he has every expectation that things will be awful, and that they’ll still be awful after some more coffee and pie. Although the movie ends with him reflecting on being a law-man and the interplay of dreams with his past, these elements are never developed to a point at which they provide a satisfying way to interpret the film.

Needing to feel clean once more, we slipped into a theater showing “Juno,” another movie that you’ve probably heard plenty about. As has been noted elsewhere and in this publication, the movie can be too quick with its cleverness, particularly in the opening scene, wherein a drug store clerk abuses newly pregnant teen Juno (Ellen Page) with rhyming mockery:

JUNO  I remain unconvinced.
Rollo pulls the bathroom key out of reach.
ROLLO   This is your third test today, Mama  Bear.
Your eggo is preggo, no doubt about it!
ROLLO
So what's the prognosis, Fertile
Myrtle? Minus or plus?
JUNO
(examining stick) I don't know.
It's not...seasoned yet. Wait. Huh.
Yeah, there's that pink plus sign
again. God, it's unholy.    She shakes the stick desperately in an attempt to skew the
results. Shake. Shake. Nothing.    ROLLO
That ain't no Etch-a-Sketch. This
is one doodle that can't be undid,
homeskillet.

Thankfully, the rest of the film remained clever without the rhyming couplets. While it was precious at points, the characters were well-developed and believable, and Juno’s considerable quirkiness seemed appropriate to her character, seeing as she is just a teenager, rather than an adult in a Wes Anderson film. Without cataloging the rest of the film, in many ways it was the perfect anecdote to “No Country For Old Men” – it was cute, refreshingly linear, and the only unstoppable thing chasing people was Michael Cera in track shorts.